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Physician Assistant

Physician assistants practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the health care team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x rays, and make diagnoses. They also treat minor injuries, by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

Hours: The workweek of hospital-based PAs may include weekends, nights, or early morning hospital rounds to visit patients. These workers also may be on call. PAs in clinics usually work a 40-hour week.

Opportunities: More than half of jobs for PAs were in the offices of physicians. About a quarter were in hospitals, public or private. The rest were mostly in outpatient care centers, including health maintenance organizations; the Federal Government; and public or private colleges, universities, and professional schools. A few were self-employed.

Pay: Median annual earnings of wage-and-salary physician assistants were $74,980.

Training: Physician assistant programs usually last at least 2 years. Admission requirements vary by program, but many require at least 2 years of college and some health care experience. All States require that PAs complete an accredited, formal education program and pass a National exam to obtain a license.

Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition , Physician Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos081.htm (visited July 22, 2009 ).

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