Are You Planning on Becoming a Physician Assistant? Read This!


Do you want to be a part of the health care industry and be able to carry out certain medical assessment and diagnostic procedures delegated to you by a doctor? Then you may become a physician assistant that will enable you to help people under the supervision of a doctor.

Below you will come across some of the most important matters you need to know about how to become a physician assistant, and also the many duties to carry out and qualities to possess once you are already such.

But before we start tackling those vital things, there is something that we should shed light on – a physician assistant is not the same as a medical assistant! They may sound the same but they are entirely different from one another.

A medical assistant is someone who carries out various clinical or administrative tasks that are commonly performed at the office of a doctor or any other clinical setting, such as taking vital signs, recording the medical history of a patient and scheduling appointments. On the other hand, a physician assistant is able to perform all sorts of procedures that are normally done only by a doctor, like administering medications and closing sutures.  Regardless of your choice you will likely want to choose a physical therapy school, medical assistant program, or physical therapy aide program (depending on your interest) to get the training you need.

Various Duties of a Physician Assistant

It’s undeniable that a physician assistant might be one of the busiest and most in-demand persons in the health care set up. That’s because he or she is someone who examines, diagnoses and even treats patients even though he or she is not a doctor. Indeed, there are so many different tasks that a physician assistant may carry out, and the extent to which he or she should be supervised by a doctor depends on the laws of the state.

A physician assistant may work in various areas of the health care setting, from family care, emergency medicine to psychiatry — it all depends on where he or she works, or which specialty is chosen additionally after training.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, a physician assistant is tasked to perform a lot of roles and duties, most of which are delegated to him or her by the doctor. In some instances, the doctor need not be present (such as in rural clinical settings) in order for the physician assistant to carry out the following:

  • Examine and diagnose a patient
  • Take or review a patient’s medical history
  • Identify diseases or illnesses
  • Order tests like x-rays and blood tests, as well as interpret results
  • Carry out treatments like setting fractures
  • Prescribe and administer medications
  • Educate and advice the patient and his or her family

There are numerous other tasks that a physician assistant may carry out aside from those that are mentioned above. It all depends on which medical practice he or she is works. For instance, a physician assistant may provide the needs of a patient before, during and after surgery. He or she may also vaccinate kids when working at a pediatric clinic.

Qualities a Physician Assistant Must Have

Due to the various duties of a physician assistant, it’s very important for him or her to posses certain qualities that will enable him or her to excel at such line of work. If you are looking to become an outstanding and effective physician assistant one day, you must exhibit the following:

  • Emotional stability: Since you will be carrying out a lot of tasks, it is very important for you to be emotionally stable. This is most especially true during critical situations such as emergencies or when assisting with surgeries. Presence of mind and staying calm will help you perform quality care even when stressed.
  • Attention to detail: In some instances, you will be tasked to asses and diagnose patients, as well as review their medical histories and track their progress. It’s due to all of these reasons why you should be a detail oriented person, enabling you to focus on things that need to be taken into account.
  • Good communication skills: Just like a doctor, you will have to talk with patients and their families once you are already a physician assistant. What’s more, you will usually work with a team of health care professionals in providing care and treatment. Definitely, having good communication skills can help you excel at your job.
  • Compassion: Last but not least, you should have genuine concern for your patients, most of which are in distress or pain. It’s important for a soon-to-be physician assistant to treat them and their families with compassion, and also to win their trust and respect in the process.

If you have the above mentioned qualities, then you may have what it takes to become a good physician assistant. It is important for you to possess them as the profession can be a very challenging and stressful one.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

To date, there are a number of physician assistant programs across the United States accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. or ARC-PA, and a number of these programs might offer master’s degrees.  If you are interested in this field be sure to fill out the form on this page.

Usually, someone who is applying for a physician assistant program should already have a bachelor’s degree with a focus in science, and also some prior experience working in the health care industry. It’s for this reason why some of the most common applicants for the said programs include registered nurses and paramedics.

After completing the physician assistant program, you will have to take and pass the licensure exam (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination or PANCE) that is provided by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants or NCCPA. Once you have been certified as a physician assistant, you will have to complete continuing education amounting to 100 hours every 2 years for you to be able to keep or maintain it.

It is possible for a physician assistant to pursue a specialty after training, allowing him or her to specialize in certain areas of the health care industry such as psychiatry or emergency medicine.

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