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The Advantages For Becoming Physician Assistants

Dec 18, 2007
Certified physician assistants (PA's) have been a reality in the medical field since 1965, when the program began at Duke University. There are currently just over 135 different training modules within this field and all are still in use today to ensure a well-rounded training program.

Most of these programs require it's applicants to have at least two years of college, as well as some type of experience within a health care scenario. It can be as an EMT (emergency medical technician), ambulance attendant, licensed practical nurse, an associate-degree nurse or as a health educator. However, because it is such a competitive area, the average PA has a bachelor's degree in some field and usually about 4 years or more of health related experience.

Although physician assistants have been predominantly male, the numbers of females in this sector has grown to be more than 58% of the active PA's. The reason for the number of males in this area is because early in the history of medical assisting, most of these roles were played by men in the military, who then took their on-the-job medical training and transcended into the private medical sector.

The PA's role, which is associated legally with a supervising physician, now allows them to complete tasks that were at one time only performed by doctors; such as diagnosis, taking of history, physical exams and patient management. Now, studies indicate that a physician's assistant has the ability to give superior quality health care (comparable to that of a doctor) for about 75% of the different conditions seen in a primary care setting.

PA's have to be prepared both clinically and academically to provide health care services. This is done under the direction and supervision of a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) or MD. Their responsibilities may include performing preventative, therapeutic, health maintenance and diagnostic services. This can also expand to working in residential nursing care under the supervision of an MD or DO.

Recently, as early as 2006, PA's cannot receive direct third-party (insurance) reimbursements for their services, but they are billed for and through their supervising employer or doctor. They practice in a variety of settings in almost every medical and surgical specialty area.

The majority (approximately 45%) of them practice within primary care areas, with 28% of those being in family practice. Other common areas of practice are general surgery, emergency medicine and other surgical sub-specialties. However, many of the assistants are also involved in research, teaching, administration and other non-clinical roles.

Like many other professions, physician assistants are regulated at different levels. Licensing takes place at the state level according to specific laws. Certification, however, is established through a national organization, with requirements for minimal practice standards for working in any medical sector from a nursing care facility to any other medical assistant position.
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