Working as a PA in Urgent CareFebruary 4, 2015
Many medical conditions require urgent treatment but may not be serious enough to warrant going to the emergency room. In other instances, an individual may not have a primary care doctor, but requires medical care. Urgent care clinics provide medical care to people who need or want immediate care, but are not having a life- threatening emergency. Although they can be staffed by doctors, many urgent care centers also employ physician assistants.
Responsibilities of an Urgent Care PA
Urgent care physician assistants perform duties similar to the physician. Patients coming into urgent care may have a wide variety of conditions. Some common conditions an urgent care PA may encounter include flu-like symptoms, asthma, cuts, sprains and minor infections.
Similar to a doctor, an urgent care physician assistant will perform a medical exam and take a medical history. It is essential for an urgent care physician assistant to have excellent assessment skills. Part of the responsibilities of the PA is to recognize more serious conditions and direct the patient to the emergency room for advanced care.
Physician assistants working in urgent care will also order diagnostic tests, which may sometimes be performed at the clinic. They also prescribe treatment, refer patients for follow up care, and educate patients on self-care at home.
Education and Skills Needed to Work in Urgent Care
If working as a PA is something you are interested in, preparation can start while you are still in high school. Classes in math, science and psychology are a good idea.
The requirements to get accepted into a PA program vary by school, but a bachelor’s degree may be required, or a minimum of an associate degree. In other cases, schools only require completion of certain college level classes in subjects, such as anatomy, biology and chemistry.
Another admission requirement, which may vary by program is medical experience. Some schools require students to have a certain amount of patient care experience, such as working as a medical assistant or paramedic.
Once accepted into a physician assistant program, you will complete both classroom work and clinical rotations. After you have completed an accredited PA program, you are eligible to take the licensing exam. Some PAs may choose to complete a PA residency in emergency medicine after graduation. Although it can be helpful, a PA residency is not required to get a job in urgent care.
Physician assistants in an urgent care center also need to have certain traits and skills. Since the job can be fast-paced, it is helpful to be well organized and work well under pressure. Urgent care PAs also need to have excellent interpersonal skills. Physician assistants will be caring for people of all ages and possibly supervising other staff. Strong leadership and communication skills are needed.
PAs may see a variety of conditions ranging from minor to those that require additional and advanced care. Good judgment is also an important skill when it comes to working in urgent care as a physician assistant.
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