The Physician Assistant Field
What Is a PA?
Physician Assistants (PAs) are licensed medical professionals found across the full range of medical and surgical specialties and health care settings. Trained to offer many of the same services as physicians, PAs work within heath care teams to offer patients care across the lifespan.
With the country's shortage of primary care physicians, PAs are gaining more prevalence. In many health care settings, patients work closely with a PA in lieu of seeing a generalist physician which decreases many of the obstacles that stand between individuals and medical care. PAs can work autonomously or can lead health care teams.
PAs may be responsible for the following services:
- taking patient histories;
- performing physician exams;
- diagnosing medical conditions and ordering tests;
- developing treatment plans and prescribing medications; and
- consulting with and counseling patients.
How to Become a PA
Practicing PAs hold a degree from an accredited institution and are licensed through the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and in their state.
PA education is much like that of a physician, but where a typical medical degree can take up to 10 years to complete, a PA program can often be completed in no more than two years. PA curricula are general, with coursework that prepare students to diagnose and treat illness and disease across the lifespan.
PA students also complete clinical rotations in various health care settings. As with any medical program, hands-on experience with patients is critical to any PA program's curriculum.
After graduation, candidates pursue PANCE certification and state licensure.
Why Become a PA?
PAs are in great demand, and job satisfaction among PAs is very high.
In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked physician assistant #3 in its list, The 100 Best Jobs, citing job satisfaction among PAs, high salary, and low unemployment.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortfall of between 12,500 and 31,100 primary care physicians by 2025.
The PA field is expected to grow by 30 percent by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to a Harris poll that surveyed 1,500 adults who interacted with a PA in 2014:
agree PAs are going to be part of the solution to address the shortage of health care providers.
agree PAs are trusted health care providers.
agree having a PA at a practice makes it easier for a patient to get an appointment.