One of the most intricated work fields is medicine.
This is not only because of how complex the human body and its problems are but also because of all the different professions, specializations, and roles that exist.
Each of these aims to provide the best possible attention, care, prevention, and treatment to people of diverse ages and conditions.
Physician Assistants are one of those professions that have become highly significant in the medical field.
In the next few sections, we’ll discuss the most important aspects of this profession, how to become one, and the cost of a Physician Assistant program.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Physician Assistant?
- What Does a Physician Assistant Do?
- Where Do Physician Assistants Work?
- What Is the Difference Between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners?
- How Do I Become a Physician Assistant?
- How Long Does a Physician Assistant Program Last?
- How Much Does a Physician Assistant Program Cost?
What Is a Physician Assistant?
A Physician Assistant, also known as a Physician Associate or PA, is a healthcare professional that works alongside physicians and other healthcare workers in different medical fields, such as primary care, emergency medicine, family medicine, and psychiatry, for instance.
It’s important to mention that PAs don’t need to work under the supervision of a physician, but there must be an agreement between the two professionals stating the specific duties and responsibilities they have while working as a team.
In most states, this is required by law.
What Does a Physician Assistant Do?
A PA has several duties but among the most common are to examine patients and review their medical history, order, and in certain cases, do patients’ exams, interpret medical tests, diagnose diseases and elaborate treatment plans for patients, advising and make recommendations to patients about their health.
Where Do Physician Assistants Work?
There are different settings where Physician Assistants can work.
The majority of PAs work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, and correctional institutions.
What Is the Difference Between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners?
There has been a good amount of confusion between these two medical professions.
Even though PAs and NPs (Nurse Practitioners) might have similar responsibilities to some extent, the main difference lies in the educational background that each has.
Nurse Practitioners, as the name suggests, are focused on nursing and must also select a specific area in the field, such as pediatric care.
PAs have a more comprehensive educational background centered on general medicine.
They can also perform certain tasks that an NP is not capable of because of their education.
How Do I Become a Physician Assistant?
If you want to become a PA, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree, have previous working experience, attend an accredited PA program, pass the PANCE to become certified, and obtain licensure.
The first step to becoming a PA is to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.
There is no specific major that you must select but the most recommended fields are biology, chemistry, nursing, or health science.
Numerous PA programs have prerequisite courses that you must have taken before applying.
It’s important to check which are and how you can take them if you have decided to major in another field.
Previous Working Experience
This is usually another requirement for PA programs.
You will need to have gained Healthcare Experience (HCE) and/or Patient Care Experience (PCE).
In most programs, a certain number of hours will be required before being able to apply.
Physician Assistant Program
The next step to becoming a PA is to enroll in a Physician Assistant program.
These programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
In these programs, you will be awarded a Master of Science in Medicine degree.
Students have theoretical classes completed with laboratory instruction and supervised clinical training.
After completing the PA program, you must apply and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to become certified.
This test has been developed and administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
In most states, you will also need licensure in order to be able to work, so it’s important to check the requirements of the state where you wish to work.
How Long Does a Physician Assistant Program Last?
Most Physician Assistant programs last between two and three years, depending on the program you choose and the type of institution.
How Much Does a Physician Assistant Program Cost?
The cost of a PA program tends to vary according to the state where you live, the educational institution you choose, and if you are a resident or not of the state where you aspire to study.
On average, you could pay from $35,000 to $90,000 for the total duration of the Physician Assistant program.
The fee for the examination (PANCE) to become certified, is $550.