Why Physician Assistants are More Than Just Assistants

Physician assistants (P.A.) roles are growing in importance. The role involves many tasks that used to be dedicated to doctors only. It is also a growing field in medicine, particularly with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Growing Numbers of P.A. Students and Positions

The number of P.A. positions are expected to rise 38% from 2012 to 2022, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are also an increasing number of schools with master’s degree P.A. programs. Incoming students have caught on to this growing field. The number of applicants are exponentially more than the number of slots allowed in some of the more competitive programs.

What’s the Difference Between a P.A. and a Doctor?

Although the role of a physician assistant is evolving to include duties that used to fall under the doctor’s jurisdiction, there are still major distinctions between the positions. The biggest difference lies in training and education. A doctor takes the M.C.A.T. exam before being accepted into medical school, and after medical school he or she takes on a residency for several years before being eligible to work as a physician. A P.A. is exempt from the M.C.A.T. and only faces 2 years of graduate school to be hired.

The P.A. role is becoming more similar to the physician’s role due to several factors:

  • Diagnose patients
  • Perform physical exams
  • Assist surgeries
  • Order lab testing
  • Prescribe medications to patients
  • Handle non-urgent cases (in an emergency room setting)

The education for a P.A. is growing more similar to a physician as well.

These are some of the ways that physician assistant training is becoming more hands-on:

  • Required pre-med classes in undergraduate education
  • Sometimes required to have past experience as a medical assistant or phlebotomist
  • Training involves diagnosis, data collection, and patient treatment during clinical rotations

Expanding Territory for P.A.s

Today, physician assistants work in multiple types of medical settings. They can be seen at primary care providers as well as specialty offices. P.A.s are even working in emergency rooms. The reason why this role is so important in a medical setting is because they cover a lot of the time-consuming work. With a P.A. on staff, a doctor can see more patients in a typical day.

If you are in need of a physician assistant position, West Chester Medical Staffing can help. Our consulting services work on finding the more appropriate workplace based on your specific needs and skills. Contact our West Chester, OH office today to get started.

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