How do I become a Physicians Assistant

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					Career: Physician Assistant

Career Guide

Office of Health Professions Advising

Physician Assistant (PA)
What is a PA?
PAs are graduates of accredited PA programs and are licensed by the state to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. Originally PA programs were created to train former military corpsmen to practice medicine and provide care for people with limited access to health care. In recent years, the field has opened to people from all backgrounds. PAs can perform such duties as physical exams, diagnosing and treating illness, ordering and interpreting lab tests, suturing wounds, assisting in surgery, providing patient education and counseling, and making rounds in hospitals. Nearly 40% of PAs practice in hospital settings. An equal number work in group and solo-physician offices. The rest are found in rural and community health centers, nursing homes, surgical facilities, school and college-based health centers, industry, and correctional facilities. All states now authorize PAs to prescribe medication.

How do I become a PA?
To attend one of the accredited PA programs, you will need a bachelor’s degree with any major of your choice as long as you have the appropriate prerequisite courses (see next page). Generally you need considerable health care experience (hands on patient care) to be admitted to most programs (some schools require as much as 2000 hours). Once in a program, you will study basic sciences, behavioral sciences, and clinical medicine. Training is competency based so the focus of the graduate education is to provide quality medical care. More than 2000 hours are spent in clinical rotations including specialties in family medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, psychiatry, and obstetrics/gynecology. Once your clinical training is finished, you must pass the national PA certification exam and be licensed in your state. Most programs take 24-27 months.

What is the job outlook?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “physician assistants rank among the fastest growing occupations, as physicians and health care institutions increasingly utilize physician assistants to contain costs.” Some studies have shown that PAs save as much as 20% of the costs of medical care and can perform at least 80% of the functions in an ambulatory care practice. This means that the field will continue to grow as we seek ways to cut health care costs. Average starting salary for a PA is $71,000.

Career: Physician Assistant

What prerequisite courses do I need?
Although PA programs do not have a standard set of requirements, many similarities in their requirements do exist. The initial courses are similar to other professional health care fields such as MD programs, but some further courses are required. Most schools require:
Note: As of Fall 2008, most Purdue course numbers now end in 00—example CHM 11500—or with another 2 digit number.
Biology Intro Biology Anatomy & Physiology Microbiology General Organic Biochemistry General Composition BIOL 110-111 or 131 plus 270/271 and additional upper level (total 8 hrs) BIOL 203-204 or 301-302 (usually need 8 hours) BIOL 221 or 438-439 CHM 115-116 or equivalent CHM 255/255L-256/256L or equivalent CHM 561 or 333 or BCHM 307 PSY 120—some schools also like abnormal psych and developmental ENGL 106 or 108—some schools require a second English course

Chemistry

Psychology English

Programs may also require or recommend communications courses, statistics, physics, public speaking, medical terminology, and medical ethics. Because course requirements can vary substantially between programs, you should look at possible programs to which you would like to apply early in your academic career to make sure you meet their requirements.

What else do I need to do before I apply?
You need to shadow a PA to make sure this is the right field for you and that you truly understand what it is that a PA does. Most programs also require significant hands-on patient experience. This means that you should have worked in a health care setting doing, for example, jobs such as phlebotomy, certified nurse assisting, or working as an EMT. Many applicants to these programs are also coming from fields such as physical therapy, pharmacy and nursing.

How do I apply?
The initial application to most PA programs is through an online application service called the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Your letters of reference may be submitted electronically and you are responsible for sending all of your college transcripts (along with a transcript request form) to CASPA for verification. Your online application will also include an application essay. Early application is recommended.

Where can I get more information?
American Academy of Physician Assistants CASPA Programs in Indiana University of Saint Francis Butler University http://www.aapa.org https://portal.caspaonline.org/ http://www.sf.edu/healthscience/pa/ http://www.butler.edu/cophs/

For more information about Physician Assistant programs or your interests in the health professions, contact the Health Professions Advisor, Amy Terstriep, Ph.D., at 765-494-4747 or prehealth@purdue.edu.

Career: Physician Assistant
Information for this career guide came from the above websites and the Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos081.htm.
ALT 8/08


				
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