A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional responsible for examining, diagnosing and treating patients. This involves reviewing patients’ medical histories; ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests such as blood tests and X-rays; educating and counseling patients together with their families; caring for children with asthma and other diseases; prescribing medicine; assessing and recording patients’ progresses; researching the latest treatment to offer quality patient care; and conducting outreach programs focused on promoting wellness and managing diseases (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
The extent at which PAs exercise the above duties is dictated and influenced by surgeons and physicians who work in collaboration with them. It is also dictated and influenced by the areas of specialization of the PAs. However, the extent at which surgeons and physicians can go in limiting the above duties vary from one state to the other.
The codes of ethics for this profession are contained in the guidelines for ethical conduct for the physician assistant profession. The guidelines require PAs to respect the safety, welfare, and health of patient. They also require PAs to uphold the tenets of patient justice, non-maleficence and beneficence. They further require PAs to hold the information they acquire from patients in confidence and never share it without patients’ consents (Van-Rhee, 2016).
In order to become a physician assistant, one should study any science-based program preferably those to do with medicine and nursing in the undergraduate. Then for postgraduate studies, one should apply for a physician assistant program and study for two years. Some of the courses covered by physician assistants include physiology; medical ethics; pharmacology; pathology; clinical medicine; human anatomy; and physical diagnosis (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
Some of the educational institutions that offer physician assistant programs include Miami-Dade College; Adventist University of health sciences; Arizona school of health sciences; Albany medical college; Arcadia University; and Barry University (The PA Life, 2017).
The approximate time required to become a physician assistant is six years. This includes two years for earning the master’s degree on a full-time basis and four years for earning a bachelor’s degree.
To practice in the profession, PAs must be registered by their states through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. They should also complete a hundred hours of education after every two years to keep their certificates (Paulk, & Agnew, 2010).
Cost of the PAs Programs
The profession requires significant educational investment. PAs undertake their studies for close to 6 years before they can attain complete certification and begin to offer their services to the community. A bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree are the elementary requirements for one to qualify for this profession. Part of the education schedule requires working in the practical hospital or clinic settings in order to gain experience that is compulsory for the career. All these stages, therefore, require large sums of money and those anticipating to venture into the career are expected to prepare themselves adequately. The approximate cost for completing the program at Adventist University of Health Sciences is $76,000; at Albany, Medical College, the cost for the same program is $57,477; at Arizona school of health science the cost for the program is $79,617; and at Miami-Dade College the cost is $45,000 (The PA Life, 2017).
Currently, there are many job openings for PAs. This is in relation to the current growth rate that stands at 30 percent and which is projected to continue at this rate up to 2024. This rate is far much higher than the growth rate for other occupations. The 30 percent growth rate is expected to come from both the aging and growing populations in the country. In the coming years, PAs that offer services that doctors offer are expected to be more marketable because PAs are more cost effective than physicians (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
Like in any other healthcare related profession, work experience is considered to be a prerequisite PA program. It is also considered an impetus for higher pay meaning that the more experienced PAs earn higher salaries than the less experienced PAs (Hooker et al., 2010).
At the entry level, a physician assistant earns an annual salary of about $62,760. This, however, varies from one healthcare facility to the other with outpatient care centers offering higher salaries and government institutions offering the lowest salaries. The advancement opportunities in PA profession are many and they include narrowing down to one area of specialization such as psychiatry or emergency medicine. After gaining more years of experience, PAs may also supervise other medical staffs. They may also take up leadership roles in their healthcare facilities (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is the national body responsible for registering PAs after they sit and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination [PANCE] (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
Continuing educational units (CEUs) are required in this profession and they include the 100 hours of ongoing education after every two years together with the recertification examination offered after ten years of registration. To gain continuing education requirements and earn CEUs, physician assistants like other medical professionals are supposed to hold agreements with their supervising physicians (Younger, & Aspen Health Law Center, 1997).
Reflection/Personal Career Plan
Personally, I fit in PA profession because I study a science-based program. Consequently, once I complete my undergraduate studies, I can apply for a master’s degree in physician assistant. After graduating with a master’s degree, I can become a physician assistant as soon as I sit and pass the PANCE examination.
My personal career plan for entering this field would involve applying for a master’s degree program in physician assistant immediately I complete my undergraduate studies and studying the master’s degree program for two years as a full-time student. After graduating with a master’s degree, I would apply for the PANCE examination. Once I pass the PANCE examination, I would register with NCCPA and become a certified physician assistant. However, before that time comes, I would look for internship programs to gain the work experience that I require. My overall goal as I do this would be to specialize in pediatrics and be a pediatrician in the future.
Hooker, R. et al. (2010). Physician assistants: Policy and practice. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Co.
Paulk, D., & Agnew, D. (2010). Physician assistant review guide. Sudbury: Jones and Barlett publishers.
The PA Life. (2017). 2015 physician assistant program tuition and cost comparison table. Retrieved from https://www.thepalife.com/2015-physician-assistant-program-tuition-and-cost-comparison-table/
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). Physician assistants. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-1
Van-Rhee, J. (2016). Physician assistant board review: a certification and recertification. Philadelphia: Elsevier.
Younger, P. A., & Aspen Health Law Center. (1997). Physician assistant legal handbook. Gaithersburg: Aspen publishers.