The most common physician assistant specialties

November 18, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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The physician assistant profession started in the late 1960s, which makes it a relatively young profession. The field has continued to evolve, and opportunities for PA’s have grown. Physician assistants work in almost all areas of medicine. But certain specialties still seem to attract more physician assistants than others.

Take a look at some of the most common specialties for physician assistants. Consider responsibilities and opportunities for employment to determine if one of the physician assistant specialties below is right for you.


Primary care physician assistant

Students with one of the doctors in TanzaniaAccording to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the most common specialty for physician assistants is primary care. One reason primary care may attract physician assistants is that they perform a lot of the same duties as a doctor.

A primary care physician assistant may also enjoy the fact that they often get to know patients over time. Many patients stay with the same doctor for years, which gives a PA an opportunity to care for patients at different stages of their life.

Primary care physician assistants often take medical histories, perform physical exams, order and review diagnostic tests and prescribe treatment. Physician assistants working in this specialty may have a chance to treat a large variety of patients, which can keep the job interesting.

Urgent care physician assistant

Another common area of medicine for a physician assistant to go into is urgent care. Urgent care clinics or centers are intended to treat medical conditions, which require prompt care, but are not life and death situations. Physician assistants who work in urgent care still work under the direction of a doctor, but the physician may not be present. PA’s working in urgent care should enjoy working independently and be able to handle a high volume of patients.

Cardiology physician assistant

In the United States, heart disease is the number one cause of death in adults. Medical treatment for heart disease continues to advance, which creates a need for healthcare specialists in cardiology including physician assistants. Cardiology physician assistants often perform tests and procedures including stress tests, cardioversions and echocardiograms. They are also involved in treatment plans and patient education. Physician assistants interested in cardiology may want to consider a post-graduate PA residency in cardiology to increase their marketability. Cardiology physician assistants work with cardiologists in private practice and hospitals.

Orthopedic physician assistant

According to the AAPA, orthopedics is also a popular choice for physician assistants to specialize. Orthopedic PA’s care for patients who have bone and joint injuries including spinal cord injuries, broken bones and joint replacements. They may have a large variety of responsibilities, such as setting casts, examining patients, assisting with surgical procedures and educating patients on home care. Similar to cardiology, it is helpful for a new graduate to complete a PA residency in orthopedics. Opportunities for orthopedic physician assistants exist in hospitals, sports medicine clinics, and rehabilitation facilities. Some orthopedic PA’s also work in practice with a physician.


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