There’s a growing demand for healthcare in this country, but there is a shortage of healthcare workers. Deciding to become a physician assistant isn’t going to be an easy task, but with hard work, patience, and perseverance—it can be incredibly rewarding.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for PA’s will increase by 30%, which means there will be plenty of opportunities to bust into this career.
What Is A PA?
A physician’s assistant is someone who is supervised by a doctor. They are able to diagnose and treat people with a variety of conditions. Of course, there is more to it than just diagnosing. The specific tasks may vary from office to office, but you can expect to:
- playPrepare casts and/splints
- playSuture small wounds
- playInterpret results from medical tests
- playPrescribe medications
PA’s can also specialize in specific areas of medicine like emergency care, geriatrics, or even assist a licensed doctor with advanced medical procedures and techniques. In some rural and underserved locations, patients will first interact with a physician’s assistant, who will then either treat them or refer the patient to a doctor or transfer them to a clinic or hospital.
How To Become A Physician’s Assistant
The path to becoming a PA isn’t going to be easy. Applying to and getting into PA school isn’t going to be easy, so it would be in your best interest to start applying to these schools in your freshman year of college. If you know that you want to become a PA in high school, you may be able to find additional opportunities to help you along this path.
Most people who decide to become a PA will enroll in a Master’s Level PA program at a graduate school that has the certification of the ARC-PA (Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistant). However, there are some students who will enroll in a Bachelor’s – Master’s degree program that will reduce the time you’re in school by a year.
As you are gaining your education, you are going to be required to have a variety of technical medical courses under your belt. Other than the basic courses like anatomy, biology, and organic chemistry, they only serve as the foundation for advanced courses such as:
- bookBiostatistics and Epidemiology
- bookPatient Assessmeny
To demonstrate that the PA hopeful has gained the necessary knowledge for a clinical setting, most states will require that the student applying for a PA license will have to complete several months (at minimum) of clinical work under the direct supervision of an already licensed PA. Fortunately, they can complete this internship experience while completing their PA program.
National Certification Exam
Once you’ve finished your PA program, you will have to take the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam) that has been created by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
Should you fail the exam on your first try, you must wait 90 days before you can take it again, with a maximum of 3 tries per calendar year. You will have to pay a fee of $475 to take the exam, which consists of 300 multiple choice questions.
Getting Your License
After you pass your exam, you will need to apply for a state license. Every state will have their own requirements that you must meet to get the license. However, the majority of states follow some kind of procedure that looks like the following:
- playSubmit a completed and signed application
- playSubmit a money order or personal check for the licensing fee
- playRequest previous colleges and universities you’ve attended forward transcripts to licensing body
- playRequest NCCPA forward your test score report to the licensing body
- playRequest previous states (if any) where you practiced as a PA forward verification of your licensing
- playWait anywhere between four to eight weeks for the application process to be completed
It sounds like a lot of waiting and back and forth communication with numerous offices, but in the end it’ll be well worth it because as a PA, you have the opportunity to make between $62,000 upward to $140,000 depending on where you are practicing.
Once you’ve finally been granted your physician assistant’s license, that doesn’t mean it’s good for life. Like any other type of licensing, you will need to renew the license. However, unlike your driver’s license, you won’t be able to go somewhere, pay a small fee, and take a new photo.
Most states will require that the PA complete a set number of continuing education hours. The exact number of hours will vary from state to state, but to keep your national certifications, a licensed physician assistant will have to complete 100 hours of continued medical education every two years.
As you can see, deciding that you want to become a PA is just one step (probably the easiest step, considering the demand there will be in the future for more PA’s, but also that nice salary that goes along with it) in a long process.
However, there is no denying that this is a path that many people will take who want to help people, but don’t want to do the full monte and become a licensed physician.
Working as a PA is a fulfilling career path that may take some time, but in the end, you’ll be able to help so many people receive the care and treatment they need, without having to see a licensed physician. In some cases, you could have the potential to save lives! Now how’s that for motivation?