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Career Path of a Physician's Assistant

written by: Jassi•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 9/5/2010

Are you interested in pursuing a career in medical stream but do not want to waste nearly a decade in medical college. Here’s an option, much in demand and as remunerative as a doctor – the Physician’s Assistant. Read on to know all that you need to become one.

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    Where there is a doctor there is usually a Physician’s Assistant (PA). A Physician’s Assistant, as the name indicates is not a doctor. They perform almost everything that a doctor does, though under the supervision of the latter. As long as health plays a crucial role for human beings, physicians and their assistants shall remain in demand. The fact can be easily established from the recent publications of the US Bureau of Labor wherein the profession has found a place amongst the top 10 occupations. Not only this, but they also have estimated a 27% increase in demand of PA's by 2014.

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    Tasks Performed by a PA

    A Physician’s Assistant is required to perform numerous tasks. Some of them include:

    • Prescription of laboratory tests, x-rays, diagnostic tests etc.
    • Examination of patients
    • Give instructions to patients on a particular ailment and create awareness about preventive measures
    • Interpretation of laboratory/diagnostic test results
    • Compilation of information/data regarding patients’ ailments, treatments given, observations etc.
    • Give medical advice, prescribe therapies and exercises to patients
    • Provide assistance to doctors during surgery
    • Reporting to doctor regarding observations, improvements or deterioration in health of patients
    • Preparation of patient charts and supervision of medical treatment given by nurses

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    How to Become a Physician’s Assistant?

    If you want to become a Physician's Assistant you can join associate, baccalaureate or post-graduate programs available with various medical schools and universities depending upon your goals and requirements. The higher the qualification the higher is the return in terms of remuneration and monetary benefits.

    On average, an accredited Physician Assistant program runs into approximately 26 months. Irrespective of the degree awarded to you, be it associate, baccalaureate or post graduate, you need to pass a certification examination called the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination conducted by National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistant (NCCPA) to obtain a license to start your work.

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    Pre-requisites for Joining a PA Program

    • When joining a baccalaureate program you usually have to have at-least 2-year college credits and some medical experience
    • For a post-graduate program you need to have undergraduate credits along with minimum GPA apart from required medical experience. In addition to this you must have gone through various subjects like Anatomy, Biological Sciences, Mathematics, Medical terminology, etc. prior to your admission.

    These are generally pre-requisites which may vary depending on different colleges, schools and universities.

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    Medical Schools or Colleges offering PA Programs

    There are over 140 PA programs available in the US, mostly affiliated with 2-year or 4-year colleges and university medical schools. The entire state-wide list is available on the official website of PAEA (Physician Assistant Education Association: http://www.paeaonline.org/index.php?ht=d/ContentDir/pid/255). The moment you enter the site you are asked to click on a state. You can get the entire list of colleges in your state providing PA program of your choice just by a click of mouse.

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    Average Salary of a PA

    Statistics revealed by the US Bureau of Labor in May 2007 say that on an average a physician's assistant earns $77800. The figure is expected to be much more today.

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    Career Paths Available for a Physician Assistant

    Apart from working toward becoming a Physician’s Assistant, your career path can include rising to the level of a supervisor.

    • Just like physicians, you can also have a practice of your own. Though this is possible only after years of association with a renowned medical practitioner.
    • You can get a job with various organizations providing health services.
    • You can also get into University hospital work. This is similar to work done under the supervision of a doctor.

    Curiosity is the mother of Invention. If one desires one can create their own career path to become a Physician's Assistant. It all depends on you and your motivation to achieve great heights.

    References:

    1. http://intellego-publishing.com/

    2. http://www.aapa.org/education-and-certification/physician-assistant-programs

    3. http://www.aapa.org/about-pas/becoming-a-physician-assistant