What Does A Physician Assistant Do?

Physician Assistant Job Description

Out of the several career options up for grabs in the medical industry, ‘Physician Assistant’ is one of the major ones. They usually work under their supervising Physicians, but don’t let the word “assistant’ in the name fool you. The work they do is comparable to any other type of doctor in the field. The skills required to become a PA and their whopping salaries both second this fact. But then the question arises – What exactly does a PA do?

First and foremost, it is important to understand the difference between a PA and Medical Assistant (MA). A PA primarily has clinical duties which are under the supervision of a physician. On the other hand, a medical assistant needs to perform both clinical and administrative duties. However, MAs do not practice medicine. The qualifications required to become a physician assistant are also significantly greater than that required to be a clinical assistant.

At a basic level, PAs examine, diagnose and treat their patients to the best of their abilities. Their usual duties include – taking or finding out the patient history, ordering diagnostic tests, counseling and examining patients and assessing their progress. They also treat minor illnesses and injuries, set casts and prescribe medicine from time to time.

The technical job details of a PA might vary according to the state laws and the supervising physician. Some physicians might be a bit more flexible on the job description and allow the PA to carry out a wide range of jobs. In most of the rural areas, where a licensed physician rarely visits, the primary health care expert is the PA. In such circumstances, they coordinate with their respective physicians as prescribed by the law and carry out the necessary duties of the physicians themselves.

A PA’s working hours depends mostly on their supervisor. They may be on duty early morning, late night or even weekends if the situation requires them to be. Many times, a PA also performs house calls to the people who cannot come down to the clinic themselves. Most of the times the physician assistant can also be “on call”. This means that he/she needs to report to work within a moment’s notice no matter where they are.

Most of the physician assistants enter as a General Practitioner. However, they can choose to enter a specialization to further hone their skills and earn some extra cash at the same time. Depending on what their specializations are, their job descriptions vary a lot. Some of these specializations are –

1. Urgent Care
A PA working under urgent care usually tends to patients who need immediate attention. Their lives literally depend on it. Due to these high-risk circumstances, such PAs are usually paid north of $130,000.

2. Primary care
A PA specializing in primary care usually deals with pediatrics, family medicine, and many other specializations. It helps one keep their skills sharp as they need to perform a wide range of procedures frequently. However, it does not pay as much as the other specializations.

3. Emergency room
A PA working in the emergency room deals with a lot of high-risk patients. The number of stable patients is higher, who are usually in there for some minor illnesses. Being in the emergency room, one learns to think on their feet and serve a lot of patients at the same time. The pay offered to ER PAs is considerably high – about $115,000.

4. Dermatology
Due to the increase in the number of cases of skin cancer and the demand for cosmetic procedures, the field of dermatology is growing rapidly. This attracts PAs since the average pay of someone in this field is around $127,000.

5. Surgery
A PA opting for surgery as specialization can choose to specialize in a wide range of surgeries including neurosurgery, cardiothoracic or orthopedic surgery. This sector is slowly growing too due to the increase in the number of elderly people. Specializing in surgery, one can easily earn a six-figure salary.

Now that you know what a PA does and the different types of them out there, you can choose which best suits you. Always remember that such jobs always come with their own ups and downs. So, choose wisely and live well.