The job description is relatively new, having only been established in the late 1960s. The hopeful news for students studying to be physician assistants is that this field is growing quite aggressively, particularly in places where there is hardship involved with hiring competent physicians. The position itself gives people who work in this field a secure career in an area of practice that always features job openings. Combine this with the fact that a person who is a PA can stand to make on average $90,000 per year, and the future looks bright indeed.
Requirements: Schooling and Work Experience
Prior to even thinking of enrolling in a training program, students have to satisfy prerequisites before they will gain acceptance. Since the requirements vary from state to state, students are advised to get in touch with the PA school of their choice to exactly determine what the prerequisites are for such a program. What follows is an overview of what can be expected in this regard.
1. At least a high school education or a GED.
2. At least 60 credits or two years of college courses (nearly each accredited PA program demands that students have a bachelor’s degree).
3. Taking the following courses in college: Psychology, Biology, Social Science, Math, Organic Chemistry and English. This list of courses to take in college is based on information that comes from The American Association of Physician Assistants.
4. Work experience in a medical clinic setting. This can include experience as a certified nurse’s assistant, a military medic, a paramedic or an emergency medical assistant.
5. GRE scores (Graduation Record Examination) that need to have been earned within at least the last five years prior to an application to a PA program being made.
6. Submission of student’s application via CASPA (Central Application Services for Physician Assistants).
7. Some background checks and specific immunizations in addition to a drug test.
8. Reference letters, regarding which, at least one should come from a practicing doctor.
9. BLS certification (Basic Life Support).
10. Technical skills requirements such as social skills, behavioral skills, critical reasoning skills, motor skills and communication skills.
11. Maintaining health insurance.
12. Being a U.S. citizen or a permanent non-resident.
Job Requirements for a Physician Assistant
A PA is best described as a healthcare worker who is a certified medical professional and practices under some supervision of either a doctor or surgeon. A physician assistant can gain employment in a location like a hospital, outpatient care centers, private practices, prisons, academic medical centers and normal office settings. Duties on the job include:
1. Provision of help during surgery.
2. Taking a medical history of patients.
3. Diagnosing and treating any sicknesses.
4. Ordering lab tests that patients require along with explaining their significance to patients after the results come back.
5. Prescribing medications to attend to patient requirements.
6. Aiding patients in coming up with a preventive care plan.
There are various specialties within the field of physician assistance that involve varying factors of patient care. These are:
1. Emergency Medicine
2. Primary Care (the majority of physician assistants work here)
4. Internal Medicine
The prerequisites for attaining specialization in specific areas center around certification by the NCCPA. This involves the obligation to enrollment in higher education programs as well as passing all testing that is required. Though this is essentially additional schooling, it has been proven that the completion of higher education prerequisites actually has the effect of boosting a physician assistant’s income. This particularly applies to specialties such as Emergency Medicine, Dermatology and Neurology.
Physician Assistant Requirements for Certification
The final aspect of finishing all the prerequisites demands that budding PAs pass their licensing/certification exam. The exam in question is the PANCE (Physicians Assistant National Certifying Exam) that is overseen through the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants). The test is made up of 360 questions and takes six hours. To take the test, budding PAs have to have passed a program accredited by the NCCPA. At present, there are approximately 159 such courses in the U.S., whose successful completion will result in associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees.
Even after all of this testing and certifying, they are still not yet allowed to practice. They must first obtain the proper authorization from their state of residence so that they can get the state licensure needs to start practicing. After a student satisfies all of the aforementioned requirements, they can then attach the term or title PA-C after their name, signaling that they are a Physician Assistant – Certified.