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Becoming a Physician's Assistant

If you are considering a career in the medical field, you have a wide range of choices available to you. However, while you can take advantage of the incredible demand for nursing professionals, becoming a physician’s assistant might be the best career move for your needs.

According to a National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants survey of health care employers who employ physician's assistants:

  • 94.2 percent of physician's assistant employers say that PAs have helped increase the number of patients seen.
  • 92.5 percent agree that PAs have enabled them to shorten the time patients must wait for appointments.
  • 91.2 percent say that physician's assistants enable them to allow patients more time to ask questions during their office visits.

Education requirements for physician's assistants

PAs, or physician's assistants, are highly trained professionals. The education program to become a PA usually lasts two years, after which you have to pass your state’s licensing examination. You’ll find that physician’s assistant training programs combine both theory work and clinical, hands-on experience.

An important part of deciding if this is a good career choice for your needs is to understand what your role will be. Unlike a medical assistant, your responsibilities will not revolve around clerical work and minor patient care responsibilities. You will be responsible for assisting surgeons and doctors in a wide range of situations. You will also be responsible for providing a number of different patient treatments, including therapeutic care, wound care, and possibly primary care in some situations where a physician is not regularly present.

What are a physician’s assistant duties?

Another important part of making an informed career decision is understanding just what you might be called on to do. You’ll find that as a PA, you’ll be called on to provide diagnostic testing for patients, or for ordering laboratory tests and X-rays. You might perform a physical examination of a patent, or even perform minor surgery, depending on where you work. Other responsibilities a physician's assistant might perform include providing preventative healthcare, acting as the first assistant during surgery, providing emergency care, and more.

Choosing to become a PA can be lead to a rewarding career. However, you need to be prepared for the reality of this position. PAs work long hours, often over the weekend, at night, and during early morning hours. You should also be prepared to be on call if the doctor with whom you work requires this type of arrangement. In some situations, you might even be responsible for providing primary patient care.

NEXT IN SERIES >>> Finding quality PA programs

References and resources

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a wealth of information on physician's assistants.

US News reports a need for physician's assistants.

PremedGuide offers details on becoming a physician's assistant.

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