Career Discovery: What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?
There’s been quite a few changes in national healthcare within the past decade, and with these changes came a rise in occupations that were not previously popular, let alone existent!More and more people have been getting insured and requiring affordable healthcare, and therefore there is a need to have an increasing amount of providers who are able to care for patients. In addition, many of us have been in the hospital or in the doctor’s office, and instead of seeing a physician making the rounds, we come across a PA, otherwise known as a Physician Assistant. There have been quite a few people who find themselves wondering “what is a Physician Assistant?” and curious about what their various duties entail.
Read along to discover this exciting new career, and the many advantages that come with having PAs as part of our medical team.
What is a Physician Assistant’s Job Description?
A simple definition of a PA is this: a Physician Assistant is a nationally licensed medical professional.PAs are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat patients and similar to doctors, they have the ability to work autonomously or in a group.A Physician Assistant is able to assist in surgeries, write prescriptions, and perform procedures.They can either work in general medicine or be trained in a specialty. Now the definition may be simple enough, but allow me to give you a real life example of what exactly a PA is.
Scenario 1. You have open heart surgery. Your surgeon performs the complex procedure, but clearly standing on his feet for eight hours is hard work, and he cannot do it alone. He only has two arms and there’s a lot of education and skill needed when you’re performing something so complicated. Enter the Physician Assistant.He stands next to your surgeon assisting with the procedure. He acts as another set of hands, he gives his input, he helps the surgeon.Post-op day one, at 6am, the PA is standing at the bedside talking to your nurse about how your recovery is going so far. He rounds on all the patients. He reports back to the surgeon his findings, and they conclude what the best course of action would be in order for you to have an uneventful and easy recovery. The PA puts in the orders, and follows up with the nurses while the surgeon prepares for the next surgery. Usually the PA also fields the phone calls from the nurses throughout the day instead of the surgeon.
Scenario 2. You go to the doctor’s office for a cough. The doctor is booked solid, but his partner (a Physician Assistant), has quite a few openings. You go and see her, and she is able to write your prescription for an antibiotic and you go on your merry way.
This is what a Physician Assistant is.
Job Preparation and Career Outlook
As you can probably guess, becoming a PA is no easy task.With all of the responsibility that it entails, it’s not surprising all the education they need to receive.Most PAs have a bachelor’s of science degree, with a high emphasis on human anatomy and physiology as well as microbiology and biology.If someone wanted to go on to PA school and doesn’t have a bachelor’s of science degree first, they may have to go back to school and complete some pre-requisites. And since the competition is so high to get into PA school, most schools require you to have some sort of medical experience to even be considered.I know quite a few people who have worked as paramedics or nursing assistants in order to get their experience.
A PA has their master’s degree, and it is typically 3 years of graduate level schooling, as well as 2000 hours of medical training.This can be done in various settings, and is typically set up with your school. It is hands on training with a physician that gives you real-world experience and allows you to put into practice what you have learned in the classroom. Even if your desire is to work in a specialty, PAs need to get basic knowledge and learn general medicine as well as their scope of practice in order to safely function on their own.Therefore, most PA students start and conclude their studies with general medicine, and then focus on how they want to advance their career.
The field is growing rapidly. It is estimated that after a student graduates and passes their national boards, an estimated 75% of graduates have multiple job offers. It is also estimated that the field will be growing by 30% in the next ten years.More and more PAs are being employed in various settings, so the demand will only continue to increase.
After considering what a PA is, we can conclude that their position in our changing and growing medical system is essential. The dynamic field offers many different career paths, which is encouraging because if you were to get tired of one area, you could easily switch to another. While the training may be strenuous, the rewards are great offer steady career potential.
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