Program Spotlight: Pursuing a Career as a Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) have become one of the most desired healthcare professionals. PAs enjoy a collaborative team approach to patient-centered care, a fair work life balance and a low unemployment rate. With an average annual salary of more than $100,000 and an anticipated growth rate of 30 percent from 2014 through 2024 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), becoming a PA is an attractive career path for those interested in the healthcare field.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

A physician assistant is a licensed healthcare professional who practices medicine under the supervision of a physician. They are typically part of healthcare teams, working alongside physicians, surgeons, nurses and other healthcare professionals. PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, assist in surgery and counsel on preventative healthcare. PAs can also issue prescriptions in all 50 states.

Where Do Physician Assistants Work?

PAs work in a variety of medical settings. They can be found in primary care doctor offices, hospitals, health center clinics and military/Veterans’ Administration facilities. While PAs are training to be healthcare generalists, they can work in any specialty area, from dermatology to psychiatry.

Qualifications to Become a Physician Assistant

Those interested in becoming PAs must attain a certification by passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. They must also complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years in order to retain their license. A recertification exam is required every 10 years.

Salus University Physician Assistant Studies Program

Housed in the College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation (CHER), the Physician Assistant Studies program instruction is rooted in the University’s mission to provide students with excellent clinical training, focused on evidence-based medicine theory and holistic patient care. Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a Master of Medical Science degree (MMS).

The first year incorporates extensive didactic training along with foundational knowledge through small group and problem-based learning experiences. Students are provided with early pre-clinical experiences to reinforce their classroom instruction. The second year is devoted entirely to clinical rotations in emergency medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, prenatal/women’s health, pediatrics, behavioral/mental health and family medicine/primary care. Students also have the ability to deepen their specialty knowledge through two elective clinical rotations.

The Salus University PA program is a competitive, 25-month, full-time program that emphasizes a strong basic science and pathophysiology foundation, building an understanding — not just recognition — of disease processes and clinical medicine. PA students graduate as vital healthcare providers with an in-depth knowledge of not just how to care for patients, but also how to care about them from a holistic point of view.