Physician Assistant Studies as a Career

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As a physician assistant (PA), you are a trained medical provider who diagnoses and treats patient illnesses and injuries. Your comprehensive responsibilities include assessing patients through history and physical examination, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating illnesses, counseling on preventive healthcare, assisting in surgery, and writing prescriptions. PAs typically practice medicine in collaboration with or under the supervision of a physician. As part of the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. Education, research, and administrative duties may also be incorporated into PA practice.

Your education as a physician assistant closely complements that of allopathic and osteopathic physician training. As a PA student, you typically share classes, facilities, and clinical rotations with medical students. After graduation, you will take a national certifying examination, continue your medical education on a regular basis, and sit for recertification every ten years.

Most PA programs require completion of a baccalaureate degree and certain basic science and behavioral science prerequisite coursework prior to admittance. Experience in healthcare, a desire to study and work hard, and an interest in being of service to your community are also desired traits.

Physician assistant educational programs generally consist of classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic sciences and clinical medicine (e.g., anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, physiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, pediatric medicine, psychiatry/behavioral medicine, and women’s health. PA education is often competency based and involves assessing a student’s proficiency in various areas of medical knowledge and performance of clinical skills throughout the student’s PA training.

Physician assistants are found in all areas of medicine. You may practice in areas of primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, as well as in medical specialties, general surgery, and surgical specialties.  PA is a career in high demand.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of PA jobs will increase by 31% between 2018 and 2028. 

If you want to be the type of healthcare professional who works with a team to extend patient access to medical care and is compassionate, communicates well, and is someone who enjoys working with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, a career as a physician assistant may be just right for you.


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