Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant

Healthcare is one of the biggest and fastest-growing industries in the world. In the United States, the population is aging and new healthcare reforms will soon bring even more patients into doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. This means that while healthcare is currently one of the hottest industries in which to make a career, it will soon be even more financially rewarding and desirable. Healthcare is projected to grow at a very rapid rate for many years into the future, making any healthcare career a smart financial decision.

Working in healthcare takes many forms. One of the hottest jobs in the industry right now is a physician assistant. These skilled professionals assist doctors in hospitals, clinics, and many other healthcare facilities. Highly trained, physician assistants perform many of the same procedures as doctors and can prescribe medications in most areas. While they work under a doctor and must consult on complex cases, a physician assistant enjoys a lot of freedom and responsibility in their work.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this exciting and rewarding career. We’ll explore different career opportunities, review average salaries nationwide, and look into the education required to become a physician assistant. We’ll also review what it takes to have a long and happy career in this field.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

In the course of a day, a physician assistant will perform many of the same duties as a doctor. While PAs are often confused with medical assistants, they actually have much more responsibility. A medical assistant usually assists with very basic procedures and deals with paperwork, while a PA has much more hands-on time with patients. The following are just a few things which a physician assistant may find themselves doing during the course of a typical day.

  • Taking Medical Histories – For a new patient, taking down their medical history and any family history which they are aware of is a very important part of treatment. A patient’s history can provide valuable clues to their current health status, and a family history can alert healthcare providers to potential health issues. A physician assistant may be responsible for taking down this important information and passing the history on to a doctor.
  • Treating Minor Wounds – Wounds which are not extremely deep or requiring surgery are often treated by a physician assistant. This treatment may include suturing a cut or wrapping and splinting a sprain.
  • Ordering and Interpreting Lab Tests – If a physician assistant feels that blood or other lab work is required, they will order the appropriate tests, interpret the results and communicate those results to the patient or the supervising doctor.
  • Prescribing Medication – A physician assistant is legally allowed to prescribe medications, exceptions being for certain controlled substances.
  • Educating and Counseling Patients – Just like a doctor, part of a physician assistant’s job is to educate patients on ways to get healthy and stay healthy, including diet, exercise and stopping harmful habits such as smoking.

In a larger office, clinic or hospital, a physician assistant works for a doctor or a team of doctors, as part of a group of caregivers. However, in different settings, a physician assistant may take on even more responsibility.

In rural settings, a physician assistant may see patients at a clinic and counsel with a doctor by phone about proper treatment of complex cases. This is also true in poor urban areas, where many clinics can only afford to have a doctor on-site for a few days per week. Physician’s assistants are often sent out to see patients, either in their homes or in assisted living facilities. They check on the patient, report their condition to their primary doctor, and refer any serious conditions to the doctor or another appropriate specialist.

Where Does a Physician Assistant Work?

There are many potential settings for a career as a physician assistant, not all of them obvious. Of course, many PAs work in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. However, other facilities also need healthcare workers, and a PA often fits these needs very well. Prisons, group homes, nursing homes & assisted living facilities, children’s homes and mental health facilities are all potential places of employment, either full time or on an on-call or as-needed basis. Physician’s assistants are employed in every type of area, from remote rural settings to densely populated inner cities.

How Much Does a Physician Assistant Earn?

While most healthcare fields pay exceptionally well, a physician assistant enjoys one of the top salaries in the business. Directly out of school, a physician assistant can expect to earn between $75,000 and $85,000 per year. As you gain experience in the field, you can earn as much as $125,000 yearly in general practice.

It’s important to remember that salary depends a great deal on location and specialization. For example, a PA working under a general practitioner typically makes less than one working under a surgeon, whose salary can reach upwards of $200,000 per year. In addition, a physician assistant working in a larger city will typically earn more than one working in a small town, although there are exceptions in the case of inner-city clinics in impoverished areas.

In the United States, the top five states for physician assistant salaries are Nevada, Mississippi, California, Alaska and Rhode Island. The states with the lowest salaries include Indiana, Colorado, South Dakota, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Physician’s assistant salaries, like any other salaries, correspond with the cost of living in a particular region. This means that even though you may earn less in Indiana than you would in California, your living expenses will be lower as well.

Why Become a Physician Assistant?

CNN Money ranked physician assistant as the second most desirable occupation in the United States. This is based on several factors, including starting and overall salary, job opportunities and growth projections. Amazingly, the demand for physician assistants is expected to grow by about 40% by the year 2018.

In addition to excellent pay and benefits, working as a physician assistant is very rewarding. PAs generally truly love their jobs, citing the responsibility and daily challenges as some of their favorite aspects of their work. Unlike a doctor, a physician assistant does not need to complete eight or more years of schooling; the typical PA program lasts for two to three years. A PA is also free to move between different areas of medicine, whereas a doctor is more or less tied to their chosen specialty.

Working as a physician assistant combines the best of both worlds. PAs enjoy the focus on patient care, job freedom and shorter education time which a nurse’s job would require. However, they also get more responsibility and higher pay, much like a doctor. For those desiring a rewarding, challenging medical career which doesn’t require an extremely long period of schooling, becoming a PA is a wonderful option.

If you’re considering a career as a physician assistant, rest assured that you will enjoy a stable and lucrative career helping people live healthier lives. If you enjoy caring for others and want to have some freedom in your employment options, then working as a physician assistant may be ideal for you.

Next post: