After the Vietnam War, there was a shortage and maldistribution of healthcare professional’s. It was Dr. Eugene A Stead who noticed this declining trend of healthcare professionals. Dr. Stead gathered four navy hospital corpsmen that have received medical training, but lacked the medical knowledge and created the first Physician Assistant (PA) program at Duke University (History of the Profession Physician Associate Program (n.d.)). The PA profession was accepted and embraced very quickly into healthcare. Physician assistants are medical professionals have been trained to diagnose illnesses, prescribed medications, and plan treatment for the patient. PA’s have a versatile career, where they are trained in all fields of medicine allowing them to go in practice in different specialties. They are able to practice in all 50 states and work in different medical settings such as hospital, medical offices, community clinics, nursing homes and etc. PA’s work in close relations with physicians and other health care providers, and the importance of teamwork is emphasized in this career, since PAs practice under the supervision of a physician.
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The scope of practice that allows PAs to perform a a variety of actions and procedures is based on the state and licensing requirements. There three areas of scope of practice that are mainly illustrated for physician assistant are the supervision requirements, prescriptive authority, and scope of practice determination (Physician Assistants Overview. (n.d.)). The supervision requirement focuses on a written cooperative agreement with a physician that specifically summarizes the specific responsibilities of the PA. The state policy specifies the supervision of the relationship between the physician and physician assistant at which is determined at the practice level or at the state medical board or in state law. The prescriptive authority allows a PA to prescribe variety prescriptions and provides restrictions for controlled substances. The prescriptive authority is determined either at the practice level, the state medical board or state law. Lastly, the scope of practice signifies whether a PA ability to perform certain duties “is determined at the practice level by the supervising physician or in some states by the medical board or state law determines the PA scope practice” (Physician Assistants Overview. (n.d.)).
The Physician Assistant community is compromised with a set of code of ethics ensures to the public the PA’s meet professional principles of knowledge and skill. The National Commission on Certification of physician Assistants (NCCPA) has a code of ethics for certified PAs. These code of ethics ranged from dishonest behavior to malpractice, which are outlined on their website. These rules guarantees PAs comply with all laws, regulations and standards to their professional career. When a PA has violated the code of ethics, disciplinary action is taken and is reviewed by the appropriate NCCPA. “Violations of code of ethics are also reported to the federation of state medical boards, any state licensing authority, the federal government, the PAs employer and other interest parties” (Code of Conduct for Certified and Certifying PAs (n.d.)).
In order for one to become a PA, a bachelor’s degree must be obtained from an accredited university. While acquiring a bachelor’s degree the required prerequisite courses must be completed in order to apply. It usually is recommended for those entering this profession to gain heath care experience, which is how the field of PA emerged. The process of applying for PA school is through an application process called CASPA. This application progress is vigorous that it requires an abundant amount of information from the individual and essays. A standardized test is required for entrances of the school of choose. This exam is called the Graduate Record Examination also known as the GRE. The schools also requires recommendation letters from healthcare professionals especially from a PA, so they can see that you understand what it means to become a PA. The PA’s are educated at the master’s degree level and there are over 250 programs, such as Duke University and Barry University. The program is 27 months long and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. The cost of attending PA school is around 80,000-100,000 for the entire program. The cost depends if you are an in state or out of state resident. Every state and the District of Columbia require PAs to be licensed. Licensing requirements differ between states, but all of the states require PAs to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of physician Assistants (NCCPA).
The PA profession is one of the fastest growing health care careers in the country. “The demand for PA has increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014. The U.S Bureau of Labor statistics projects that this profession will increase 37 percent from 2016-2026, significantly faster than the average for all occupations” (Physician Assistants: Occupational Outlook Handbook:. (n.d.)). The job availability for PA is very high since it is in high demand. The majority of jobs require PAs have to experience, even though they gained experience in their medical training, for the physician to be comfortable for PAs to treat patients without their presence. These job offers makes it difficult for newly graduated PAs to obtain jobs since they demand experience. There are always a few offices that will take on a newly graduated PA to mold them into how the physician practices medicine. The average entry-level pay for PA is $88,227 a year. The salary of a PA varies depending in the specialty the PA is practicing in. For dermatology, the average salary is over $122,000 a year (Alford, 2018). The more specialized a PA becomes the greater their salary is. The only advancement opportunities of this career is to return back to school and become a medical professional, such as a doctor. But for those PA’s who do not want to return to school can move up in medical management medical positions.
There is a wide variety of organizations that are local and national for physician assistants. One of the most well known organizations is called the American Academy of PAs (AAPA). It is a national professional society for PAs and it represents more than 131,000 PAs across all medical and surgical specialties across the United States (Learn more about the American Academy of PAs. (n.d.)). AAPA advocates and educates in behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. The AAPA mission is to guide professionals and empower their members to expand their careers and enrich patient health. The AAPA fellow membership is $295 a year. “PA’s are required to take a recertification exam every 10 years, earn 100 CME credit every two years, and pay a certification fee NCCPA every two years” (CME FAQs. (n.d.)). The continuing medical education, also known as CME, helps those maintain their competence and learn about new and developing areas of their field (CME FAQs. (n.d.)). There is a variety of ways to obtain CME’s by activities that are approved by the NCCPAs, self-assessments, and certification programs.
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This is the profession have I have chosen to pursue. My current job is a medical assistant in a dermatologist office. In the last few years, I have observed both the doctor and physician assistant career and how they both greatly differ in responsibilities. After a while of comparing both careers I have concluded that the PA profession is best suited for me. I enjoy working and interacting with different professionals, which is what the PA profession is. I feel that the healthcare community works stronger and better as a whole than as individuals. That’s why I see myself has a physician assistant and hope to practice half as well as the physicians and PAs I have worked with. I am currently in the process of going through and filling out the application to hopefully obtain an interview in the next upcoming months. Until I gain more experience in different fields, I plan on entering the field of dermatology. Working in this field in the last few years has sparked such a fasciation of the integumentary system and the medical conditions associated with it. It is difficult to obtain a job in dermatology as PA, but hopefully with my experiences as a medical assistant will set me apart from the rest.
- Alford, C. (2018, December 07). How Much Do Physician Assistants Make in Salary? Retrieved from https://www.studentloanplanner.com/how-much-do-physician-assistants-make-in-salary/
- Career Advancement for Physician Assistants. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://study.com/articles/career_advancement_for_physician_assistants.html
- CME FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aapa.org/learning-central/cme-faqs/
- Code of Conduct for Certified and Certifying PAs and PAs with the PA-C Emeritus Designation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nccpa.net/code-of-conduct
- History of the Profession Physician Associate Program | Medical Education | Yale School of Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medicine.yale.edu/pa/profession/history_profession.aspx
- Learn more about the American Academy of PAs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aapa.org/about/
- Physician Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook:. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm
- Physician Assistants Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://scopeofpracticepolicy.org/practitioners/physician-assistants/
- What is a PA? Learn more about the PA profession. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aapa.org/what-is-a-pa/
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