Earlier this year Glassdoor website named the Physician Assistant (PA) profession, as the #1 job in America. Glassdoor came to this consensus based on the earning potential for PAs, the future career outlook, and the number of job listings currently on the market. Glassdoor was not alone in their findings, Forbes also named the profession as the #1 most promising job of 2015.
Peter Kuemmel PA-C, chair of the Stony Brook Department of Physician Assistant Education said, “It’s wonderful to see the PA profession recognized in this way, but for me the reasons go well beyond salary and job availability. With the changes in our population and the health care system, combined with the shortage of physicians (especially in primary care), PAs are in a unique position to impact their patients, practices, communities, and the nation’s health in a dramatic way. That’s what makes the profession so exciting and rewarding.” While the PA profession has been evolving for over 50 years, recent changes in our healthcare system have propelled PAs to the forefront of our nation’s healthcare crisis. Although there are over 10,000 practicing PAs in NYS today, there are still a few questions that remain on people’s minds.
The most frequently asked question is, “what is physician assistant?” According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), “PAs are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice medicine on healthcare teams, with physicians and other providers.” Like physicians, PAs are able to diagnose and treat patients, from start to finish. Their tasks include taking medical histories, conducting physical exams, diagnosing diseases, ordering and interpreting tests, developing treatment plans, assisting in surgery, providing patient education and counseling, among many others. PAs practice in various clinical settings and in any field of medicine. In 2014 the top areas of PA practice were in: family medicine, orthopedic surgery, and emergency medicine.
In order to become a PA, one must undergo rigorous training. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passing of a PA National Certifying Exam known as the PANCE is mandatory. PAs also need to become licensed in their state(s) of practice. Thereafter, PAs are responsible for earning 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) credits every 2 years, and must pass a national recertifying exam every 10 years. Once certified and licensed, PAs receive on the job training in the field(s) of their interest.
The PA profession allows for a more flexible lifestyle, less financial debt, and more direct patient-provider interaction than many other medical professions.
Niti Misra PA-C, expressed the sentiments of many young PAs when she said, “The time, energy, and money spent on schooling to become a PA are well worth the rewards reaped. In a time where higher education is becoming more and more costly, it is important to choose a career path that will provide the best chance at getting a job, financial stability, and also be fulfilling. The PA profession offers all of that.”
At a time when so many physicians are suffering from “burn-out” and becoming overwhelmed by the new changes in healthcare, the PA profession offers a great balance between extraordinary patient care and provider satisfaction.
For more information, visit www.glassdoor.com.
Katherine Alexis Athanasiou is a physician assistant student (PA-S) at Stony Brook University.
*PA-C denotes certified physician assistant; PA-S denotes physician assistant student.