Five Misconceptions about Working as a PA

January 29, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Many people of all ages are unsure about what they want to do for a living. It is not uncommon to spend some time trying to figure out what is the right fit. If you are considering working in the medical field and becoming a physician assistant, you are not alone.

The PA professional is growing. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association, PA’s are currently one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. But not everyone knows what a PA does, which can create a lot of misconceptions about the profession. Here are some of the ‘facts’ people believe about physician assistants:

A PA’s main job is to assist the doctor

Most physician assistants usually work independently. Although, in some situations, a PA may assist the doctor with a procedure, they mainly work on their own. It is more common for a nurse to provide assistance to the physician when needed.

Physician assistants do not have a lot of responsibility

In general, a physician assistant has many of the same responsibilities as the doctor. A PA may round on patients, perform exams and prescribe treatment similar to a physician. The level of responsibility may vary by specialty similar to that of a doctor. For example, a dermatology PA may have less responsibility than a physician assistant working in the ER.

A PA cannot specialize

The PA profession is still growing, and more opportunities are developing. There are many recognized specialties for physician assistants. In fact, physician assistants can specialize in most areas of medicine. Although some physician assistants work in primary care or an urgent care center, an increasing number of PA’s are specializing. For instance, physician assistants often specialize in emergency medicine, pediatrics, cardiology and surgery.

Physician assistants do not prescribe medication or interpret lab results on their own

In reality, physician assistants prescribe medication, order treatment and interpreting diagnostic tests without the help of a doctor. In some situations, if the diagnostic tests are complex, a physician may also review the results. But a physician assistant has the training and education needed to be able to interpret results on their own.

PA school is much easier than medical school

Physician assistant school is shorter than medical school, but not necessarily easier. PA school involves a lot of the basics also taught in med schools, such as anatomy and pharmacology. Clinical rotations are also part of a PA program. A lot of information is condensed into two years, which can make it a challenge. It is also important to remember that every student is different. Some people may find a PA program difficult while others may sail through. The same can be said for medical school.

Separating the misconceptions about becoming a physician assistant from the reality is needed before making a career decision. How can you debunk the myths about being a PA?

Once you witness a PA at work, you’ll be certain of their day to day role, and importantly, whether it’s something you would be interested in.


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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.