One of the fastest-growing employee classifications in the healthcare industry is that of the Physician Assistant, or PA. PAs are responsible for many of the duties of traditional caregivers like doctors and nurse practitioners, including direct patient care, diagnosis, and treatment. Becoming a PA is a multi-step process, including both education and certification. Here’s a look at what it takes to become a PA like Karl Anthony Simon, a Physician Assistant practicing in the greater Houston area of Texas.
What is a PA?
A Physician Assistant (PAs) is a healthcare professional with a broad range of skills, abilities, and responsibilities. Most often, PAs work directly with patients under the supervision of a physician. This can include intake, initial diagnosis, and creation of treatment plans. PAs are also qualified to perform a range of procedures. In some cases, PAs may be the primary caregiver at a healthcare facility, such as a rural hospital or emergency medical center. In fact, Karl Simon PA worked in the emergency department at a facility in rural Texas.
Education for Physician Assistants
Physician assistants come from all walks of life and myriad educational backgrounds. Most, however, will have an educational background in the biological or chemical sciences, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the scientific disciplines. Having a foundation of knowledge in biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and biology can help the aspiring PA to thrive in his or her graduate coursework. Many people entering a graduate PA program will also have some level of medical experience, including work as a registered nurse, a paramedic, or an EMT.
Graduate PA programs can be found at accredited institutions across the country. Accreditation is obtained through the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Anthony Simon received his education at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston. A PA program is a two-year immersive experience, training the next generation of PAs in a range of subjects. Certain specialties may require additional education; this specialized training can usually be accomplished within a year of coursework.
Certification as a Physician Assistant
Once the necessary coursework and experience is completed, aspiring Physician Assistants must take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This exam covers medical and surgical knowledge. Certification must be completed within six calendar years of completing the educational requirements in the PA program. Once certification is completed, PAs may begin practice in a variety of healthcare settings.
Job Outlook for PAs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks average salaries for hundreds of job classifications in the United States. According to the BLS, PAs make an average of $98,000. The top 10% of PAs make an average of $140,000 annually. PA job growth is expected to increase in the coming years; healthcare industry analysts suggest this growth will exceed 30%. The job outlook for PAs is great, as more and more clinics have come to rely on the flexibility and compassionate care PAs are known for.