What exactly is a Physician Assistant?

August 29, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Physician assistant
A physician assistant is a healthcare professional who works under the direct supervision of a licensed medical doctor. The job description of a physician assistant is similar to that of a licensed doctor and spans a wide range of duties, from taking the medical history of a patient to setting simple fractures.
Many people use the term ‘physician assistant’ interchangeably with ‘medical assistant’. This is wrong. These are two completely different professions. The responsibilities of a medical assistant are mainly clerical and administrative in nature whereas a physician assistant is qualified to perform various supervised medical tasks.

Physician Assistant Job Description

The name is self-explanatory: physician assistants assist licensed physicians with the examination, diagnosis and treatment of patients in all kinds of healthcare settings, from small private clinics to larger full-fledged hospitals. Physician assistants are licensed to perform a broad spectrum of medical services that have been traditionally performed only by doctors. The only thing they are not trained not do are procedures that are extremely intricate and complex.
Some of the job functions of a Physician assistant include:

Depending on the specialty you choose, there could be several variations in your job function as a physician assistant. If you choose ophthalmology, your responsibilities will be quite different from a PA who specializes in orthopedics, cardiovascular surgery or dermatology.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that each state in the U.S. has its own laws governing PS job functions so what is allowed in one state may be banned in another. Before you practice, make sure you find out about the restrictions in whichever state you choose to practice in.

Physician Assistant Training

An important aspect of being a physician assistant is that you have to be efficient and of the most service to the physician you are working under. To prepare you for this, you will receive extensive training in a wide range of health care services. Theoretical training will include studies in pharmacology, medicine, diagnoses, human anatomy, pathology and biochemistry in addition to training in clinical procedures.
Practical experience of at least 2000 hours is compulsory before you receive your license to practice. In addition, you will need at least one recommendation letter endorsed by an experienced licensed practicing physician.

Salary Expectations

If you’ve got an eye on a career as a physician assistant, you’ll be happy to know that the salary is pretty decent. You can expect to earn an average of $4000 a year. This figure can vary depending on several factors including the state and the type of healthcare setting you choose to work in. Hospitals and other healthcare centers in urban areas pay considerable higher salaries as compared rural healthcare settings.

Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email info@gapmedics.com
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.