What Does a Physician Assistant Do?
If you’ve ever been to a hospital chances are high that you have come across physician assistants. They are the men and women who make a physician’s job easier and faster. Working as a physician’s assistant is challenging and exciting at the same time.
So, if you wanted to learn more about this profession or wanted to know more before deciding to become one, then this article is meant for you.
What is a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant, also called PA, is a certified and licensed medical practitioner who has an advanced degree and is focused on patient care. They are essential parts of health service teams and work in collaboration with doctors and other advanced healthcare professionals. There are approximately 140,000 physician assistants currently registered within the entire United States. Every medical setting you go to has PAs in their various specialties.
In essence, physician assistants work with patients of all ages. They deal in primary care as well as diagnostic, treatment and assisting in minor surgical operations too.
There is reportedly a shortage of frontline healthcare workers in the US. As physician assistants tend to have an important role in providing effective healthcare treatment thanks to the term-based approach prominently being practiced today, there is an increasing demand for certified and licensed physician assistants all over the country.
What is the career scope for Physician Assistant?
The supervising physician and state law determine the specific duties of a physician assistant. However, you can be sure that many PAs will provide the same level of services that you get through a primary care physician.
There is immense scope for physician assistants as they are required in every specialty within medical and healthcare services. Usually, the role of a physician assistant would involve:
- Performing examinations
- Making patient rounds
- Assisting in surgical procedures
- Diagnosing disorder or ailment
- Prescribing and interpreting pathology and imaging laboratory tests and results
- Prescribing medication
- Developing and managing plans of treatment
- Consulting patients on preventive care and best health practices
Although PAs work under a physician they are not directly supervised. Most physician assistants work independently and operate under a spectrum of service as dictated by the particular state’s medical law.
For instance, every state in the US has certain regulations and laws in place relating to the types of medicines that a physician’s assistant can prescribe in that particular state. If the PA needs to prescribe a medication outside of the list, then they are usually required to consult with the physician.
What is the difference between a Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner?
Most people perceive physician assistants and nurse practitioners to be one and the same, which is entirely wrong. Although they both serve similar roles, the similarities end there. The training and specialization required to become a physician assistant and nurse practitioner vary immensely.
One on hand, a physician assistant needs to have an education in general medicine along with being trained using a disease-centered curriculum model, which is quite similar to that of a medical student. Once physician assistants get their degree they can also choose to specialize in one of the various areas in medicine.
On the other hand, nurse practitioners need to be trained for advanced nursing roles which follow a patient-centered curriculum. In addition, nursing practitioners are required to select a primary specialty before starting their graduate degree and then work with the relevant patient population to become certified.
What are the Specializations for Physician Assistants?
As physician assistants can choose to excel in almost any medical specialty they can handle a vast range of roles in the numerous sub-specialties. They can choose to specialize in one or more areas even when employed. The immense versatility is one of the most exciting things about becoming a physician assistant.
Some of the most popular specialties for physician assistants include:
- Ob/Gyn (Obstetrics and Gynecologist)
- Internal Medicine
- General Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
You will need to choose your specialty/specialties in a particular field of medicine and go through an advanced training course. Usually, physician assistants need to complete a residency or fellowship to be able to practice in a specialty or subspecialty. The specific advanced training, roles, certifications, responsibilities, etc. may change according to the particular state.
What are the responsibilities of a Physician Assistant?
Physician assistants are normally employed at hospitals, doctor’s clinics, outpatient centers and in homes for the elderly. Most of their time is spent making patient rounds and interacting with patients directly.
Apart from this, physician assistants may also be responsible for handling administrative responsibilities in healthcare settings, such as taking notes for physicians, updating patient records, communicating with patients, etc.
Typically, a physician assistant works full time, that is, 40 hours a week. This job may frequently call for you to put in additional hours, apart from involving rotating shifts. In addition, physician assistants are often required to be on call occasionally.
You can become a physician assistant if you have effective communication skills, empathy, compassion, and focus on patient care. You should also be able to work well under pressure and show impressive problem-solving skills when the situation requires. If you want to become a PA, then you need to have a master’s degree from a certified PA program in addition to having previously worked directly in patient care. This job has immense potential for career growth.