Physician Assistants Are Highly Trained Professionals
by Robert Litton
There have been dramatic changes in the medical industry over the past few decades. The time-honored concept of creating a solo practice has been overtaken by the need for medical center teams, or related groups of doctors. Fewer new physicians choose general family practices, opting instead for specialization. These changes and others created the need for physician assistants, who handle many of the routine problems patients bring to the office.
Training programs for this job category began during the mid-1960s. At that time, the United States suffered from an uneven distribution of qualified medical personnel, actually leaving some areas of the country nearly without established medical facilities or doctors. Military medical specialists were the first participants, and their return to the civilian health care field was based on training practices established during the Second World War.
Today, most doctors rely heavily upon the work of similar aides. A modern medical office must remain in business by providing cost-effective care that moves people in and out efficiently. Medical support personnel are integral in making this process work in a professional, but patient-oriented manner. While some people might wonder why they are seeing an assistant rather than the actual doctor, the reasons soon become apparent.
The individuals doing these jobs are fully licensed health care professionals. They are allowed to make critical medical decisions under the supervision of their team leader, and can essentially practice medicine with certain limitations. They have the ability to conduct physical examinations, order any necessary tests, provide advice on preventive practices, and assist during surgery.
They may also now legally write prescriptions in all states. In reality, assistants today often handle many routine appointments that were typically completed by a doctor in the past. Complicated or unusual cases, however, are nearly always referred to specialists, or the supervising physician. While these aides are well qualified, limits to the scope of treatment that they are allowed to provide vary by state.
Becoming an assistant is not a casual undertaking. A bachelor’s degree is standard, in addition to completion of a thorough medical training program. Education is based on a model similar to that used in traditional doctor training, and the initial courses last two to three years. Many students go on to participate in graduate programs ultimately leading to a master’s degree, or to earn doctorates in related medical fields.
Graduation is the first step toward official certification. The process confirms that all required courses have been successfully completed, in addition to passing a basic test given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, which represents workers in several different medical categories. In addition, every two years assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education, as well as repeating the certification test after six years.
The modern relationship between physician assistants and doctors is that of a team. The current medical system is often overworked and understaffed, with few same-day visits available. A highly trained assistant makes it possible to schedule and keep appointments in a more timely fashion, in addition to rapidly receiving necessary tests, x-rays or medications. When necessary, treatment can be handed over to the actual doctor on call.
To find out more about Physician Assistant jobs in your area check out physician assistant jobs