Physician Associate? What next?
Becoming a physician or a surgeon is not the only way to become a licensed medical professional. Today, physician associate (PA) is a rapidly growing role in the healthcare industry, with physician associates (PAs) working alongside doctors and helping with patients’ diagnoses and treatment care. They are an integral part of a multidisciplinary team and are medically trained healthcare professionals. Here’s a look at how physician associates work and their various career options.
Fields that a PA can specialize
As an experienced physician associate, you might have the option of specializing in a wide variety of clinical fields. Some of these fields are:
- General practice
- Emergency medicine
- Hospital medicine
- General surgery
You can also move into other areas like medical teaching, management, and research.
As a PA, you can work in a hospital, a physician’s office, an outpatient clinic, or any other healthcare setting. You have the choice to work part-time or full-time, although most PAs prefer to work full time.
Over 50% of PAs work in physicians’ offices, and over 25% work in the state, local, and private hospitals. Less than 10% work in outpatient care centers, and less than 5% work in state/local/private educational services and employment services.
Salary of PAs in different settings
The salary you will earn as a PA will depend on various factors like your state and setting. PAs working in physicians’ offices tend to get paid the highest, followed by those working in hospital settings, outpatient care centers, and educational services.
The job outlook of a PA
The employment of PAs is predicted to grow a whopping 31%. That is much higher than the average of all other occupations. The need for physician associates to help with patient care will be on the rise because of:
- The healthcare industry growing exponentially
- An aging population
- An increase in chronic disease conditions
- Greater demand for healthcare professionals
States are slowly expanding the allowable procedures that a PA can conduct. Since they fit several roles (thanks to their extensive training), they are gaining popularity in the United States and Europe among healthcare policymakers. As we move into the future, team-based healthcare models will continue to evolve, and PAs will have to take on more duties in all areas of medicine.
There is an expected shortage of primary care doctors in the United States by 2030 because of a retiring workforce. The introduction of the PA workforce in outpatient settings will help make up for this shortage.
The myriad roles of a PA
Physician associates work on teams, and a physician or surgeon supervises them. The extent of supervision varies from one state to the next.
The type of work of a PA will depend a lot on their specialty. For example, a PA in the surgery might assist with closing incisions and providing preoperative and postoperative care.
In rural areas, PAs sometimes have to take on the role of primary care provider at the clinic because physicians are present only one or two days a week. While that means they have to work most of the week independently, it also means that they must collaborate with the physician as deemed by the law.
PAs are licensed to provide most of the services that physicians provide. For instance, they can take medical histories, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, make a diagnosis, prescribe medicines, and treat patients. They are also expected to continue to have a growing role in the healthcare industry because they can be trained much quicker than a physician.
Work schedules of a PA
As mentioned earlier, most PAs work full time, and some PAs work more than 40 hours per week, weekends, holidays, and nights. They could also be on-call, which means they will have to respond to emergencies with very little notice.
Careers related to physician associate
The following careers share the same duties, interests, skills, and for the most part, the same training with PAs. PAs can follow any of the following paths with additional training.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives
Advanced practice registered nurses provide primary and specialty healthcare and coordinate patient care.
EMTs and paramedics
Emergency medical technicians or paramedics respond and act quickly and provide excellent care in emergencies.
Physical therapists and occupational therapists
These professionals help treat injured or disabled individuals. They help with pain management and the entire rehabilitation process to help patients recover or improve.
Today, physician associates are recognized as a critical group of people needed to improve primary care performance in the United States. As a PA, you can work across a spectrum of medical specialties, and your role will be seen as an extension of a physician’s role. With an estimated shortage of over 45,000 doctors in the United States by 2025, your career options as a PA will keep getting better.
CME4Life is a United-States-based organization that provides innovative and engaging continuing medical education (CME) for medical professionals. CME4Life courses are designed unlike traditional teaching methods but instead focus on active engagement learning.