Who are Physical Assistants?
Physician Assistants, also referred as the PAs are certified and licensed health care professionals, trained through PA training programs to perform duties as delegated by the physicians, and work under the supervision of physicians. The PA education also prepares PAs to execute duties that were traditionally performed by the physicians that were within the practice scope of the physicians. The state and hospital law also permit the physician assistants to write prescriptions and exercise partial autonomy in medical decision makings.
Physician Assistant Work Duties
The basic work duties performed by the PAs in a variety of health care settings include:
- Conduct Physical Examination
- Diagnose and treat ailments
- Offer a broad range of medical, diagnostic and therapeutic treatments
- Provide preventive health cares
- Educate and counsel patients
- Specialty settings – assist in complex surgery
- Order laboratory and radiological tests and interpret
- Assist in patient rounds
- Prepare, implement and assess patient care plans.
- Education, research, and administrative services.
- Perform primary cares.
In addition, PAs are also first contact of patients in Primary care settings, where they acquire patient’s medical history. The PAs participate in medical decision makings, gather medical data and analyze.
Initial Start of the Physician Assistant Profession and Trainings
In 1960, the shortages of primary care physicians and lack of access to medical cares in rural, urban centers and inner cities areas by the underserved communities made physicians and educators recognized the gravity of the situation in the health care field. Dr. Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina took the initiative to remedy the shortage situation and expand medical cares delivery. He started first class of PAs in 1965 with Navy corpsmen having considerable medical trainings during their Vietnam War military medical tenure, less civilian employment. The curriculum of the PA program was prepared on the fast-track training offered to the doctors at the time of World War II.
But, today, PAs have become most valuable member of multidisciplinary health professional team in high skill clinical, medical, specialty, primary care and surgical settings, and also improve the access of quality health care delivery.
PAs are offered 2-6 years of the training program in schools, college and universities that can lead to Certificate, Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. The course curriculum include didactic and classroom work and clinical clerkship. The courses offered are based on science, microbiology, biological science, pharmacology, statistic and medicine.
The accreditation to Physician Assistant Program is granted by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
PA Certification and Licensure
The successful completion and graduation from the accredited Physician Assistant Training Program and earning of the Degree offers eligibility to sit in the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) developed and sponsored by the National Commission on Certification of PAs (NCCPA) in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The passing of the exam offers NCCPA Certificate and the title “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).” Continuing medical education courses (CME) is essential for maintaining the certification in current level.
The PA practice Licensure is awarded by the most state’s Board of Medicine, after evaluating the education standard of PA, competency level and certification.
PAs are competent to work in all medicine areas including specialty and subspecialties, such as medical, pediatrics, obstetrics, surgical, family medicine, gynecology, acute cares, high clinical cares and primary cares.
There are a variety of health care settings where Physician Assistants practices including, Private practice, Physician’s office, private, public and outpatient health clinics, state and federal government health agencies, emergency rooms, hospitals, Health Maintenance Organizations, group practices, and military.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition of the American Bureau of Labour Statistics on Physician Assistants, in 2008, there were 74,800 health care field jobs where PAs were employed. Their employment ratio in different settings was as follows:
- 15% were practicing in more than one job
- Over 53% in Physician’s office and few worked in private offices
- Around 24% in general medical and surgical hospitals.
- 40% in Primary cares
Physician assistants held around 74,800 jobs in 2008, though numbers of jobs were greater than the number of practicing PAs because many hold more than one job.
The average earning of PAs come to around $68,210, $81, 230, $97,070 and $110,240 in 2008 as per the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition on Physician Assistants. The General medical and surgical hospitals were the best payers and Colleges, universities, and professional schools were paying lower. The variations in the salary can be attributed to work settings, practical working experience years, specialty, geographical locations and education. Even salary varies among the states, because different states have their own salary deciding criteria and rules.
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