Three physician assistant fields to consider

August 11, 2015

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Many students who are considering becoming a physician assistant may be familiar with some of the common specialties and settings PA’s typically work in. For example, many physician assistants work in urgent care centers or alongside family practice doctors in private practice.

Physician assistants can also commonly be found working in surgery or emergency medicine. Certain specialties seem to attract physician assistants more than others. But PA’s work in almost all specialty areas. Below are three fields for physician assistants, which you may not have considered.

Psychiatric physician assistant

If you are interested in psychology and helping people, working as a psychiatric physician assistant may be something to consider. PAs who work in mental health, work under the direction of a psychiatrist. But that does not mean the doctor is by their side.

Psychiatric physician assistants have a lot of independence and perform a variety of duties. For example, a physician assistant in mental health may perform admission histories in both inpatient and outpatient settings. They may also complete psychiatric assessments and review diagnostics tests. Physician assistants also complete treatment plans and are involved in patient rounds and discharge instructions.

In order to specialize in mental health, a post-graduate fellowship or residency as a psychiatric physician assistant is helpful. Although it may not be mandatory for employment, it is becoming more common. Psychiatric physician assistants work in mental health facilities, acute psychiatric hospitals and clinics.

Neonatology physician assistant

A new area where PA’s are specializing in is neonatology. Neonatology physician assistants work with premature babies and newborns who require special care due to being born early or because of medical conditions they have.

Neonatology as a field is relatively young and is continually changing. Advances in technology have changed the way premature babies are treated. Responsibilities for physician assistants in the field are also evolving.

In general, a neonatology PA may perform some of the same procedures as a doctor, such as chest tube placement, lumbar punctures and needle decompression of the chest. The may also place breathing tubes and manage life support machines, which are assisting the baby’s breathing.

Because the field is so specialized, additional training after graduating from an accredited PA school is usually advised. Neonatology PA residencies, which vary in length, provide additional training in the field. Most physician assistants who work in neonatology work in neonatal intensive care units.

Dermatology physician assistant

Another area of medicine, which utilizes the skills and knowledge of a PA is dermatology. Dermatology physician assistants often work in a dermatologist’s office. They may perform physical exam, take patient histories and review and interpret diagnostic tests. The level of reasonability given to a PA working in dermatology may depend on the doctor they are working with.

In some cases, physician assistants in dermatology will perform skin biopsies and excisions to remove skin lesions. They may also perform cosmetic procedures, such as Botox injections and laser therapies.

Although residencies in dermatology are available for physician assistants, some doctors will train a licensed PA without completion of a specific dermatology residency.


The physician assistant role is fairly new, but it’s a great career path to follow. Want to make sure it’s for you? Come aboard one of our physician work experience placements. 



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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.