What Exactly is a Physician Assistant (PA)?
A Physician Assistant, or PA as they are commonly called, are like doctors without all the fancy schooling and of course, a full medical degree. However, they do perform similar duties of a doctor, such as; give physical exams and treat patients including reviewing their medical history and file, diagnose fractures, sprains, and treat minor injuries as well as prescribe diagnostic tests, and they can also prescribe therapeutic treatments for rehabilitation of past or present injuries. PA’s can even prescribe medication to patients in most states and often will participate in emergency situations. They are under constant supervision of a residing doctor. The duties of physician assistants can be dictated by the laws of individual states, so if you are thinking of registering for an online physician assistant program and would like a career in this field, please check with your state’s laws and policies.
About Online Physician Assistant Programs and Course Overview
To become a Physician Assistant, a student would typically have to complete a minimum of two years of training from an accredited college approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), and then take the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination exam (PANCE) to become licensed. For more information on this exam, visit the NCCPA website.
A Physician assistant degree is most valuable at the masters level, but a bachelor degree in a health care field is usually required to begin your studies. Some of the course topics covered in a typical online PA program may include: basics courses in science, mathematics, and liberal arts and basic medical courses such as; anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, emergency medicine, internal medicine, disease prevention, and psychology. Clinical practice is required in the specific field of choice including primary care, surgery, pediatrics, ob/gyn, etc. These clinical experiences are based on a rotation type set up.
Where Can I Work as A Physician Assistant?
After completing your online physician assistant program and obtaining your certification, you can work in the following facilities:
- Private offices or clinics
- Hospitals-surgical assistant, ER medical practitioner
- Public health clinics
- Home health care agencies for home patients
- Government organizations-Center of Disease Control (CDC)
What Would My Salary Be?
The salary of a PA is basically calculated with many factors in mind. These include; years of experience in the field, type of practice/facility they are working at, geographic location, and even specialization area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a physician assistant in May of 2007 was $78,450.
The Future of Physician Assistants-A Career Outlook
The job industry and employment rates for a physician assistant is looking better and better each day. According to the BLS, the employment rate is going to increase by 27% by the year 2016 with over 83,000 employment opportunities available. Currently, the highest percentage of employed physician assistants work in private offices or hospitals and the state with the highest employment rate for PA’s in the US is New York. The highest paying state for physician assistant jobs right now, however, is Connecticut ($91,010 on average!).
One of the main reasons for employment growth in this field is the fact that it is more cost effective to hire PA’s instead of doctors, when they can perform many of the same tasks. While there still needs to be a supervising doctor, it is preferred by hospitals to hire PA’s to oversee surgical procedures and patient care more and more. This is true especially in the poorer areas like the inner city hospitals and practices where expensive and elite surgeons and doctors tend to stray away from. With the looming economic hardships we face today here in the US, it is more practical and financially sound to look into hiring more physician assistants in general to handle all realms of patient health care.
If you are interested in becoming a PA, the online route is the way to go. Learn more about the available online physician assistant programs in the next article. It is “just what the doctor ordered” to get onto a new career track in health care!