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A Guide To Becoming An Orthopedic Physician Assistant

An orthopedic physician assistant salary is very high because as they are a very valuable healthcare professional. They help the healthcare industry reduce costs and help save the doctor’s and patients’ time. These advantages occur because orthopedic assistants perform the routine tasks of an orthopedic doctor and therefore free up valuable doctor time. They also reduce the patient waiting time. Plus, they cost less than a doctor and that’s how they help keep the costs down. Here is a quick guide to the career:

Accreditation and Education

All orthopedic physician assistants must complete a physician assistant program administered by the state. They must pass the Physician Assistant’s National Certifying Exam to get a license. Formal physician assistant programs last between two and four years. Students learn anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, examination, biochemistry, pharmacology, clinical medicine, and clinical rotations. Physician assistants who’d like to specialize in orthopedics then have to obtain a Master’s degree and relevant clinical experience.

Orthopedic physician assistants (OPA-C) are certified by the National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Physician’s Assistants (NBCOPA). Another separate institution, the American Society of Orthopedic Physician’s Assistants (ASOPA), looks after the continuing education and professional development programs. Orthopedic assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years. They also must get recertified after every six years.

What does an orthopedic physician assistant do?

An orthopedic assistant provides healthcare services under the supervision of the physician. They physically examines patient, administer treatment, order tests and communicate directly with patients and physicians. The following skills are the reasons why an orthopedic physician assistant salary is very high and keeps increasing with experience. Here is an exhaustive list of duties:

  • Orders or administers x-rays, lab tests, ECGs, etc.
  • Physically examines the patient to understand his condition.
  • Checks patient’s medical history. Communicates effectively with patients. Guides them about treatment options, health maintenance issues, emotional issues, and more.
  • Interprets test results, makes diagnosis and then decides the treatment. Prescribes medicines after getting approval of physician.
  • Compiles and records patient’s medical data including progress notes and physical examination results.
  • Administers therapeutic procedures such as immunization, wound suture, infection management, etc.
  • Visits patients (if working in a hospital) on rounds, updates their progress, orders tests and therapies, and reports back to the physician.
  • Supervises technicians.
  • Assists during surgeries or in other complex medical processes.
  • Orders lab supplies.

 

What does an orthopedic physician assistant know and what are their skills?

It is important for an orthopedic physician assistant to know medicine and dentistry. They must be thorough in diagnosing and treating injuries, diseases and deformities. They should also possess an excellent knowledge of biology – tissues, cells, their functions, interactions, etc. They also learn psychology as they must understand each patient’s difference in ability and personality.

They also must learn how to communicate effectively (speaking and writing) with patients and provide excellent customer service.  They also has excellent working knowledge in therapeutics and counseling, and in chemistry. In addition, they are expected to know sociology and anthropology, mathematics, public safety, administrative work, law, computers and physics – but they need not be an expert at these.

An orthopedic physician assistant is an active and patient listener, an artful speaker, a stickler for detail, and a cool headed person who uses logic, science rules, mathematics and reasoning before arriving at any conclusion. They have a great memory and also monitor and coordinate with people working in the same department or medical procedure. Obtaining this knowledge and skills takes some doing and that is why an orthopedic physician assistant salary is higher than the salary of other physician assistants from other specialties.

Physical traits of an orthopedic physician assistant

All orthopedic assistants work in a pressure cooker environment standing on their feet and even exerting their body. They must be mentally and physically tough. It is important for them to be able to match colors or differentiate between them easily. The assistant must possess a strong core because they have to continuously stand or kneel and that requires a strong back and abdominal muscles.

They must possess rock-steady hands that can physically examine or administer treatment without slipping up or shaking. They should be able to keep their arm steady while being in one position for a long time. They will be required to handle and move objects and equipment and will also be involved in their installation and positioning. They also should possess excellent far vision.

Orthopedic physician assistant salary and career path

On an average and depending on the institution, an orthopedic physician assistant salary is around $90,000. They may also get a performance-linked bonus of around $20,000 (Source: Indeed.com). This salary is for a 40-hour week and does not include other benefits such as malpractice insurance, paid time off, retirement benefits, etc.

A private practice will pay lesser than an outpatient care center, which in turn will pay lesser than a hospital. Inner city healthcare centers pay higher wages as compared to rural centers. Pay increases with experience and orthopedic physician assistants with 4-5 years of experience can even command a salary of $150,000/year.

This guide covered the role of an orthopedic physician assistant. If you want information in detail and want to know about state laws that govern the practice, please visit your state’s employment website.

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