How to Become a Physician Assistant and Have a Successful Career as One
If you are looking to learn how to become a physician assistant you’ve come to the right place. Right now in the U.S., there are over 70,000 practicing PAs with another 15,000 aspiring PAs enrolling in PA schools across the whole country who are trying to get their certifications. If your goal right now is to be a PA then you most definitely have chosen a career that is high in demand, will always be high in demand, and pays extremely well. Physician assistants first came into the health care industry during the 1960s because of the shortage of doctors in hospitals and rural areas.
PAs are not doctors and they are not nurses, but they have the training and education that makes them able to do a wide range of tasks that are usually done by a physician. They do all these tasks under the supervision of a physician. They assist physicians in a number of tasks. Some of which are surgeries, pre-op and post-op, they are able to give patients physical exams, take their medical histories, request laboratory tests for patients, and they even have the training to diagnose and treat illnesses. They can also write patient prescriptions in every state.
There are different degrees that you have to achieve to become a physician assistant. You have the option of going to get a 2 year associate’s degree, a 4 year baccalaureate degree, or you can get a 2 master’s degree. These PA programs are offered at 150 accredited colleges and universities across the country, but you have to make sure that whichever school you attend has received accreditation form the Accreditation review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. If the school doesn’t have a ARC-PA, then you won’t get the degree you need to become a PA at that school.
There are different requirements and prerequisites for each schools PA program to get admission into them. The mandatory requirement for every university’s PA program is that you absolutely must have experience working in the health care industry. Any health care experience is accepted such as volunteering as a candy striper at a hospital, volunteering for the Red Cross on their blood drives, and even taking a CPR or first aid course is accepted as health care experience at some universities. Just make sure you meet that university’s minimum hours of experience in health care requirement. Along with needing experience, you will need to have coursework in anatomy, biological sciences, chemistry, college math, computer sciences, English, humanities/psychology medical terminology, nutrition, organic chemistry, physiology, social sciences and statistics.
This coursework may not be mandatory for every PA program at different universities but they are recommended by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). When you get admission into the university’s PA program, you will be there for 2 years where the first year will have you doing coursework in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, biochemistry, pathology, clinical lab, health promotion, clinical medicine and medical ethics. In your second year of the program you’ll be doing clinical rotations working in departments like family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry and radiology. You’re going to be doing a lot of work, but its well worth it.
When you graduate you still won’t be done doing what you need to do. The last thing that is left to be done is take the national exam that is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). When you pass the exam you will be recognized as a certified physician assistant, and the credentials PA-C will appear after your name. To keep your certification you will have to attend and complete 100 hours of continue medical education or CME classes every 2 years.
Being a physician assistant is a phenomenal and rewarding career that is filled with things to experience, not to mention it pays very well. The average 2011 salary for a PA is $60,000 to $110,000 depending on years of experience, specialty and bonuses. This is a great career to have, especially if you enjoy helping people who are suffering every day.