With the healthcare industry witnessing a boom, physician assistants are high in demand. Here is a guide to the Physician Assistants career which is growing in demand in both rural and urban areas.
Typically, Physician Assistants are required to complete a 26-month training program after they successfully obtain a 4-year college degree and get some job experience. After their initial certification, a Physician Assistant must complete 100 hours of continuing education credits every two years along with the successful completion of a recertification exam every six years to retain their certification to practice.
In the industry there are two professional bodies – the one that regulates is known as the AAPA (American Association of Physician Assistants) and the one that administers certification exams and tracks the continuing education credits which is called NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants).
In a doctor’s office, the role of a Physician Assistant plays an important part. They are supervised by a licensed doctor, but also allowed to work independently inside the doctor’s office. They are required to provide response within one hour of their doctor’s call.
The diagnosis of x-rays and the analysis of labs are included in some of their responsibilities. Also, the physician assistant can assist patients with writing prescriptions for medications or therapy, examinations, as well as helping the doctor by listening to patients’ needs, recording their history, and providing surgical assistance. On top of that, excellent communication skills need to be in a Physician Assistant’s repertoire because they will be interacting with patients most of the time.
Spending most of their time on their feet, Physician Assistants do a vast majority of attending to and interacting with the patients. Assistants who are part of a surgical team are the busiest of the lot. This job requires the ability to handle large amounts of stress, working late, nights, weekends, and holidays and as such, is not easy. The Physician Assistant must handle all physical and mental stress with a cool and calm that does not show on his face because that may panic the patient.
The tasks that a Physician Assistant can perform vary in each American state. In order to know the exact job responsibilities for that state, you will want to refer to that state’s employment website.
The growth in availability of Physician Assistant jobs is expected to be more rapid than in other industries. The need for Physician Assistants is much higher in hospitals, clinics, prisons, and many other facilities both in urban and rural areas. The growth in demand for physician assistant jobs is expected to rise by 39% from 2008 to 2018 according to a government report published in 2008. The simultaneous evolution and cost lowering that is happening in the healthcare industry is the cause of the increased demand. Appointing Physician Assistants helps healthcare establishments lower its cost without compromising on quality of service or productivity. States too are now allowing physician assistants to perform more medical procedures and all these factors are leading to a higher demand for professionals.
The following are the factors that determine the salary for a Physician Assistant :
Specialization: Physician Assistants trained to handle complicated medical conditions like HIV or AIDS or cancer gets paid more than other assistants who can handle regular medical conditions. Having a specialization as a Physical Assistant immediately places them in higher demand and allows them to command a higher salary that can exceed the maximum figure (given below).
Area: Often it is found that the pay for healthcare professionals is lower in rural areas than it is in urban centers. Urban centers in densely populated areas pay more than urban centers in thinly populated areas. Urban areas often have a higher cost of living compared to their rural counterparts which can attribute to the higher salary.
Experience can factor into this as well. The more experience that a Physician Assistant has the higher salary that they will receive.
As per Salary.com, Physician Assistants earn anything between $75,000 and $106,000 yearly. A more realistic average would be between $65,000 and $90,000, give or take a few exceptions. The specialization factor is huge for a Physician Assistant because they will nearly always draw a higher salary. Pay differs between different facilities of which hospitals and outpatient centers will be the highest paying while government and educational facilities pay the lowest. Remember, the pay at urban centers will often be higher than the pay that is offered in rural areas.
It is also expected that a Physician Assistant’s employer will pay for their professional liability insurance, state licensing fees, registration fees, and credential fees.
Physician Assistants can specialize in critical medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, neonatology, cancer or one of many others if they so choose. As mentioned above, professionals who specialize in such critical medical conditions are paid a much higher salary. Specialization programs are offered by many schools in fields like surgery, cancer, HIV, neonatology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and much more.
Then, a Physician Assistant can enroll for a postgraduate residency training program in areas like emergency medicine, rural primary care, occupational medicine, etc.
A Physician Assistant pay increases with time and experience. However, the assistant must always remain under the supervision of a licensed doctor.
Physician Assistant jobs have many advantages – PAs do not have to attend to med school, they do not have to go through the taxing internship that all doctors go through, and they can learn different specialties or move from one specialty to another with ease. Helping people recover from major and minor medical conditions can also a benefit to most as it is rewarding and self-satisfying to help others in need.
There are always new challenges in the daily life of a PA and no two days are the same. The requirement of being supervised by a licensed doctor will always prevent a Physician Assistant from being and entrepreneur and launching their own practice.
This concludes the guide and contains all you need to know about a job as a Physician Assistant.