Physician Assistant - First Assistant

Physician Assistant - First Assistant

Physician assistants practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgpaeons.  A PA is formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician.

Physician assistants  take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x-rays, and make diagnoses.  They also treat minor injuries, by suturing, splinting, and casting. Most physician assistants work full time.

About 1 out of 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016. Physician assistants may work nights, weekends, or holidays. They may also be on call, meaning that they must be ready to respond to a work request with little notice.

A PA can record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, prescribe medications, and order or carry out therapy.

The duties of the PA are determined by the the supervising physician and State law.  You should investigate the current laws and regulations in the state in which you wish to practice. Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. The work of physician assistants depends in large part on their specialty or the type of medical practice where they work. For example, a physician assistant working in surgery may close incisions and provide care before, during, and after the operation. A physician assistant working in pediatrics may examine a child and give routine vaccinations.

Liability insurance, registration fees with the drug enforcement administration, State licensing fees, and credentialing fees are some of the expenses for the PA which many employers pay.

Education:  Physician Assistants are required to complete an accredited, formal education program and pass a national exam to obtain a license.  Physician assistants typically need a master’s degree from an accredited educational program. All states require physician assistants to be licensed.  Most applicants to physician assistant education programs already have a bachelor’s degree and some patient care work experience. Although admissions requirements vary from program to program, most programs require 2 to 4 years of undergraduate coursework with a focus in science. Many applicants already have experience as registered nurses or as EMTs or paramedics before they apply to a physician assistant program.

Physician assistant education programs usually take at least 2 years of full-time study. More than 200 education programs were accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) in 2017. Almost all of these accredited programs offer a master’s degree.

The program is accredited by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.  Admission requirements vary by program.

National examination: The Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). All states and the District of Columbia require physician assistants to be licensed. To become licensed, candidates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who passes the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”

To keep their certification, physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The recertification exam is required every 10 years.

In addition, state licensure laws require physician assistants to hold an agreement with a supervising physician. Although the physician does not need to be onsite at all times, collaboration between physicians and physician assistants is required for practice.

Employment:  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Physician Assistant is one of the fastest growing occupations.  The median annual wage for physician assistants was $101,480 in May 2016. Employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 37 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. As demand for healthcare services grows, physician assistants will be needed to provide care to patients. Approximately 39,700 positions between 2016 and 2026.

For more Information go to American Academy of Physician Assistants and National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.