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About Physician Assistant Jobs​

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when it comes to physician assistant jobs, the employment prospects are promising. In fact, it’s predicted to grow by 31% within the following decade, which is tremendously fast, even taking into account other popular occupations.

As with most other healthcare jobs, this position carries great responsibility, but it is ultimately rewarding when performed conscientiously. As you can see with nearly all listed AAPA jobs, PAs are well-trained workers, often serving as a patient’s first-hand care provider, whose scope of work overlaps that of physicians to a large extent. These educated workers go through thousands of hours of thorough medical training.

This all came about in the 1960s, when it was noted that there was a significant lack of primary care physicians. Four Navy Hospital Corpsmen were selected to undergo thorough medical training alongside their military service, obtaining their certificates in 1967. The purpose of creating the physician assistant position was to expand the scope of healthcare and possibly improve it.

Fortunately, the concept has encountered many supporters throughout the medical community, which accelerated its progress and provided the necessary support for the newly emerged profession. This was followed by the establishment of the necessary certification processes, thus defining the standards and examination methods we’re familiar with today.

What Do Physician Assistants (PAs) Do?

You’ve probably wondered what specific kind of care physician assistants provide. Although one would deduce that their job is to simply assist physicians, the duties of a physician and a PA overlap to a large extent. Both order tests and perform examinations, diagnose illnesses, prescribe treatment, and so on. 

Physician assistants work in all branches of medicine, even family medicine. PAs invest much of their time reviewing patients’ records and observing their progress. However, there are certain specifics regarding the physician assistant job description. 

Duties

A PA is required to operate under a physician’s supervision, within their shared responsibility. However, they can’t perform certain critical procedures, such as surgeries. Some states have a different view on which procedures are considered critical. For instance, physician assistants are not authorized to prescribe medication in all parts of the world. Apart from the above-mentioned physician assistant job duties, there are many other tasks that are a standard part of their routine:

  • Reviewing patients’ medical histories
  • Actively taking part in providing treatment (including immunizations)
  • Counseling patients and their families
  • Conducting research on the newest treatments for quality assurance 

Usually, it’s physicians who decide on the scope of work their PAs will perform, as well as the nature of their medical tasks.

Types of Physician Assistant Jobs 

Much like a physician, a PA is welcome to specialize in a chosen medical branch, and accordingly, there are different kinds of PAs. A PA might specialize in dermatology, ophthalmology, emergency medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, and much more. Some of the specialties might be more financially rewarding—pathology, dermatology, and emergency medicine rank amongst the top three most profitable specialties for PAs. Because of this, not every physician’s assistant has the same salary

Work Environment 

Every medical worker should take pleasure in working with patients, but it can get both physically and emotionally exhausting at times. Depending on their specialty, PAs are sometimes required to stand for prolonged periods of time, especially those who happen to work with surgeons in operating rooms. Consequently, as in other professions, there are certain injuries and minor illnesses specific to physician’s assistants.

Injuries and Illnesses Related to PA Jobs

Not surprisingly, a study reported by WebMD claims that standing five hours a day causes severe lower-limb muscle fatigue, as well as the associated back problems and overall musculoskeletal harm. While this is especially bad news for some workers, such as shop assistants, some physicians and PAs are in danger as well, depending on their specialties. Those who have no choice but to stand on their feet for hours are highly likely to experience musculoskeletal pain.

Work Schedules

Almost all physician assistant jobs are full time, with a 40-hour workweek, but it is not unusual for these workers to also work overtime. When it comes to their typical workday, there are no specific rules. Night and weekend shifts often occur, and PAs often need to be on call, which typically means working from home while remaining ready in case they’re needed for work and promptly responding.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

A master’s degree obtained from an accredited educational program is mandatory in order to become a PA, and this program usually lasts for two years. In order to get admitted into these studies, you will need a bachelor’s degree from a related field (specifically, one that is science-based) with at least some experience taking care of patients. 

Education 

The education for a physician assistant job requires a lot of effort and engagement and consists of both classroom and laboratory work in all necessary subjects, ranging from human anatomy to medical ethics. Also, there’s the option to train in various fields at clinics under a physician’s supervision. Occasionally, training may consist of students practicing in shifts under the guidance of a physician who’s in search of a PA, so this can be a good opportunity for employment. 

How to Get Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many PAs looking for a job wonder how to find jobs as a physician assistant without experience. PA job applicants are usually required to have experience in patient care, perhaps as a nurse or something similar. Still, volunteer work also counts, especially when it takes place at clinics or with people who have special needs or members of other at-risk groups.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require physician assistants to be licensed. The test that candidates need to pass is called PANCE (standing for Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination). However, a PA must actively work on “justifying” their license, so it doesn’t end at passing PANCE. Every two years, they must go through 100 hours of additional education so that they’re prepared to successfully pass their recertification (this test is taken every 10 years).

Important Qualities in a Physician Assistant

The traits you would expect among all healthcare workers also apply to PAs. 

  • They must abound with empathy and well-developed interpersonal skills since they will often have to elaborate complicated medical problems to laymen, and they must be able to do it effectively and compassionately. 
  • A PA should have good attention to detail so that they’re capable of providing an accurate evaluation of each patient.
  • Emotional stability is key in all PA jobs. The job of a healthcare worker can get stressful, and there can be significant pressure.
  • PAs should be tolerant people who act flexibly toward their surroundings even under difficult conditions.
  • An effective PA is also a good team player, able to function as part of a large team of medical professionals.

Advancement

When it comes to the long-term physician assistant job outlook, there are numerous advantages to this position. But as expected, they require some additional work, particularly in terms of education. For a PA, career advancement usually equates to a lot of studying in medical school again.

Of course, there are workers who aren’t enthusiastic about the idea of “going back to school,” but they’re nevertheless diligent and have a desire for advancement. In this case, working hard may result in a better-paid management position within a particular facility—without having to go to college again.

Pay

It’s been reported that physician assistants earn a six-figure salary. In 2018, the median wage in the USA for most jobs of a physician assistant was estimated at $108,610. Furthermore, data from the same period report that their highest median annual wages are found in outpatient care centers and hospitals (not only private ones, but in state and local as well).

Job Outlook

The rising demand for medical staff, including physicians’ assistants, is completely justified, taking into account the specific contributing factors—such as the aging population and the increase in the number of people suffering from chronic illnesses. In general, opting for a career as a physician’s assistant is a smart choice these days since they’re trained more quickly than physicians but still play an important role in the healthcare system.

Job Prospects

This career has a bright future, especially in rural areas—and any other areas that need an increase in the quality of their healthcare services (which among other things means more employees). But it isn’t an easy job, and it does require a more extensive educational undertaking.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many physician assistant jobs are out there? 

Since physician assistants can also work in specialties outside primary care, including medical subspecialties, there are numerous job opportunities for them. For instance, in 2014, physician assistants held 94,400 jobs: 57% of PAs were employees in physicians’ offices, while hospitals employed 22%. The rest were employed by outpatient care centers, government entities, and educational devices.

Which jobs are preferred by PA schools?

There’s a range of different jobs you can perform within the healthcare sector once you’ve obtained your PA degree. But everything depends on the circumstances and your personal preferences—you could work as a clinical advisor, service manager, rural area practitioner, surgical assistant, etc. The spectrum of career paths you could opt for is really wide.

What are good jobs to get healthcare experience for PA school?

Work experience in healthcare is one of the deciding factors that PA schools take into consideration during the admission process. They usually demand that an applicant has taken part in “direct patient care.” However, volunteer work might count as well, so if you lack experience, you should search for available patient care assistant volunteer programs to enroll in. 

Is there a high demand for PAs?

There’s a very high demand for PA employment, and it’s been reported that this is a result of either the aging baby boomer generation or the Affordable Care Act. The figures on this are quite encouraging. Up to 78.1% of PAs who have recently obtained their degrees have already had a number of job offers (what’s more, 58.3% of them had three or more offers). It was reported that one PA in the process of switching employment received 10 phone calls about available physician assistant jobs the day after she put her resume online.