Wanted: Physician Assistants - A Growing Career

Wanted: Physician Assistants - A Growing Need for Passionate, Caring Professionals

When Virginia Kaufman graduates in May she will be a Physician Assistant (PA), and she can’t wait. Virginia didn’t always know that she wanted to become a PA, and wants to tell others who share her passion for pursuing a career in the medical profession about this unique opportunity.

PAs are healthcare professionals authorized to practice medicine as part of a team with physicians. There are 81,000 certified PAs licensed to practice in all states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services, and are trained to:

                Conduct physical exams 
                Obtain medical histories
                Diagnose and treat illnesses 
                Order and interpret tests 
                Counsel on preventive health care 
                Assist in surgery 
                Prescribe medications 

It takes a team of skilled professionals to deliver quality health care, and PAs are increasingly becoming vital members of the healthcare team.  Interestingly, the role of the PA began in the 1960s to fill a need created by a shortage of physicians. In fact, the first PAs were military medics with experience in critical care and emergency medicine during active duty. Now with the demand for health care services outpacing the number of physicians available, PAs are again helping fill the void.

PAs can practice medicine in any specialty from family medicine to surgery to cardiology. A PA also gains clinical privileges in a hospital setting much the same way as a physician would. PAs are often the primary health care provider for individuals and families, and physicians who have a PA on their team know that they are qualified to perform up to 80 percent of primary and preventive care.

To become licensed to practice, PAs must attend an accredited program and pass an exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of PAs. They must obtain authorization to practice through state licensure, registration or certification, and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and pass a recertification exam every six years. Most students have a BA/BS degree and prior healthcare experience before admission to a PA program, and 80 percent of PA programs award a master’s degree. Today, approximately 12,470 students are currently enrolled in PA programs, and more than 6,000 PA students graduate each year. They earn a median annual salary of $90,000, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of PA jobs will increase by 27 percent between 2006 and 2016.

Clearly, becoming a PA holds promise for a great future. Now a new book is available to anyone contemplating a career as a PA that provides helpful information and resources, including a list of schools, websites, salary information and more. But Hratch Karamanoukian cautions, “Although becoming a PA offers significant earning potential, it isn’t just about the money. It’s about having passion for what you do.” Listen to what one PA has to say at http://youtu.be/NnFKdEZIVTU.

WNY Resource:
The Past, Present and Future of Physician Assistants in America, by Hratch Karamanoukian, M.D., Raffy Karmamanoukian, M.D., and Virginia Kaufman, PA-S, copyright November 2011. For a look inside, or to purchase a copy visit www.Amazon.com