A physician assistant is one of the leading job profile in almost all the part of the world and the qualified individuals are hired as a professionals PAs in the medical team of a big hospital or a health care organization. With time the role of physician assistant has become more critical and predominant in any heath care groups. The job roles of Physician assistant during the initial days was only restricted to extending support activities for the Doctors or medical consultants. However, with time the role of physician assistant has evolved to a much greater height and they are now recruited for medical activities where great expertise and skills are required.
A senior physician or a surgeon may not be available all the time to take proper care of the patients and closely record and follow-up the on the condition of the patient all the time. In this situation, a Physician looks after the patients and carry out all the necessary medical actions & procedures in consultation with the doctor.
A physician assistant has a got a wide verity of roles and responsibilities which are important and sensitive in nature. It therefore requires good exposure and knowledge to perform all the medical tasks expected from a professional PA. A Bachelor's Degree in Physician Assistant trains students in all those areas which are essentially required for a Physician Assistant role. A Bachelor's course in PA primarily covers subjects on all the below streams:
It subject provides information on biological or functional behavior of body and any change in the behavior due to the effect of an injury or a disease. This is one of the most challenging area and requires a detailed knowledge on the chemical and biological process of human body. The study of his subjects includes careful examination of symptoms and metabolic activities of a human body in response to a disease.
This includes study of medicines and covers detailed information on physiological effects of medicines on the body, potential side-effects of different category of medicines, Symptoms of allergies and bio chemical change, Normal doses and dependencies, symptoms of overdose, chemical composition of wide verity of medicines, details on different types of drugs and biochemical activities. This subject also covers information regarding cellular and molecular structure of the body and its response to different types of drugs.
- EKG and radiology:
This department of Physician Assistant study deals with rhythms of heart and is also taught with an intention to help PAs identifying any abnormalities in the heart by conducting electrocardiography or radiography of heart. This subject also covers the details on anatomical structure of heart and its electronic pathways. A radiography or ECG is usually recommended for the patients with heart problems and helps in the diagnosis of disease by reveals the current condition of heart. Students of PA are trained on reading the graphs and operating the EKG or radiography devices correctly.
This subject of Physician Assistant is taught to familiarize students with the endocrine system of the body. An endocrine system deals with secretion of hormones, controlling metabolic actives, growth, reproduction and various other activities which are controlled by the release of hormones. A detailed chapter on each hormones and relevant body functions or diseases are covered in this subject. Effects of medicines and bio-chemical change on different hormones makes PA students to understand type of treatment required for different types of endocrine disorders.
This subject covers topics related to study of kidneys functions and various disorder related to kidneys. The PA students are also familiarized with different types of tests performed to diagnose the problems in Kidney followed by treatments, medical procedures and common medicines to improve the condition of kidney patients.
Gastroenterology deals with the function of gastro-intestinal tract and problems related to intestine. The subject also covers various techniques and tests conducted to identify the potential problem in the gastro-intestinal tract and the response to various types of medicines. The students if PA are trained on all the followings- colonoscopy, endoscopy, liver biopsy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiancreatography (ERCP) and endoscopic ultrasound.
This subject covers topics related to study of respiratory tract functions and various disorder related to respiratory system. The PA students are also familiarized with different types of tests performed to diagnose the problems in lungs, nose or nostrils, nasal cavity, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx) followed by treatments, medical procedures and common medicines to improve the condition of respiratory tract.
This topic covers sections related to nerves system of the body and various types of neurological disorders. Students are trained on various medicines, therapies and neurological test that are in practice. They are also exposed to various modern nervous examination techniques like - CT scan, MRI and treatments of common diseases like - Parkinson's disease , motor neuron disease.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a Physician Assistant?
A Physician Assistant functions under the supervision of an experienced physician and are usually engaged in all the activities where a physician works like medical procedures, test or examination, treatment plans consultation & counselling and so on.
Below is a brief list of key roles and responsibilities of a Physician Assistant:
- Drafting a detailed health background of patients:
A physician assistant is responsible for documenting the complete health background of a patient. It requires a comprehensive discussion with patient about various details that could potentially assist in investigation of critical or long term diseases. The PAs may also have to analyze previous medical reports and test records of the patient to comprehend the actual background. Any medicinal dependencies or allergies, cardiac, kidney and condition of other parts of body should be investigated precisely even before the examination of a physician. The health background prepared by the Physician Assistant are refereed by the physician during his examination based on which a physician finally prescribes medicines or if required may ask for specific tests. Here the role of Personal Assistant is critical as well sensitive, the analysis of the heath background needs good knowledge and careful review of documents, reports and results. Gathering such information verbally also requires a communication and inter-personal skills.
2. Consultation and Counselling:
The physician assistants are also required for the consultation and counselling of the patients. They are responsible to clarify any queries or doubts about the disease, treatment, medical examinations, medicines, follow-up consultation and so on. PAs therefore, should have a sound knowledge in all the department of health care and medicines. The consultation may be direct or face-to-face with patient or indirect with family member of the patients, over the phone, email etc. A professional PA gains confidence and belief of the patients by his/her extreme knowledge and exposure in different areas. Therefore, all reputed health care organizations make sure that all physical assistants are given maximum exposure during the training phase to handle all the activities which are involved for addressing heath issues from beginning to the end.
3. Conducting Medical Examinations:
A physician assistant may also be required to conduct a thorough medical examination of the patient’s body. It could be checking blood samples, monitoring radiography or ECG, conducting ultrasound, MRI, CT-Scan or even an X-ray test. So, a physician assistant are trained on all the latest technology and devices to operate and monitor the readings to perform a successful examination. PAs therefore, also contribute a lot in the overall diagnosis process which helps doctors to decide the method for the treatment of an underlying disease.
4. Assist Physician developing a treatment strategy:
A physician assistant are sometime also required to prepare a basic treatment plan for the patient based on the examination conducted by the physician. The physician’s may convey a high level approach for the treatment to the PAs and the PAs would then be responsible to prepare a detailed treatment plan based on the knowledge on the particular subject and guidance from the physician. These treatment plans prepared by physician assistant has all the information for easy reference and are used often during the course of treatment (by both patients and doctors). After, the basic treatment plan is ready, the same is approved by a senior physician. However, if any corrections needed, the PAs might have to re-work on same until all the mandatory details are captured correctly.
5. Handling Basic Emergency conditions:
A physician assistant may have to attend an emergency condition of the patient. So, PAs are trained with all the activities that are required to attend a patient in an emergency condition. They must have basic knowledge of all the emergency medical procedures and treatments. In some cases, they may also be required to conduct few advance treatments under the guidance of senior physicians.
So, we can conclude that physician assistant has a wide range of roles and responsibilities which involve high expertise, knowledge, training and seniority and that is why the PAs are offered high salaries across the globe.
Who should apply for a Bachelor's degree in physician assistant?
As we now know what are the important subjects for a student enrolled in physician assistant program and the key roles and responsibilities of PAs in their professional life, we must also figure out who should apply for a Bachelor's degree in physician assistant as this stream may not be a best fit for all the candidates who aspire to be a physician assistant. Here is a short check-list based on which one decide if Bachelor's degree in physician assistant is suitable for them:
- How much interest do you have in biotechnology, medicines, biochemistry and study of diseases, symptoms and treatments? ‘If you have a high level of interest in all these subjects, learning would be easy and you would come out as a good Physician assistant’
- How much you like the profession of a Physician? ‘As Physician assistant work closely with Physicians, they must be comfortable in all the job roles which a Physician performs'
- Is there time or financial burden to complete your graduation early? ‘Most students who have a background of medicines and biochemistry may prefer to become a Physician, however it takes a very long time and good exposure to ultimately reach there, so if you are someone who wants to quickly get into the roles similar to physician and gain practical exposure, Physician assistant is the best program for you.’
- How good your communications and inter-personal skills are? ‘To become a good Physician assistant, one should have a good communication and interpersonal skill. PAs are often required to interact to patients, their family members, present seminars, conduct cross subject training and perform counselling, therefore these two skills make them suitable for this position’
- Would you be nervous looking at patient’s suffering or pain? ‘A professional physician assistant might have to attend emergency conditions of patients, work with a surgeon in an operation theater and also have to take care of patients in critical condition, a physician assistant should therefore be comfortable to work in all the given circumstances without affecting his/her work’
What are the advantages of becoming a physician assistant?
- High Salary:
Physician assistant are offer high salaries for their skillful work and knowledge. As per the latest survey, a physician assistant is offer an average salary of $ 90,000, which makes this career option as most attractive among students. Also, the growth factors are quite good in this field, as a physician assistant gains more experience and exposure, he/she may attract more salary in the market.
- Job Safety:
Physician assistant is one among those fields which are always in demand. As there are more number of hospitals and clinics across the world, the requirement of physician assistant are also high. Also, a physician works independently and usually requires more than one physician assistants in his team. So, the job opportunities of physician assistants have always seen to be in demand and is increasing consistently with time.
- investment on education:
The bachelor’s degree in physician assistant course is not as expensive as other stream which potentially attracts also similar salary after completion. Looking at long term return on investment, a degree in physician assistant is one of the best available option which may offer an exponential growth to the professionals with time and experience.
- Travel opportunities:
A physician assistant gets lot of opportunities to travel in different parts of world for trainings, seminars, deputations, higher studies and so on. As skilled physician assistants are always high in demand and the known medical practices are almost similar across the globe, they may easily get a job at different locations with better pays. So, physician assistant has abundant opportunities to travel at various locations.
- Work flexibility:
Physician assistant can easily change their roles at any time and doesn’t really need any additional training programs or course completion. As soon as they become a certified physician assistant, they may easily switch to different departments of medical science like- obstetrics, endocrine or gynecology without having any need to complete additional training. They are usually offered flexible work hours or shift timings based on their requirements.