What is a Physician Assistant?
15 December 2009
A physician assistant is someone who is a medical practitioner working under the guidance of a licensed senior physician. The PA is completely different from a medical assistant because medical assistants do not possess the qualifications possessed by a PA. Also, a medical practitioner does only simple tasks like administering intravenous injections on advice from physician\physician assistant, administrative duties such as looking after the hospital/clinical ward, maintaining cleanliness, silence, etc. The PA is in fact a health care professional just like a doctor performing varied health care duties like treating an illness, conducting physical examinations on patients, prescribing medicines to the patients and provides assistance to his senior physician during complex surgeries. Sometimes he himself may carry out a simple surgery with guidance from his senior pro. They also counsel patients and educate them about a particular disease.
Therefore it is appropriate to consider a physician assistant a subordinate doctor. One example of a Physician Assistant is the Respiratory Therapist (RT) who treats, diagnoses and counsels patients with respiratory illness.The physician assistant as a profession is a noble one just like a medical practitioner with a doctorate degree and is one of the fastest growing fields in terms of popularity among the masses and in terms of the employment opportunities. The physician assistant profession has been named as the fifth best job in America on the basis of a survey on employment opportunities and the ROI (return of investment). The most distinct feature of a physician assistant or associate is that he/she does not need the same training as that of a doctor does in order to achieve a stable position in his/her career. A doctor has to study for a minimum of five to six years in order to attain his medical degree and another two years of training called as internship.
All these factors are not a a hindrance in the case of a physician assistant. The course duration of a physician assistant merely takes two or three years and afterwards he is free to train or practice medicine under any registered medical practitioner without any internship program or a residency program. This training can also be done on his terms. He/she can train under the practitioner in person or through communication i.e. (telephone, mail etc). Thus a physician assistant enjoys all the benefits of a doctor without being a doctor himself and yet he will be recognized as a doctor himself once he gets his own license and becomes an expert in his field of work. This expertise is dependent on the skills of the PA himself. He can obtain his license within a short period, say two years if he is skilled enough to grasp everything regarding the medical profession. On the whole, physician assistant as a career is best suited for people who are unable to accomplish their dreams of being a doctor/physician.