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The Importance of Malpractice Insurance for Physician Assistants

January 28th, 2012

Anthony Williams was PA to Dr. Carlton West, an orthopedic surgeon, in Michael Reese Medical Center. A patient, G.J., was operated upon and both Dr. West and Anthony failed to review G.J.’s medical history of deep vein thrombosis. They therefore failed to order anticoagulant therapy in time and G.J. ultimately died.

The jury of the Circuit Court in Cook County awarded $7 million in damages before Judge James Flannery. G.J.’s death was considered a wrongful death caused by medical malpractice and the doctor, his PA and the hospital had to pay the damages.

There are many malpractice suits filed against doctors and physician assistants every year. It is also not necessary that the physician assistant makes a mistake to become liable. Anything can go wrong in the healthcare industry and all it takes is one simple and inconsequential lawsuit to put an end to a physician assistant’s career – unless he or she is appropriately covered by medical professional liability insurance.

The physician assistant profession is one of the fastest growing professions in America. Moreover, many states are giving more duties and responsibilities to physician assistants because they’d like to keep the healthcare costs down. Given this scenario, it is absolutely certain that medical malpractice suits against physician assistants will continue to rise. The AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistants) estimates that there will be 141,000 clinically practicing physician assistants in USA by 2020. There is no doubt that all practicing physician assistants are at an increased risk of being named in malpractice suits.

PAs are liable even when they are covered under their employer’s policies

Even though physician assistants are dependent healthcare practitioner, they are always at risk of individual liability. According to the law, every healthcare professional is responsible for his/her own actions.

Many PAs figure that they are safe if they are covered under their employer’s insurance program. But, that’s a wrong assumption. PAs are not fully covered under such employer insurance programs – they can still be held individually liable for their own negligence and may have to pay the full or part of a plaintiff’s settlement.

Types of Medical Malpractice Insurance Covers

Every hospital that employs healthcare professionals buys malpractice insurance that covers the hospital and its medical staff. However, this coverage is not sufficient. Physician assistants must buy their own malpractice insurance individually or under a group plan from a commercial insurance company. They must also carefully choose their liability limits.

There are two types of malpractice insurance – “occurrence” and “claims-made.” Occurrence insurance covers malpractice incidents that happen during the policy’s period. Even if the incident is reported much later, it will be admitted so long the incident happened when the policy was in force. However, this form of insurance has become rare because of the uncertainties surrounding malpractice suits. The “claims-made” type of insurance has taken over.

In the “claims-made” type of insurance, all malpractice incidents that happen in the policy period must be reported to the insurance company when the policy is active. If the policy is terminated and the incident goes unreported, the company will not provide any insurance cover. Physician assistants who want coverage for claims that are reported after policy termination must buy another policy, which is called Extended Reporting Endorsement. Physician assistants who change their insurance companies (to lower their premiums or for any other reason), can buy “prior acts” insurance to cover incidents that have occurred but are not reported.

Malpractice Insurance premiums for Physician Assistants

Physician assistants must choose a malpractice policy based on their duties and responsibilities, practice location and risk levels. A physician assistant’s duties and responsibilities are classified into three categories – Class A, B and C:

  • Class A physician assistants are those who assist in the diagnostic management of patients.
  • Class B physician assistants are those who assist in general surgeries, obstetrics (prenatal or postnatal care), trauma, emergency procedures (up to 10 hours per week), and anesthesiology.
  • Class C physician assistants are those who assist in orthopedic, obstetrics & gynecology, cardiovascular, neurology, thoracic, plastic surgeries, obstetrics (delivery room), trauma, emergency procedures (more than 10 hours per week) or cardiac catheterization.


Physician assistants must buy adequate additional insurance if they assist in potentially risky medical procedures like cardiovascular surgeries. Physician assistants who assist in routine and safer procedures like diagnostic management can choose a lower limit. If the number of malpractice suits is on the rise in the state, then the physician assistant must choose a higher limit.

Medical malpractice insurance protects a physician assistant’s career and finances. To eliminate even the slightest risk, every PA must buy adequate malpractice insurance even though they are covered under their employer’s policy.

Physician Assistant Scholarship

January 26th, 2012

A lot of students who have aspirations of learning to become physician assistants look toward the physician assistant scholarship. This kind of scholarship helps students in pursuing their education in this ever-expanding and exciting field. There is a good amount of attraction for young students to pursue a career in this field. The attraction for young students to pursue a career as a physician assistant has a lot to do with the fact that the rate of growth in this field is quite aggressive. In addition, there is also a plethora of professional opportunities for people who have careers in this field.

Besides the basic attraction of working in this field, a career as a physician assistant also provides students with the opportunity to be part of something meaningful and to do something meaningful with their lives. For example, a career as a physician assistant allows professionals to both work in and serve their community. Of course, there are also practical benefits to this profession. For instance, the time it takes students to study to become a physician assistant takes a lot less time than it would take for them to study to become a full-fledged physician. Nonetheless, though physician assistants are not official doctors, the salaries they earn can be quite lucrative, too!

For students who are serious about starting their careers in this interesting field of medicine there is educational assistance available to them. This applies to students who have aspirations of becoming physician assistants, but who are short on the necessary funds to see that dream to fruition.

Reason for Scholarships

There is one, major reason for the prevalence of the physician assistant scholarship. Simply stated, there is a furious demand for qualified and highly trained personnel in the medical field. What has led to this overwhelming demand for physician assistants is the requirement to reevaluate just how medicine is practiced in the U.S. What has been behind this reevaluation of how medicine should be practiced in the U.S. is the seemingly constant stream of news stories that spotlight how healthcare has been administratively overwrought, economically broken and also financially dysfunctional. Therefore, it follows that because the U.S. has a real need for professionals who work in the healthcare field, a whole bunch of federal programs are available to those students who end up qualifying for them.

1. Federal Programs

The federal programs that relate to the physician assistant scholarship are numerous, thus giving physician assistant students a real good chance to qualify. For example, there is the Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students. This scholarship is meant to go to students who are presently studying for a career in the medical field and who can also demonstrate a real, financial need. Another idea for a physician assistant scholarship is the Health Resources and Services Administration National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program, which students should also look to for an opportunity for a scholarship. This scholarship is defined by its offering of funds for education in return for some dedication on the student’s part to provide service in a field that has traditionally had a hard time in retaining medical professionals.

Another path to getting a physician assistant scholarship is through the U.S. military. Now, for some reason or another, a good number of students overlook this option. Perhaps some think that military service is too hard, or others simply have an ideological objection to what the U.S. military does. However, students who really want a career as a physician assistant should really think hard about joining the military. The reason is because the military is also quite in need of medical personnel to fill its many roles. A lot of people continue to fail to realize that the military does more than just defend the country and go to war! The military offers students medical education in return for a preset enlistment period. In fact, a lot of states feature their own programs that are meant to establish their own increase in medical personnel who are serving their own communities.

2. Private Programs

Students who want to be physician assistants have to also be aware of the private programs that are available to them for a physician assistant scholarship. A good place to start with regard to this kind of scholarship is any organization that represents the physician assistant field. Organizations that represent the profession of physician assistant generally make certain scholarship funds available to students. However, they always possess a great comprehension of both the educational and the professional criteria of the physician assistant. The school students attend for their physician assistant training can help them understand the myriad of private programs that are available to them. As a matter of fact, certain physician assistant schools might even feature their very own foundation-sponsored scholarship to aid you in defraying the financial burden of this kind of education! Another good suggestion for private programs for a physician assistant scholarship is an ethnic organization. If students fit the specific ethnicity of said ethnic organization, they can capitalize on the monies of these programs so that they can receive the required help as they strive toward their career goals.

3. Non-traditional Programs

Students should look to all possibilities when it comes to these scholarships, like non-traditional scholarships. Some programs that students should consider are ones that let them intern in their field. For instance, some HMOs, hospitals and healthcare groups provide payments for educational costs. If people are already in the medical field but in a position lower than a physician assistant, they should upgrade their status by approaching the human resources department to investigate what’s available in educational help.

A physician assistant scholarship can make all the difference in the world. It can mean the difference between being too discouraged to follow your dreams and being able to make them come true in a career as a physician assistant. Students are advised not to think that because they have financial problems that they cannot get a great education and career!

How to get a Physician Assistant Degree

January 24th, 2012

To work as a physician assistant, students first need to earn and then obtain their physician assistant degree. The career choice of a physician assistant is becoming increasingly popular these days as a solid career choice within the medical field for a number of reasons. A physician assistant is a healthcare professional who is in greater and greater demand these days and whose prospects for employment are only expected to continue growing and growing in the next decade. While physician assistants are not actual doctors, they, however, can earn quite a good deal of money by working in this profession.

By definition, a physician assistant is a healthcare professional who is certified, licensed and registered by the state of his residence to practice in the field of medicine as part of a team that consists of doctors. The purpose of a physician assistant is to be concerned with the prevention, maintenance and treatment of sicknesses as well as injury by offering a wide choice of healthcare services that usually are performed by a doctor.

A physician assistant is certified to perform examinations, diagnose and treat sicknesses, order and then interpret lab tests, give advice on preventative healthcare, issue medical orders, aid in surgery and even write prescriptions. But in order to be able to perform all of these duties and privileges, students first have to obtain their physician assistant degree.

  1. People interested in becoming a physician assistant ought to speak with physician assistant students to learn about the whole physician assistant education procedure. Before deciding on getting a physician assistant degree, prospective students should make use of all the available information to aid them in deciding if this career choice is right for them. For example, certain websites such as and its forum are well worth examining.
  2. If prospective students have decided that a physician assistant career is the way they want to go, they should first obtain a good amount of medical experience prior to enrolling in a physician assistant program to get their physician assistant degree. The reason for this piece of advice is because a good many physician assistant programs look for applicants who already possess a wide range of medical knowhow. It is normally adequate for applicants to these programs to have about 2 years of hands-on patient care under their belt. People who normally apply for physician assistant programs are surgical assistants or technologists, nursing assistants, medical assistants, vocational nurses, physical therapy technicians, athletic trainers, military medics and emergency medical technicians.
  3. Students should see what classes and courses they need in order to gain admission into a physician assistant program. For example, prior to applying to a physician assistant program, students should get a bachelor’s degree in Health Science. However, other classes and courses that students may also pursue include Biology 101, English, Math, Microbiology, Physiology and Anatomy.
  4. Next up is researching the physician assistant program of choice. Students are advised to thoroughly examine each physician assistant program available to them because not all of them are designed the same, and they have to pick the one that is best suited to their aims. Doing research in this respect involves checking out any given program’s requirements as well as looking at each program’s website in detail.
  5. Students should also contact the program they are interested in directly. They ought to speak to a representative and inform him that they are interested in applying for said program. They should follow up by making sure to tell him to mail them an informational packet.
  6. Students are advised to also track down people who are actual graduates of the physician assistant program they are looking into. By talking to a newly graduated physician assistant, students can not only learn from him, but also potentially get their recommendation.
  7. Opening an account with CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) is also a good idea. The majority of these physician assistant programs demand that you apply to them by way of CASPA. It is, though, quite possible that certain programs demand further applications like an application of admission to their specific university. These applications for CASPA take a long while to work through, so students are advised to apply earlier rather than later. One tip is to get together all the required employment and educational information ahead of applying.
  8. Getting recommendations is a big part of gaining entry into the physician assistant program of choice, which must be achieved before students can get their physician assistant degree. The minimum number of people writing recommendations is three, and at least one of said three has to be either a physician or a physician assistant.
  9. Students should then compose a personal statement. On the CASPA application, they are to read each question and attempt to answer it in a grammatically sound and clear manner. Students should also get someone to proofread this statement since it is going to be their first impression to the program of choice.
  10. Being invited to an interview is already a small sign of success. Prepare for said interview by performing a mock interview with a real physician assistant, and also ask him what he went through during his own interview. Finally, dress conservatively to the interview, arrive early and behave professionally.

All of the above steps are meant to give students the best possible chance to gain entry into the physician assistant program of their choice. After its completion, they are awarded their physician assistant degree, which is the final climax of their objective. However, students should understand that even after they get their degree, they are still expected to obtain certification in the state in which they work. Only after obtaining this certification through additional hard work can they finally get approval to work as physician assistants in their state of residence. All this means that the process to become a physician assistant does not end even after students have earned their degree.

What Students must know about the Top Physician Assistant Programs

January 22nd, 2012

The top physician assistant programs are never created equally. Something that students may not understand is that physician assistant programs are very diverse, so they are advised to do heavy research before potentially wasting their time on applying to such a program that is not well-suited to their wants and their needs. To illustrate this point, consider some of the meaningful differences between some physician assistant programs. Some of the physician assistant programs focus on contrasting specialties; some will have a focus in surgical care while others will be focused on primary care.

The differences between these programs do not stop here. Students must also consider that some physician assistant programs give their students an opportunity to earn a master’s degree, yet other programs limit what their students can earn to just an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or even a graduate certification! Similarly, some physician assistant programs last just 2 years altogether, yet there are some select ones that can take just a little longer to complete. Still other programs can cost students only a few thousand dollars for tuition, yet this is in contrast to different programs that can run students as much as $20,000.

For all of these reasons and more, it will serve students well to make sure they conduct a very meticulous review of the top physician assistant programs in their area so that they will not have regrets about joining the wrong one.

1. Accreditation

The top physician assistant programs ought to be properly accredited, but in the off chance that some of them are not, students can face a huge dilemma after investing all that time and money in completing said programs. The reason is that students who graduate from a physician assistant program that has not been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs are not going to be eligible to find work as physician assistants! Talk about being taken in vain and doing all that work for nothing! Therefore to avoid such an unjust mishap, students are encouraged to check, double check and then check again the program of their choice to ensure that they get into an accredited physician assistant program only.

2. Program Focus

Essentially speaking, the program focus of each physician assistant program pertains to what type of specialty within the physician assistant profession said program covers. For example, some physician assistant programs focus on specialties like psychiatry or primary care instead of on other specialties like internal medicine. To determine what specific program focus is covered by the physician assistant program of their choice, students should, again, be very meticulous in evaluating the physician assistant program that they are thinking of applying to. Physician assistant programs put some emphasis on the program focus with regard to their selection criteria. So for instance, if one of the top physician assistant programs declares that its selection criteria is in part based on the focus of primary care or psychiatry, students who have no work experience in either field will probably be at a disadvantage in the application process.

Students who want to apply based upon a program’s certain selection criteria should bear the following in mind. Schools like the Albert Einstein Medical Center Physician Assistant Emergency Medicine Residency specialize in the field of emergency medicine whereas the Duke University Medical Center specializes more in a field such as surgery.

3. What Degree to Obtain?

Students with an interest in the top physician assistant programs always ask themselves if they should go for a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree if they are eventually enrolled in a physician assistant program. In the past, it used to be that students could get away with, so to speak, just earning a bachelor’s degree at a physician assistant program. However, the trend in recent years has been that more and more new graduates from physician assistant programs are actually earning a master’s degree. To illustrate this point, the following example needs to be highlighted. Stats show that as recently as 1997, only 8 percent of all physician assistant graduates had a master’s degree! However, just 11 years later in 2008, a whopping 43 percent of all physician assistant graduates possessed a master’s degree! That astounding jump in the number of graduates who hold the far superior degree shows the increasing popularity of this degree. It will be required for physician assistants who plan to either become faculty members at a university or hold a teaching position.

4. Pass-Fail Rates

What are pass-fail rates, exactly? Well, these rates are the proportion of graduates from any given physician assistant program that goes on to pass the national boards. This piece of information is so very important that students are urged—not just advised, but urged!—to demand this information from every single physician assistant program that they are considering applying to. Students must ask for the FIRST-TIME pass-fail rates since the overall rates are useless because some students will eventually pass the national boards on subsequent tries. However, graduates who fail to pass the national boards the first time are less likely to do so on subsequent tries.

Based on the above information, intelligent students should begin to pick up on the fact that the top physician assistant programs are all different from each other and not created equally by any means. What does this mean for students intending to become physician assistants? Well, for starters, it means that students should be very circumspect with regard to the physician assistant programs that they evaluate. For instance, it would be totally worthless for students who want to specialize in internal medicine physician assistant jobs to evaluate one program, only to find out later on that it actually focuses on primary care! Properly evaluating a program beforehand can help to cut down on these unfortunate wastes of time. Other factors that new students should carefully look at are what type of degree to obtain, what are the pass-fail rates of programs are and the accreditation of programs.

Physician Assistant Specialties

January 20th, 2012

Students who are looking to become physician assistants have to pay extra mind to the concept of physician assistant specialties. Basically, these specialties are the clinical disciplines in which they will have to practice if they make it through the multi-step process of applying to a physician assistant program, graduating from said physician assistant program and then getting certified as a physician assistant in the state in which they want to practice. New specialties are popping up all the time, and there are currently around 60 or so varying specialties across the U.S. for physician assistants. This is based on dependable information that comes straight from the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

The following physician assistant specialties are those that are in clinical medicine since a lot of the physician assistant programs demand these specialties as part of their mandatory rotations. All of the physician assistant job descriptions for each of the seven specialties will cover its duties, its team, its salary and its summary.

1. Family Practice


Students must know that family practice is a very important aspect of the physician assistant profession; you might even call it the very cornerstone of the occupation! To wit, around 40 percent of all physician assistant work in this specialty. Physician assistants in this specialty have to know about internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, dermatology, gynecology, obstetrics, pulmonology, endocrinology, HIV/AIDS and cardiology. They perform physical exams and even perform minor surgery.


Physician assistants in this specialty work alongside doctors, nurses, clerks and medical assistants.


Family practice physician assistants can make between $68,000 to $85,000 each year, but this varies based on the type of practice (hospital clinic, group or solo).


Physician assistants working in family practice will get to improve on their clinical skills.

2. Emergency Medicine


Emergency medicine is quite fast-paced, which is why only 8 percent of all physician assistants work in this area. They may work in the psychiatry, fast track, major medical, trauma, medicine or surgery sections of a typical ER. It is common for physician assistants to be primarily assigned to one of these sections; however, it is also possible for any given physician assistant to actually cycle throughout all of these sections based upon his or her experience and preference, as well as the hospital policy.


Physician assistants here work together with nurses, technicians, clinicians, emergency medicine personnel and clerical personnel.


Physician assistants in this specialty make between $71,000 and $94,000; the extra compensation is due to the added stress of the ER setting.


Lots of ER physician assistants work independently due to the high-stress environment, but they still have to work in collaboration with others in the ER.

3. Pediatrics


These physician assistants count for only about 3 percent of all physician assistants. For neonatal as well as pediatric physician assistants as house staff, their duties include dealing with patients on the in-patient pediatrics floor, help with high-risk deliveries, assess newborns, work inside of the pediatric clinic and offer coverage to the ER as required. On the neonatal side, the duties are quite procedure-heavy, which involves lumbar punctures, intravenous starts, placing chest tubes and collecting any blood gases.


Physician assistants working in these physician assistant specialties work with secretaries, nurse’s aides, unit clerks, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, nurses, interns, residents, neonatologists and pediatricians.


Based on the hours put in, physician assistants here can earn between $64,000 and $87,000 per year.


Pediatric physician assistants have to be prepared for periods of calm and chaos, which means they have to know how to multitask.

4. Psychiatry


Psychiatry physician assistants normally work in a hospital setting, a mental health center or in a clinic. The duties include the evaluation of inpatients, the discussing of the case with the supervising psychiatry and even the recommendation of things such as changing the dosage of a patient’s medication. Another task of physician assistants in this specialty is actually to follow psychiatry patients on the consult service, which involves writing notes and offering up further recommendations if they are warranted.


Physician assistants in this specialty work with the supervising psychiatrist, the nursing staff, the family of the patient and the attending doctor of the patient.


The mean salary for this kind of physician assistant is $76,948.


Physician assistants in this specialty face little stress. As such, this job might become boring or tedious, but it offers the opportunity for some research and publishing.

5. Obstetrics and Gynecology


Physician assistants working in these physician assistant specialties make up only 3 percent of the profession. An OB-GYN physician assistant could work in the operating room, the OB-GYN clinic, the inpatient OB-GYN room, in outreach or in the maternity ward. They will be expected to assist in the operating room, counsel patients, receive women for prenatal appointments, be competent in performing a pelvic examination and check on patients recovering from OB-GYN surgery.


Physician assistants in this specialty have to work with doctors, nurse midwives, nurse-practitioners, clerical workers, OR personnel, technicians and nurses.


Physician assistant here are paid between $53,000 and $84,000 each year.


Since ob-gyn physician assistants work in mentally and physically demanding settings, they need to possess great surgical abilities and good diagnostic skills.

6. Internal Medicine


Internal medicine physician assistants represent 8 percent of those in the profession. Their duties include developing an understanding of renal medicine, cardiology, neurology, endocrinology, hematology and dermatology. Other duties include making hospital rounds with their chief resident, which involves looking at and examining patients, check and assess any lab results, updating supervising doctors on the condition and the treatment of various patients and being proficient in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.


Physician assistants work with interns, residents, doctors, nurses and technicians.


The range goes from $71,000 to $90,000.


This specialty is ideal for new graduates due to all the learning opportunities that present themselves in a hospital setting.

7. Surgery


The surgery specialty counts 22 percent of physician assistants. The duties of physician assistants in this specialty center around in-hospital surgical duties. They are pretty much accountable for the pre-, intra- and then post-operative care of patients. They have to take patient history, do a physical exam, do a preoperative check and do rounds after surgery.


Physician assistants here work with surgeons, therapists, technicians, nurses and scrub nurses.


The range for these physician assistants is between $69,000 and $93,000.


Surgical physician assistants have to be team players, have great verbal and written abilities and pay attention to small details.

The physician assistant specialties are very diverse. This means that it will take a lot of thought for students to make sure that they decide a specialty that is fulfilling to them on various levels, not only on the issue of physician assistant salary. What is common to all specialties, however, is how demanding they are, yet also how good the compensation is.

Important Requirements That Physician Assistant Programs Look For

January 18th, 2012

One of the most important things that students who want to become physician assistants have to consider is the set of physician assistant requirements applicable to their field.  At present there are 149 physician assistant programs that are accredited in the U.S. Unfortunately for students, there is no agreement among admissions committee members on what these requirements really are. For instance, if students were to talk to each of the admissions committee members on what they are looking for in physician assistant applicants, they would get extremely different opinions and ideas from each of the committee members! Still, each and every one of these physician assistant programs does follow a common set of criteria when deciding on which applicants to admit into their programs.

The five important requirements that every good physician assistant program look for in its applicants are:

  1. Passion
  2. Academic Capability/Test Scores
  3. Medical Experience
  4. Comprehension of the Physician Assistant Profession
  5. Maturity



Passion should not be underestimated since it can well skyrocket an otherwise ordinary applicant to the very top of the applicant pool! Passion is so very important to what makes a noteworthy applicant because it is that which makes an applicant put in an additional amount of hard work, take that additional chemistry course and even gain more hands-on experience in the medical field prior to applying to med school. The thing with passion is that it can’t be taught by anyone to anyone else; it is an innate quality and value that comes from within a person who has decided that he or she really wants something very badly. In the case of a PA program, it is learning to become a physician assistant. Essentially, passion replaces the belief I cannot with the objective I will.

This means that if students have a real passion for being a physician assistant, they are going to take specific steps on their own. This can include locating actual physician assistants in their own communities to shadow, as an example. It can just as well involve students taking the initiative to, on their own volition, reading physician assistant journals in order to discover what is front and center in this line of work. These are solely a couple of examples of what constitutes real passion in a physician student applicant, but there are certainly many other ways that students can display their passion for becoming a physician assistant.

Academic Capability/Test Scores

Lots of students who are applying to a physician assistant program seek to figure out the so-called “magic” grade point average as well as entrance examination score required to be accepted into a physician assistant program. A lot of students misguidedly assume that they have to have a 1500 score on their SATs and a 4.0 grade point average to have a real, decent chance. That could not be further from the truth, actually! In reality, though, the average applicant has a grade point average of only between 3.0 and 3.2, and he or she will have scored between 1000 and 1100 on his or her SATs.

However, there is a real emphasis put on an applicant’s ability and skill with regard to the hard sciences. These are things like biochemistry, physiology and anatomy. Students who experienced a hard time dealing with undergraduate biology and chemistry are not fated to do well in a physician assistant program, due to the prevalence of coursework in those subjects! However, if a student has struggled prior to physician assistant school, he or she can be redeemed if his or her trend with respect to grades is upward. In example, if a student does well in his freshman and sophomore years, but then falters in his junior and senior years, an admissions committee will not look as favorably on said student’s performance as it will, say, on the performance of a student who improved with his or her grades from freshman year to senior year.

The admissions committee of any given physician assistant program is also going to put some weight on the following factors. They will consider an applicant’s number of credit hours every semester, the difficulty of their coursework before applying to the physician assistant program, the reputation of the college or the university at which they studied, their standardized test scores, any extenuating life issues and even extracurricular activities.

Medical Experience

Those students who are serious applicants to any physician assistant program are ones who have at least some previous medical experience. Even so, there are some applicants who have absolutely no medical experience before applying to a physician assistant program. Sadly but realistically for those applicants, they are going to suffer a lower likelihood of being accepted into such a program. For those students who are viewed as serious candidates for any physician assistant program, it is common to possess at least 4 years of experience in the following areas: emergency services, nursing, allied health, medical volunteerism and trainer occupations.

Comprehension of the Physician Assistant Profession

When a physician assistant program’s admissions committee approves its applicants, it is looking to determine what the various motivations are behind any given applicant’s reason for wanting to be accepted into a physician assistant program. Thus, applicants should have a dependable comprehension of what a job as a physician assistant is going to be all about. An important piece of advice is never to look at a physician assistant program as an ideal segue into med school! Understanding the physician assistant profession means, for instance, realizing that you will always work under the oversight of a real doctor.


When we speak of maturity in the context of a physician assistant, we are strictly talking about something other than age. Sure, the average age of the ordinary physician assistant is 41, but that is not necessarily important. See, when the admissions committee of any given physician assistant program goes over the applicants, they will want to discover one who presents maturity in the following ways. They will be looking for maturity based on previous work experiences, based upon the interview and based on the essay that students will be submitting. For example, the committee is going to throw student applicants a bunch of questions in order to gauge their maturity. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that students should expect:

  • Are you able to deal with stress as it comes up suddenly?
  • Are you capable of thinking on your feet?
  • Are you motivated enough?
  • Are you able to combine sympathy with a good sense of assertiveness?
  • Are you savvy enough to know when you need help from your overseeing physician?


As is plain to see, the physician assistant requirements are numerous and diverse, meaning that students who hope to just qualify for a position at a physician assistant school must be quite well-rounded. It is vital for anyone aspiring to be a physician assistant to remember that one need not be the smartest or the most experienced in the medical field to be accepted into a program, but simply show passion, a good deal of life experience and the determination it takes to succeed.

Information about PA Programs in California

January 16th, 2012

All of the PA programs in California are not created equally. In fact, you might just as likely say that not all of the PA programs anywhere are really created equally. That is why students who wish to become physician assistants have to make sure that they carefully research every program that they have their eyes on before they apply to it. For example, some PA programs feature a focus on surgery while others instead focus on primary care. However, a lot of PA programs, regardless of their focus, are going to be offering students associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and graduate certifications. A lot of these programs can average approximately 2 years in length, yet some can even be a little bit longer.

Tuition is another factor to consider when evaluating the various PA programs in California. Tuition is not the same at these programs. For instance, the tuition at certain programs can cost students merely a few thousand dollars; however, at some other PA programs, the tuition may well be up to $20,000! Of course, the difference in pricing has a lot to do with the prestige of the program or school that students attend. Some PA programs can enjoy an affiliation with an actual med school, but others do not. Still other programs look with great favoritism on applicants from their home state, while other programs do not put that much weight on this factor. As a result, students are advised to scrutinize each program and school very carefully before they waste or squander their valuable time in applying to a program that in the end might turn out not to be consistent with their aims.


Prior to applying to any PA programs in California, students must first check out the programs’ accreditation status. This is because it is more desirable to be accepted into a PA program that possesses accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. If students should somehow graduate from a PA program that does not enjoy this all-valued accreditation, they are not going to be eligible to, unfortunately, take the national certifying exam for physician assistants. This national certifying exam is administered through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. In turn, students who do not have a certification as a result of passing this exam are not going to be eligible to obtain state licensing and, thus, are not going to be capable of working in the vast majority of places.

Program Focus

A lot of the admissions committees of the various PA programs in California choose applicants based upon a review of different criteria. Some of these criteria are test scores, academics, familiarity with the PA concept and profession, experience in the healthcare field, volunteer work, interviews, community service, the essay of the applicant and the professional or personal references. Other PA programs in California specifically disclose a certain focus for their selections as part of their criteria. This means that they specifically will select those applicants who have focused on a particular area such as surgery, primary care or in-state residency.

Things to Consider

For some physician assistants, it is enough to be prepared by a good PA program to pass the national boards, which will then allow them to legitimately work as a physician assistant. Still, the quality of each PA program might be a decisive factor in students’ decisions to apply to one program over another. For instance, some programs might teach its students anatomy by using actual cadavers while other programs just use plastic models. Some programs are connected to med schools, but others are just associated with a 4-year college or even just a community college.

Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree?

In the past, it actually did not matter whether students got a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, yet this is changing in recent years. The trend is headed more towards the master’s degree level. As an example of this exact trend, consider the following stats: In 1997, only less than 8 percent of all physician assistant grads had gotten a master’s degree from their respective PA programs. However, only 11 years later in 2008, the number of physician assistant grads that had obtained a master’s degree from their respective programs was a staggering 43 percent! Having a master’s degree comes in handy a lot if students have aspirations beyond just being a mere physician assistant. For example, if they later on want to start teaching or become a member of a faculty, they will most definitively require a master’s degree.

Pass-Fail Rates

Students who are applying to different PA programs in California should ask about the exact first-time pass-fail rates on the national boards of said PA programs. It is important that students inquire about and get answers to only the FIRST-TIME pass-fail rates since some programs may be evasive and only provide the overall pass-fail rates of their graduates. This stat will be useless because at some point, a good number of graduates will end up passing the boards if they try enough. It is also imperative that students obtain answers pertaining only to the first-time pass-fail rates because it will give them a reliable idea of how well a given program actually prepares its graduates. Since students who fail the boards during their first time suffer a lower probability of passing the boards on successive tries, a PA program with a bad first-time pass-fail rate should be avoided.

In conclusion, the PA programs in California are quite varied. Students who want to be prospective physician assistants now know that they have to look at a lot of factors before deciding on the PA program of their choice. Some factors include the cost, the location and whether the program allows them to get a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Thus, students who want to become physician assistants should not rush their decision when deciding on a PA program, but evaluate it carefully.

Nothing but the Facts on the Physician Assistant Profession

January 14th, 2012

Students who want to start a career in the physician assistant profession may ask themselves why they do not just go to medical school instead! Well, they could answer that question quite handily by simply reminding themselves that the schooling they will have to put themselves through will actually cost about 50 percent that of a regular doctor’s, and students wanting to become physician assistants can complete their schooling in about two years. Now, compare that to a physician who has to dedicate several years to schooling, and it becomes easier and easier to see why a career in this profession is so desirable.

History of Physician Assistants

Believe it or not, the physician assistant profession actually goes all the way back to Peter the Great in the 1650s! During his era, records show that there were actually numerous military medical assistants who served in his Russian army. Fast-forward to World War II: Dr. Eugene Stead Jr. succeeded in coming up with a curriculum format to speed up the training of doctors to only a three-year timeframe.

However, it was between the years of 1961 and 1972 that the physician assistant role came into greater focus. 1967 marked a milestone for the physician assistant profession as Dr. Stead Jr. came up with the 1st physician assistant program at Duke University. Dr. Stead Jr. relied upon the same format that he came up with to train World War II-era doctors because he determined that there was a requirement for mid-level healthcare pros to assist the services that doctors were providing patients. Going forward from 1967, more and more physician assistant programs were springing up, which in turn caused the physician assistant professional organization called the American Academy of Physician Assistants to spring up in 1968. Another milestone for the physician assistant profession occurred in 1970 when Kaiser Permanent actually became the 1st HMO to hire physician assistants. Yet another milestone for physician assistants happened only the following year when Montifiore Medical Center started the 1st postgraduate surgical residency program for physician assistants.

Also in 1971, the American Medical Association Committee’s on Allied Health Education and Accreditation came up with guidelines for training programs; the program accreditation procedure was also begun. In 1973, the 1st conference of the AAPA was held, and the very 1st certifying examination was provided in the same year. 1975 saw the incorporation of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. 1981 marked the very 1st time that a recertification examination was offered. In 1985, the number of physician assistants had swelled to 10,000 across the whole U.S. The following year saw another first in the profession as the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants was published.

During the 1990s, the quantity of physician assistant programs increased twofold, and both talk as well as actual implementation of master degree-level programs began to take shape. In 1993, 26,400 physician assistants were working, and that number swelled to 45,000 in 2002. Currently, 149 programs are operating in the U.S., and 79,706 physician assistant grads were approved to practice by 2009.

Future of Physician Assistants

To put it plainly, the future of the physician assistant profession looks quite bright. If there is doubt about this assertion, then people should take a look at stats that come from none other than the U.S. Bureau of Labors Statistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said that the physician assistant occupation was the 12th fastest-growing career choice from 2000 until 2010! This rosy outlook can be traced back to two things.

First of all, when community-based attending doctors failed to be satisfactorily paid for their hospital rounds, they allowed physician assistants to take over these rounds more and more, thus permitting them to work out of their offices more. As they worked more out of their offices, they got better reimbursement, and this also allowed physician assistants to increasingly take over as hospitalists.

Second of all, back in 2003, there were new laws passed that imposed restrictions on the quantity of hours that residents and interns could work. As a result, there was a decrease by up to a quarter in the quantity of inpatient coverage that was offered by house staff per patient. Since many residents and interns were actually house physicians, these new laws impacted hospitals a lot. However, a lot of hospital administrators had the shrewd idea that physician assistants could actually replace both residents and interns.

Exciting Career?

Is the physician assistant profession an exciting career? Of course, it is! Although physician assistants can only work, in most cases, under the supervision of real doctors, they do work independent of them and in collaboration with them in many situations. As a matter of fact, physician assistants do a lot of what real doctors do, such as doing a physical exam of patients, formulating a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan and even helping in surgery. It may be surprising, but some physician assistants actually have their own practice and hire actual supervising doctors to work for them! Further, a new graduate in this field can actually already pull in an attractive physician assistant salary of $76,232 per year, which is hardly bad. Based on experience and practice area, some of them can even earn more than $100,000 per year!

So as is obvious, the physician assistant job is not only ever-growing and expanding, but it also is a profession that is quite exciting and rewarding, both professionally and monetarily. This profession has come a long way since it first started on the Russian battlefield and as part of Peter the Great’s Russian army a few centuries ago. This occupation really started to take off, at least in the U.S., after World War II, when Dr. Eugene Stead Jr. began seeing a niche that could be filled by mid-level healthcare professionals who would assist doctors. Since then, the field of physician assistants has only continued to grow unabated, and today, it is one of the better jobs in the healthcare area.

The Pros and Cons of the Physician Assistant Profession

January 12th, 2012

The physician assistant (PA) profession is a gallant, prestigious, self-satisfying and rewarding profession. It makes for an excellent career choice. However, as with all professions, it has its drawbacks too. Here is a detailed list of the pros and cons of the physician assistant profession.

The Pros

  1. The biggest advantage of the profession is that a physician assistant does not have to attend med school. Med schools take very long and cost a fortune in fees. A physician assistant program takes 2 years to complete and you get to learn similar concepts that doctors learn. You also get to practice medicine. Plus, patients hold you in high esteem, and regard you as their doctor. So, you spend just 2 years pursuing a PA degree, and from there on it’s a comfortable life.
  2. Physician assistant work is exciting – they help people recover, they research new drug discoveries, they work in labs, they supervise technicians, they order tests, and more. So, a PA is all around the place interacting with people, saving lives and making the world a better place to live in. The workplace is very dynamic and every day is a new day complete with new human experiences.
  3. PA can choose to specialize in a practice that truly interests them. They can start off as a regular physician assistant, decide what interests them the most, and then specialize in that practice.
  4. Though it is a demanding career, a PA does not have to grunt it out like a doctor. That said, the PA profession needs a lot of commitment, dedication and may be required to work on weekends and in graveyard shifts.
  5. American states are now entrusting more duties and responsibilities to physician assistants. A PA costs lesser than a doctor and that brings the healthcare costs down. They treat patients and help cut down patient-waiting time. All these factors make the PA a very important healthcare professional who is very highly in demand.
  6. The PA profession is growing at a fast rate. PAs who specialize can get very high salaries. How much do physician assistants make? A mental health physician assistant’s annual salary was $115,000 in 2010, a cardiology PA received an annual salary of $109,000 in the same year. This is in contrast to a regular (clinic) PA’s salary, which starts at $70,000/year. So, as the demand for PAs is increasing, those with specialization in critical medical conditions are being paid higher salaries.
  7. A physician assistant can move from one specialty to another with ease, thereby making it a very flexible profession. Of course, the PA must obtain a degree in the new specialty
  8. There are employment opportunities galore all over America. PAs can choose their preferred employer. They can work in inner-cities, rural areas, suburbs, wherever – they will always find a job in a geographical location of their liking.
  9. When a PA administers treatment and watches the patient, who is down in the dumps, recover and become a healthy citizen again, it gives them a feeling of soul-satisfaction. This is a very motivating career.
  10. Physician assistants always keep themselves up-to-speed with the changes in the healthcare industry, including changes in healthcare laws, technological advances/obsolescence, new medicines, government impact, ethical impact, and more. They are a very knowledgeable, very with-it healthcare professional.
  11. They work in a clean and wholesome atmosphere with some of the best brains in the healthcare business. They learn so much while working in very comfortable and clean environs.


The Cons

  1. Like it or not, the level of bureaucracy in the healthcare industry has dramatically increased. Physician assistants spend a lot of time filling in forms and records and that takes them away from their practice.
  2. Physician assistants must hold themselves to very high standards. If they make a mistake that impacts a patient’s life, then there can be severe emotional, legal and ethical consequences. A mistake can completely blank out a PA, and therefore they must be very careful, methodical and detailed in their work. That said, we are all humans and we all make mistakes, and so it is likely that a PA may err sometime in their profession.
  3. Well, a PA does not make as much money as a physician. However, this is not a con because a PA spends lesser time, work and money in obtaining a degree than a physician.
  4. A physician assistant works under the supervision of the physician 90% of the time irrespective of skills and experience. They do have some freedom, but is supervised by their physician. Therefore, a PA can never ever be an entrepreneur.  That said, this is not a con, it is a law, and therefore it must be obeyed.
  5. Physician assistants must obtain 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and get themselves re-licensed every 6 years.
  6. Some physician assistants say that the quality of their CME is below standards in rural areas.


All the Essential Information on Online Physician Assistant Programs

January 10th, 2012

Students who are seriously thinking about becoming physician assistants should also seriously consider looking into the online physician assistant programs that abound all over the Internet. In fact, the Internet is easily the greatest source of all things related to physician assistant programs, thereby making it an extremely valuable resource that students looking to establish a career in this profession simply cannot ignore. Students who want to be well-informed and -prepared on the specifics of what it takes to be a physician assistant—as well as to find certain physician assistant programs—should take advantage of all the resources the Internet has to offer.

These days, it is not surprising that a greater and greater number of students want to join the ranks of physician assistants. Right off the bat, it is easier to study to become a physician assistant than it is to study to become a full-fledged doctor. Students will not have to know as much as a real doctor does, though there is a lot of overlap between what a real doctor does and what a physician assistant will have to do as part of his or her duties and job description. However, the amount of money that a person who works as a physician assistant can earn can be quite good, which is another incentive for someone to become a professional in this field. In addition, there are a lot of job opportunities in this field because of the greater and greater demand for physician assistants. The growth rate for this occupation is only expected to keep growing in the next 10 years or so.

Sometimes abbreviated as PA, a physician assistant is a recognized healthcare professional who is licensed, registered and also certified by the state of his or her residence to practice in this field as part of a team of physicians. Such a healthcare professional is mainly concerned with the prevention, the maintenance and the treatment of sicknesses as well as injuries by offering a wide range of healthcare services that were normally provided by full-fledged doctors. He or she can perform physical examinations, order and evaluate lab tests, diagnose and then treat sicknesses, help in surgery, give advice on preventive healthcare, issue medical orders and even write prescriptions.


  1. Students searching for online physician assistant programs will also be on the lookout for web resources that can allow them to do further research on the physician assistant program of their choice. An example of such a website that allows budding physician assistants to search for the online physician assistant programs that are right for them is This website is a very comprehensive website that students can rely on for more than just getting information on all the physician assistant programs that are available through the Internet. As a matter of fact, the aforementioned website is designed specifically for students who are trying to apply to various online physician assistant programs, because it features information that is very pertinent to prospective students who want to be desirable candidates to the physician assistant program of their choice.
  2. Students looking for online physician assistant programs must also head to specific websites that are integral in aiding them in their search for the right physician assistant programs of their choosing. For example, one of the best websites that budding physician assistants should visit is This website is the website of the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. Students visiting this website will find a web-based application service that permits applicants to physician assistant programs and schools to apply to various educational programs that are participants in this process. Prospective students will have to deal with only one, single application form. Besides, there are other integral websites that interested students should look at, if they want to maximize their sense of being prepared when applying to physician assistant programs. These are, which is the Federal Student Aid website;, which is the website of the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant;, which is the website for the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants;, which is the website of the Official Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants;, which is the Association of Postgraduate Physician Assistant Programs website; and, which is the website of the Physician Assistant Education Association.
  3. Forums on the Internet are yet another resource that students wanting to become physician assistants should not miss. Forums are ideal for students to get an idea of what hot-button issues the profession has to deal with, as well as to get an impression of what ordinary physician assistants are thinking. The best forum for aspiring physician assistants to visit and perhaps even bookmark is, which is all about professional physician assistants who visit the forum to discuss both non-clinical and also general interest subjects.


Online physician assistant programs exist for a number of reasons. First, students who have aspirations of becoming physician assistants should locate the specific programs of various schools to see if they can qualify to gain admission into these programs of interest to them. To this end, there are a number of websites that the aforementioned aspiring students can utilize in order to connect them to the websites of the actual physician assistant programs that they are looking for. Second, students who want to be accepted into these physician assistant programs on the Internet should prepare themselves with all the available knowledge they have at their disposal to fully understand what a career in this medical field will be like. For this purpose, too, there are a number of websites that exist as resources so that students can get an idea of what physician assistants are thinking, which ones to shadow and what professional organizations to become members of. Overall, the Internet is a godsend when it comes to the resources students need to gain information on all aspects of a career as a physician assistant.