Arguably the most rewarding healthcare job is on the rise!
Today I’m gonna be diving into the role of a Physician Assistant, what they do on the job, how you can become one, and some salary information.
What is a Physician Assistant?
In the healthcare industry, Physician Assistants are commonly referred to as PA’s and they work under a Physician or Surgeon.
In terms of what PA’s do - they review a patients medical history, conduct physical exams, order and interpret diagnostic tests, they will give treatments, educate patients and their families for the best course of action, they will prescribe medications (yes, they can do that too).
What do you have to do if you want to become a Physician Assistant?
In order to become a PA, you are required to have a completed a 4-year degree along with the prerequisites required by the master program (these vary from one program to another).
Almost all master programs will also require you to have at least 500 hours of direct patient care experience, this includes experience working as a paramedic, CRNA, scribe, phlebotomist, nurse, etc.
Along with all this, you are also required to take the GRE exam, an exam required for most master programs in the US, and last but not least — have some shadowing experience. You are usually required to have at least a couple dozen hours of shadowing experience under your belt.
Shadowing involves an informal arrangement to observe a professional as they go about their work.
Difference between PA’s and Doctors
PA’s are seen as physician extenders. They typically work autonomously in the clinic/hospital/etc and refer to the doctor when help is needed. They can diagnose and see their own patients, order tests, prescribe meds, run IVs/intubate, suture wounds, and be first assist in surgery, etc. The scope of practice is large and usually varies depending on their supervising physician or the workplace’s rules.
Most PAs work independently and have some of their charts reviewed/signed-off by the physician at a later time. It all depends on where they’re working.
The most recent data from the Bureau of labor statistics reports the median annual wage for physician assistants was $104,860 per year ($50.41 per hour). The lowest 25 percent earned less than $78,220, and the top 25 percent earned more than $131,066
Is it worth it?
The “worth” of any career choice you might make depends on what you are looking for. If your main driving factor is income, the median income of PAs is around $100,000 per year, but that will obviously vary depending on experience and local job market.
How does that compare with what you earn now? Are you prepared to invest the time and money in the education required? Do you already have some prerequisite training and experience — college-level work in the sciences?. Are you interested in that type of work — assisting at surgery, handling routine patient office visits, dealing with sick people? PAs typically work in a team setting, working with MD’s and other clinicians. Does that type of work environment appeal to you? PA’s work will involve nights and weekends. Does that fit well with your family situation, if you have a family — children, spouse’s work schedule, and those sorts of issues? What is the job market for PA’s like in your area — lots of local opportunities or have to commute?
These are all questions you have to ask yourself before embarking on a journey to becoming a Physician Assistant. Simply put, it is a great decision if a “mid-level” healthcare position that only requires an extra 2 years of education after your bachelors sounds appealing to you.