Online physician assistant programs are designed to train health care professionals who practice medicine as a member of a team with their supervising physician. This page has details of suitable programs and how to find them, as well information on career and earning prospects.
What is a physician assistant? Physician's assistants (PAs) work under the supervision of a physician. They deliver a broad range of medical services, including conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting tests, assisting in surgery, and prescribing medications.
Physician assistant programs provide the knowledge and develop the skills required for these services and in this way qualify you as a physician assistant. Most PA students start their medical education with a background of health care experience. They must have a bachelor's degree and usually also need a masters degree. If you are interested in assisting in the health and medical professions, you may also like to check the programs for nursing.
There are several accredited physician assistant programs in the United States:
Some people wonder what the difference is between a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant as they often seem to perform the same duties. One difference is in the education and training, i.e., between a nursing education and a medical education. Also, as already mentioned, physician assistants are always supervised and their duties determined by a supervising physician, whereas nurse practitioners can work unsupervised.
Usually PAs will begin the diagnostic and treatment process of the patient. They will examine the patient, interpret laboratory and X-ray results, and make diagnoses. Physician assistants also treat minor injuries, and in most states, they may also prescribe certain medications.
Thus, examples of the duties of a general physician assistant include: Taking medical histories; examining and treating patients (up to a particular level); ordering and analyzing lab tests and x-rays; prescribing medication; treating minor injuries; following-up patients through their course of treatment; supervising various medical staff; and, ordering supplies.
To become a physician assistant you must undertake a suitable program of study to obtain certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To practice as a PA, you must also be state-licensed. To remain certified, you must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every 2 years.
Many physician assistant colleges qualify you for a full-time job after two years of study in a PA degree program, usually at masters level. Typically a physician assistant masters degree will include:
It will also include clinical experience in primary care medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, inpatient medicine, geriatrics, psychiatry and pediatrics.
The majority of physician assistants are found in physicians' offices or clinics, but many work in hospitals, where they might specialize, e.g., as a surgical physician assistant or an orthopaedic physician assistant (orthopedic physician assistant). The remainder are in public health clinics, schools, home health care agencies, nursing homes, or prisons.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment of physician assistants is expected to grow by 39 percent from 2008 to 2018 - much faster than the average for all occupations. This is due to several factors, including an expanding health care industry, an aging baby-boomer population, and restrictions to shorten physician resident work hours. Job opportunities for graduates of physician assistant programs should be good, particularly in rural and inner-city clinics because those settings have difficulty attracting physicians.
Money Magazine, in conjunction with Salary.com, listed the PA profession as the "fifth best job in America" in May 2006, based both on salary and job prospects, and on an anticipated 10-year job growth. The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) reports that most first-year professionals earn a salary over $60,000 a year. According to the AAPA, in 2008 the approximate physician assistant salary working at least 32 hours per week was $90,000. According to PayScale.com the range for PAs in the USA was $72,000 to $94,000 Physician assistants in emergency medicine, dermatology, and surgical sub-specialties may earn $100,000 to $200,000 per year. This makes physician assistant programs very popular, as they certainly can be the basis for a satisfying career.
Browse the schools below to find a suitable school and program. Request information from several schools and compare the admission requirements and course content before you choose a program.
Wanjira Kinuthia, Georgia State University
Stewart Marshall, The University of the West Indies
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In this video the Dave DuBose discusses the major differences between Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants
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