What Does It Take to be a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant is a healthcare provider that works directly with patients under the supervision of a doctor. Since they are not licensed doctors, there are some limits to the levels of care they can provide. 

Job Description

Physician assistants (PAs) do many of the same tasks as doctors. This includes examining patients, ordering diagnostic tests, providing treatment (like setting bones and prescribing medication), and monitoring patients’ progress. 

PAs work under the supervision of a licensed physician or surgeon. That supervision level can vary among states and specialities. A PA in surgery, for example, may make incisions or provide sutures under the supervision of the surgeon. In a rural area, a PA may provide substantial general care with less oversight from their supervising physician. 

Working as a PA gives people the opportunity to provide medical care to patients and earn a good salary, without requiring as many years of education. The PA system also helps more people to get medical care, since the barriers to entry in the PA field are much lower than those of doctors.

Salary & Job Outlook

Physician assistants receive an average salary of $112,260 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The field is growing much faster than average, with expected growth of 31% between 2018 and 2028. This represents an increase of 37,000 jobs. 

For Instance

MPOWERHealth is often hiring for physician assistants jobs in Columbus, OH. These roles include working alongside neurological surgeons and assisting during surgical procedures.

Training and Requirements

A physician assistant is not required to attend medical school, but they do need both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree from an accredited graduate school. Master’s Degree programs for PAs usually take 2 or more years of full-time study. 

Applicants to PA programs often have previous experience in health care. They may have been nurses, EMTs, or nursing assistants. Although there is no explicit requirement that applicants have this experience, it can help applicants to stand out to the admissions committee.

As part of their education, students may be required to serve in clinical rotations, which provide hands-on experience and help students to decide where they’d like to specialize. Specializations could be in family medicine, surgery, internal medicine, and more. 

After completing their programs, PAs must take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). This test is issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). 

PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their NCCPA certification. And they must retake the PANCE exam every 10 years.

Each state also has their own state-wide licensing requirements. Completing the PANCE exam is often a prerequisite to taking your state’s exam. Check the requirements in your state.

Finally, PAs must have an agreement with a supervising physician. The levels of supervision required also vary from state to state. Practicing medicine without this agreement in place is a violation of the law.