How long does it take to become a Physician Assistant?

February 16, 2015 | 0

A PA or a physician assistant is a medical professional who helps out licensed doctors in their jobs. He/she practices medicine under the guidance and direction of a licensed physician.Their duties are almost the same as that of a doctor; but even though they can do all the work that physicians can do, they are not regarded as doctors.

The work of a PA is often confused with the job requirements of a medical assistant. However, their profiles are quite different. For example, clerical and clinical work form a part of the duties of a medical assistant. Comparatively, PA’s handle and are concerned with far bigger responsibilities. They however do not handle complex medical duties which require the attention of a doctor. A physician assistant has a separate medical license which is not associated to the doctor’s license. It is also not mandatory for PAs to work under the ‘direct’ supervision of a doctor.

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The work requirements of a Physician Assistant

Presented below is a list of job requirements associated with the work of a physician assistant.

  • Examination of patients and collecting data with regards to the ailments bothering the affected people.
  • Carrying out varied therapeutic treatments like injections, immunizations, suturing, wound care, management of infections, etc.
  • Conduct physical examination of patients as well as record varied associated facts such as the history of the condition, the progress of the disease, and other such relative information.
  • Take the approval of doctors and then prescribe medications.
  • Work along with technicians and give them relevant directions.
  • Counsel the patients. During such sessions, the physician assistant will pass on varied information to the patients, including data about the dosage of the medications, the schedules of different therapy prescribed by the doctor, and other associated subjects.
  • Carry out varied diagnostic tests such as x-rays, electrocardiograms, etc.
  • Occasionally, physician assistants may perform complex medical procedures. This is usually done as part of assistance given by the PA to a licensed physician.

Surgical physician assistant: Nearly 25 percent of the total physician assistants in the USA are employed in the surgical operations section of medicine. In spite of this high percentage, the demand for surgical PAs is considerable and constant.One of the major job requirements is treatment and care of individuals who need operations, both before and after the surgery. Other responsibilities include checking the medical history of patients; conducting physical examinations and lab tests; prescribing medications; and carrying out dressings for surgery. Surgical physician assistants also need to assist the senior surgeons at the time of operations/surgeries.

Orthopedic physician assistant: The PA’s job requirements include identifying and remedying the anomalies related to the musculoskeletal system. He/she will make sutures, treat fractures, perform local anesthesia, and remove staples among other tasks that the job requires. Orthopedic physician assistants will also perform lab tests and x-rays, note down the progress and healing of patients and pass on such information to the senior doctors.

Emergency room physician assistant: It is one of the most challenging branches in the PA line of work. Almost all have to work in shifts, including night shifts, which last for about 12 hours. Emergency room physician assistants typically work in Fast-track places; it offers them additional autonomy. This is the area where PAs need to take care of patients with less serious conditions so that senior doctors can dedicate their attention to more serious cases.

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Educational qualifications to become a Physician Assistant

It is important to get the right type of educational degree to be able to work as a physician assistant. The necessary qualifications, the training duration, and the course procedures may differ as per the state that one resides in. For example, some states may need a bachelor’s degree in associated subjects to become a PA, while other states may need a 2-year major degree in chemistry or biology or other science subjects. A science background during the early years of high school is of great help. It may also be noted that getting accepted into a physician assistant program without prior medical experience during the undergraduate years is quite difficult. Such candidates need to study medicine/science before gaining admission into the PA master’s program.

After acquiring the essential degrees, candidates need to go for certificate courses in associated fields. This will help a candidate’s chances to gain employment.It is vital to get sufficient training during internship as that will help in acquiring the basic skills to excel as a physician assistant.

In order to become a PA, one has to take an accredited training program. The eligibility and other requirements are provided in detail by theAmerican Academy of Physician Assistants; it varies from one state to another. The basic qualification to gain admission to such a program is completing a 2-year program in college in subjects like chemistry, biology, or physics.After the training program is over, one has to take an exam conducted by the National Commission so as to obtain the NCCPA or the Certification of Physician Assistants.

The last step is to appear for examinations such as the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination conducted by relevant governing bodies. Once the exams are cleared and the formalities are completed, candidates will be given a license to professionally practice as a physician assistant.

In addition to the educational degrees, PA aspirants also need to work on developing and improving their personality so as to have a successful and enjoyable career. Some traits required of a PA include lots of patience; efficient communication skills; determination; willingness to work long hours; and capability to sustain and tolerate hectic schedules.

How long does it take to become a physician assistant?

A majority of physician assistant programs are master’s programs. They can be completed in 2 years without breaks. Some PA programs last for 3 years and come with summer vacations.

All the programs need a bachelor’s degree which takes 4 years. Thus, candidates need to undergo 6 to 7 years of education after finishing high school in order to become a PA.

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