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Physician Assistant Job Description and Educational Requirements

The Physician Assistant job description is in many ways functions as a physician. A Physician Assistant (PA) is someone who practices medicine under the auspices of a licensed physician. It is not necessary that the PA be under the direct supervision of the physician, but instead, must work with them in a practice. The physician, as well as the PA is responsible for the care which the PA gives to the patient or client.

A PA does not require the same type of education as the doctor is required to have, and may have several years difference in the schooling. They can, however, perform many of the same kinds of responsibilities and may diagnose the patient, as well as offer medication and treatment regimens to the patient.

The Physician Assistant job description is widely different from the Medical Assistant, who needs only a fraction of the education that is required of the PA to function.

The PA has many different responsibilities in the offices of the physician. Their responsibilities are many and diverse, and quite often, the physician does not play a key role in their work. What this means is that while the PA may be functional in the practice of the physician, in most cases the PA is not directly overseen by the doctor and may hold their own office hours in the practice of the physician, seeing patients independently unless they determine that another opinion is in order. In many cases, patients would actually prefer to visit with and be treated by the PA rather than the physician. Strangely, the use of a PA rather than a physician has had some effect in preventing what is known as white coat syndrome in many older and very young patients.

Responsibilities of the Physician Assistant

Each PA will differ, depending upon the practice act in their state; however as a general rule, the following tasks are expected of the PA, and fall within their scope of practice and physician assistant job description:

  • Diagnosis
  • X-ray interpretation
  • Lab result analysis
  • Prescription treatment
  • Therapeutic decisions
  • Patient examination and treatment.
  • Wound care
The Physician Assistant will be in charge of viewing the patient and evaluating them to determine their overall health, as well as taking medical history, and in some cases treating immediate problems or issues of the patient. Further, they can prescribe a plan of treatment for the patient, as well as prescribe medication for the patient. The actual scope of practice of each Physician Assistant will vary widely. This is determined not only by the state in which they practice, but also by the physician assistant job description of the physician for whom they work.

Educational Requisites

While not strictly necessary, many of those who apply to the PA training programs are already holding a degree of some type. In many cases this may be a bachelor degree which will permit them to complete PA course work much more rapidly. Most will have some kind of experience in medical fields, such as EMT, Nursing, or Paramedic training, although again, this is not a prerequisite to become a PA.

The Physician assistant course may take about two years to complete. The PA program can and will lead to several different degrees. In some cases, you may obtain your Associate degree, your Bachelor’s degree, or the masters. Dependent upon the prior education which you have, the degree you are awarded may vary.

Which Studies are Most Commonly Taken?

In every PA course, there are certain requirements for the physician assistant. Of course, medical courses will be those which are most commonly attended, but there are also other courses which are necessary to become a PA, among them communications in order to more effectively interact you’re your patients. Among the common courses that you will take if you are to become a PA are:

  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pathology
  • Chemistry
  • Immunology
  • Communication
  • Biology
  • Clinical treatment
  • Medical Surgical treatments
Every school will differ in their courses and each school will require different things prior to your attendance. It is important to bear in mind that while many different colleges will offer the PA courses, it is in your best interests to attend only a course of study which has been accredited. Many of these programs are offered by medical colleges, health and physical colleges or allied health programs.
What May I Expect to Be Paid?

For the most part, the Physician assistant is well compensated for his or her work. The average annual salary for the Physician Assistant in 2009 was about $85,000 USD. The new graduate can expect to make 5-7K less than that fee upon graduation. The lowest pay, primarily dependent upon location of practice, was about 50K per year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States, the health care fields which are most critical are those of physicians, nursing and other allied health professions such as Physician Assistant. Those professions are expected to continue to grow and for this reason, salaries will quite likely grow as well.