Physician’s assistants can do nearly everything that a physician can do. However, one major difference is that most physician’s assistants cannot write prescriptions. While they have the ability to diagnose, treat, provide care such as splinting and wound dressing, many do so under the supervision of a physician. Physician’s assistants make it possible for a physician to see more patients in a day by taking care of mild cases of ear pain and other common illnesses. This allows the physician more time to deal with more complicated cases.
Physicians Assistant Schools By State
Many physician’s assistants already have earned a bachelor’s degree in a medical field such as a registered nurse or an emergency medical technician. The physician’s assistant position involves approximately two more years of higher education to complete and many require clinical training as well. Because they have the diagnostic capabilities equal to that of a physician, they usually are the first person recommended for busy medical practices when a patient calls in requiring to be seen urgently.
As with any medical profession, exposure to highly contagious diseases is a high probability for physician’s assistants. Many see patients on a daily basis in a medical office and diagnose and treat minor injuries and illnesses. Many times the physician’s assistant will have their own client list just as a doctor would. Although they are supervised by a physician, this does not mean that the physician will need to see each of their patients to confirm diagnosis. Most of the time the supervision involves a regular review of case files by a physician and in some cases consultation on a difficult case.
Physician’s assistants generally work long hours just as doctors do. Many work in medical offices but some work in hospitals as well. Providing general care to a variety of patients, ordering tests, having prescriptions written and basic well checks make up the majority of physician’s assistants cases. Just as physicians can, the assistants also can work in specialized fields, again under the supervision of a physician.
Employment Outlook and Salary
As the medical field expands, so will the opportunities for physician’s assistants. The increase is available jobs is expected to rise for at least the next six years. Physician’s assistant positions in states where they are allowed to prescribe medications and practice a wider variety of medical procedures is expected to be the highest. Because physician’s assistants generally can charge less for services than physicians, insurance companies prefer that their subscribers see physician’s assistants whenever possible. Some people also prefer to see physician’s assistants as they do not seem to be as hurried as physicians are.*
The salary for a physician’s assistant is reported at an average of approximately $77,000 per year in 2007. Physician’s assistants working in psychological fields and substance abuse centers made the highest salaries, averaging about $104,000 per year. In more rural areas, physician’s assistants earn a salary that is lower than average and in more urban areas the salary per year increases. As with other professions, physician’s assistant salary is dependent upon location.*
As medical technology advances, so do the available positions for physician’s assistants as well as other medical staff. The increasing rate of available positions for physician’s assistants is expected to grow in relation to other similar fields.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Additional Job Opportunities
A physician’s assistant can work in a variety of medical fields. In addition, physician’s assistants can choose to continue their education and become medical doctors. In some cases, practicing physician’s assistants are in that position while they complete their education and training requirements for a full physician’s degree. Physician’s assistants are capable of performing many of the routine exams that a physician does. Because of this, they can work in many different types of offices as well. Pediatric offices, gynecology offices, as well as general practice offices are common places where one finds physician’s assistants practicing.
Many physician’s assistants in rural areas tend to work as primary care providers. In these situations they are responsible for ensuring the office runs smoothly and has all of the necessary equipment. In larger more urban areas, physician’s assistants do not have these responsibilities as there are many more doctors available in those areas. Physician’s assistants seem to be in greater demand as well in specialized fields such as mental health and substance abuse. There is many positions available in these areas, typically because those being cared for in these environments do not require any specialized medical care nor do they require prescriptions. Therefore, it is easier for a physician’s assistant to work in such fields due to their limited practice allowed.
While the training for a physician’s assistant is as intense as that for a physician, the requirements for education, training and certification is not as intense. Physician’s assistants have a medical background and have capabilities similar to that of a doctor but minus some of the abilities such as writing prescriptions in most areas.
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