Youll need commitment and motivation and a lot of hard work if you want to become a physician assistant. Before we look at steps and requirements needed to finish an accredited PA program, lets take a look at an equally important question: What is a physician assistant?
What is a PA?
A physician assistant (also known as a PA) works under the supervision of a medical doctor or surgeon.
Despite being a subordinate, a PA has a lot of autonomy, and a medical doctor may not be required to be present while a PA is practicing but a physician is a phone call away.
In many small, rural communities, there are not enough general practitioners, and a PA often serves as the primary care provider in these under-served areas.
As a primary care specialist, a physician assistant can diagnose and treat illnesses; perform physical examinations and other medical procedures; order lab tests and
interpret them; among a host of other primary care giver procedures including prescribing medications.
If, for instance, a PA needs a little guidance about a patients medical history or current symptoms, this health-care provider will consult the supervising medical doctor by phone, email, or in-person.
How long does it take to become a physician assistant?
If this medical position appeals to you, then youll want to prepare for this career during and after your bachelors degree.
A PA program, which will award you with a masters degree, is similar to medical school. Youll go through classroom instruction and then apply that information in a clinical setting.
The clinical instruction involves more than 2,000 hours of hands-on work and will feature rotations in emergency, family, and internal medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; along with pediatrics, general surgery, and psychiatry.
The average duration of these programs are 27 months, and to even get accepted into these programs is difficult.
But after finishing an accredited program, you would be required to take (and pass) the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam also known as the PANCE.
You would then be a certified, licensed healthcare provider and may start practice.
Education requirements, competition
Admission into a physician assistant program can be hard.
And there will be a lot of applicants who have high GPAs.
To be a competitive candidate, youll need at least a GPA of 3.0 or higher for most schools.
And like most medical students, youll need to complete prerequisites for PA school. These courses include studies in the hard sciences, including anatomy, biology, chemistry, microbiology, physiology.
If you know a PA program is in your future while you are working on your general education in college, its best to spend extra time studying these core sciences and keeping a high GPA in them, which will help get you into a PA program.
Also, most schools will prefer (more likely require) non-volunteer direct patient care on your resume.
So youll need to spend about a year working a job where direct care contanct with patients occurs every day
A little history
The first class of physician assistants began their medical education in 1965 at Duke University.
This class of Navy corpsmen were selected by Dr. Eugene Stead of Duke because they had received medical training during their service and could be trained efficiently, using a curriculum similar to the training doctors during World War II received.
The Navy corpsmen graduated Oct. 6, 1967.
The rise of the physician assistant gained acceptance to solve the primary care provider shortage, and the medical community developed accreditation standards, national certifications, standard exams, and continuing education requirements.
Working with patients can provide you with the appropriate patient-care handling skills needed for a practicing healthcare worker, along with help you understand if youre on the right career track.
Job outlook and income
The U.S. Department of Labor indicates that there will be a 30 percent growth in physician assistant jobs between the years 2010-2020.
One reason this may be a fast growing field of medicine is that many medical doctors dont want to become general practitioners. They want to specialize after medical school.
Specialization offers them higher pay, which can help pay down their student loans.
Consider this: A family doctor averages $177,036, according to salary.com. A surgeon, who has specialized after his/her medical education, will average $311,334, according to salary.com. A physician assistant averages $90,536, according to salary.com.
The difference between a specialist and a family care specialist is 46 percent less pay; the difference between a family doctor and a physician assistant is 49 percent less pay.
Its also possible that many health-care facilities, who realize a physician assistant is capable of providing routine care at nearly half the cost, are trying to cut costs as well, which may also indicate why the sudden growth in these positions.
I hope the information in this article has helped you with your career choice about how to become a physician assistant.