A physician assistant is a professional whose main duties are to support medical doctors and other medical personnel. We will discuss how long does it take to become a physician assistant in this article. Therefore, becoming a PA requires as much work and dedication as becoming a medical doctor or any other medical personnel. Becoming a Physician assistant requires certain academic qualifications, which may include science or medical-based Bachelor’s degrees, depending on your level of education and personality traits that aid your work as a medical service provider, such as empathy, compassion, and excellent bedside manners.
Training to become a physician assistant after high school typically lasts for about five to seven or more years, not counting the period needed to gain the experience required. However, for college students planning to become physician assistants, physician assistant training takes about two to two and a half years, not including the period needed to gain the experience required. Becoming a physician assistant requires one partaking in accreditation programs, lasting anywhere between three weeks and three months. Then the aspiring physician assistant is required to take licensing exams, which qualify them to practice.
One can gain the required experience to become a physician assistant by volunteering at healthcare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, general clinics, maternity centers, emergency rooms, and having prior work as a healthcare provider.
Who is a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant is a professional whose work allows them to function close to medical doctors and carry out licensed medical personnel duties mainly under supervision. A physician assistant can carry out their duties in the absence of a medical doctor but must maintain constant contact with the medical doctor while carrying out their responsibilities.
A physician assistant can also be described as medical personnel who carries out the diagnosis, develops and administers treatment plans, and gives prescriptions. A physician assistant is flexible and adaptable, able to work in different medical settings as required.
A physician assistant can function in almost all medical practice spheres as far as a licensed medical practitioner is available to supervise them. The physician assistant is an essential part of the medical team. The physician assistant profession began in 1967 when army veterans, who were medics, received training to assist them seamlessly reintegrate into society by availing them with certificates and additional skills and enabling them to use their experience to help society.
A physician assistant can function in specialties including internal medicine, primary and family care, residency support, rapid response, first responders, surgery, and emergency. With the increasing demand for medical personnel, physician assistants are increasingly becoming very important to medicine and meeting society’s medical needs.
What does a Physician Assistant do?
A physician assistant works together with other medical personnel to provide medical services easier and faster. A physician assistant is a medical personnel who can carry out diagnosis, develop and administer treatment plans and give prescriptions. A physician assistant is flexible and adaptable, able to work in different medical settings. They are able and licensed to take a medical history of patients and be responsible for patient education in instances where patients need to be trained on how to use medication, carry out dialysis for self, use insulin shots, diets, etc. A physician assistant may also carry out physical examinations, perform certain surgical procedures and assist in surgeries, make hospital rounds, carry out medical research, give medical counsel and advice to patients, carry out tests, etc.
In essence, a physician assistant’s duties are all the duties other medical personnel carries out only with supervision. This reduces the medical doctors’ and nurses’ workload, thereby freeing them to attend to other cases. A licensed physician assistant also provides patient care.
A physician assistant also has the responsibility to update patient records, reach out to patients via emails, and other administrative duties doctors and nurses may be too busy to do.
Where do Physician Assistants work?
A physician assistant works in various medical settings. You find physician assistants in the medical arm of the Army and other government agencies. You can find physician assistants in hospitals, health care centers, clinics, nursing homes, general hospitals, emergency rooms, correctional institutions (prisons, juvenile halls, etc.), educational facilities, Office clinics, and outpatient centers.
How to Become a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant requires as much training as other medical practitioners. Training to become a physician assistant is as vigorous as medical doctors and other medical personnel as they deal with human health and wellbeing. A typical physician assistant training requires diligence, hard work, patience, dedication, and foresight.
Anyone who wants to become a Physician Assistant is required to have obtained a Bachelor’s degree, preferably in science-based courses such as biology, psychology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, nutrition, kinesiology, public health, and microbiology. Additional courses may include organic chemistry, medical terminology, biochemistry, genetics, physics, and sociology, among others. To become a physician assistant, the aspiring individual must choose health-related courses and complete the required course work.
A physician assistant has to have skills that enable them to help people. Therefore, they should pick courses that equip them with such skills. Knowledge of human behavior and interpersonal skills is vital to becoming a successful physician assistant, hence the need for psychology and sociology courses.
A high school student can approach becoming a physician assistant by either taking an accelerated physician assistant program or taking a Bachelor’s degree in college. The accelerated physician assistant program spans about five years and awards both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. They are tailored specifically for High school graduates.
A high school student taking the Bachelor’s degree route is required to take the medical pre-requisite courses. Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree takes four years, and then the student will have to take physician assistant courses, which by themselves, last about twenty-four to twenty-seven weeks (at least two years). In other words, the total number of years that will be spent studying to become a physician assistant through this route is six years.
In the case of an individual who is already in college or already has their Bachelor’s degree, they need to apply for a twenty-four to twenty-seven-month training to become a physician assistant in a physician assistant program Accreditation Review Commission accredits on Education for the Physician Assistant. These courses focus on both classroom studies and hands-on clinical studies.
Generally, becoming a physician assistant takes careful planning and forecasting. Some schools allow the student to work and gain experience while studying. Physician assistant programs are very competitive and require utmost dedication. A physician assistant can decide to specialize in Emergency medicine, Neurology, Obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, general practice, cardiology, anesthesia, among others. Usually, to specialize, an advanced study is needed, and PAs are required to complete a fellowship to practice in specialized areas.
A physician assist requires certification; therefore, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and training, a Physician assistant must take the PANCE certification examinations for licensing. A physician assistant’s medical training is as thorough as that of medical doctors. A physician assistant’s curriculum is built on a medical school curriculum that involves both classroom studies and hands-on clinical training.
Personality Requirements for a Physician Assistant
A physician assistant must be an individual who is motivated by empathy and compassion. Other character traits of an ideal physician assistant include commitment, motivation, persistence, critical thinking, maturity, flexibility, and a strong ability to collaborate with others.
- A physician assistant should have excellent interpersonal skills and be able to communicate well with people. A physician assistant should be able to put people at ease and be polite. They also need to be active listeners with the ability to pick non-verbal nuances in patients’ complaints. They should also be able to remember things after hearing them just once. In addition to effective communication and listening skills, a physician assistant should be knowledgeable on cultural issues and civic issues to aid polite conversation with patients.
- A physician assistant should have technical skills and the ability to operate technologies used in medical settings. A physician assistant may carry out multiple tasks at once; therefore, they should have excellent multitasking skills without letting anything go undone. A physician assistant ought to be proactive and make accurate decisions on their feet, even while under pressure.
- A physician assistant should also be a great organizer. Because they have to multitask, they have to be organized to carry out tasks as when due. Physician assistance should be punctual to work and be reliable in dispensing their duties. A physician assistant needs to be full of energy and positivity. They will be exposed to patients in critical conditions who need to be encouraged and cheered up. A physician assistant who is negative in their outlook on life will further dampen their client’s emotional state.
Difference Between a Physician Assistant and Other Medical Personnel
Seeing as a physician assistant has a license to do many things that most medical personnel can do, there is a widespread question about the difference between medical personnel’s roles and functions and the relevance of other medical personnel.
Medical Doctors Vs Physician Assistants
The main difference between a physician assistant and a medical doctor is that the medical doctor supervises the Physician assistant. Another major difference between medical doctors and physician assistants is the number of years invested in education and training. A medical doctor spends four years as an undergraduate, then two years to gain medical degrees. He or she must spend between three to seven years in residency before they obtain a medical license.
A Physician assistant requires fewer numbers of years to obtain their education and obtain a license. The physician assistant will undergo the standard four years for Bachelor’s degree, a two-year accredited course, and a one-year clinical rotation and licensing exam.
There are also differences in job functions. While both the medical doctor and physician assistant share responsibility for patient care, the PA is not licensed to carry out surgeries. The doctor can carry out his job function without close supervision, and PAs may not always be licensed to write prescriptions for patients.
Another major difference between medical doctors and physician assistants is the cost of their training and education. A medical doctor pays much more for education in a four-year period than a physician assistant pays for their entire education. In terms of payment and remuneration, the medical doctor usually earns more than the physician assistant does.
Registered Nurse Vs Physician Assistant
One major area of difference between a registered nurse and a physician assistant is educational requirements. Becoming a physician assistant requires similar training as medical personnel, so they typically require more education than registered nurses. Another educational difference is the difference in educational paths. While a nurse must take nursing certification exams for specific areas of specialization, a physician assistant takes the PANCE exams to obtain their license.
In terms of job function, the physician assistant’s job is more similar to that of a medical doctor than of a nurse. A PA carries out duties that include examining and diagnosing patients, writing prescriptions, and assisting in surgery. The registered nurse’s duties include maintaining accurate patient records and working with doctors to handle patient care.
The physician assistant earns more than the registered nurse does per year. The functions of medical doctors and physician assistants cannot be interchanged. Each professional has their role to play in providing medical health care for patients in medical settings. A physician assistant cannot replace a registered nurse either. Their job description, while connected, are mutually exclusive.
In conclusion, job prospects as a physician assistant are many. A nurse can become a physician assistant, and their experience serves as a boost for them in their transition. They will need to meet the prerequisites and join a physician assistant program and obtain a license. A therapist can also transition to become a physician assistant by partaking in the required courses and obtaining a license.
Finally, the answer to the defining question of how long it takes to become a physician assistant after high school is between seven and eight years, including the time needed to accumulate relevant experience, accreditation course, and PANCE licensing exam. It varies for a college student who is already taking a pre-requisite course. They only require two to three years more for Masters’s degree, accreditation course, and PANCE licensing exams. With the increasing demand for medical personnel, the physician assistant career path is highly rewarding both intrinsically and financially.
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