Author: Caroline Schmidt
Are you looking for a career in medicine where you have many of the same tasks as a doctor but you don’t want to go through medical school and a long residency? If this sounds like you, a Physician Associate is a career you may want to consider.
You may have never heard the term Physician Associate before, and that is because the AAPA (American Academy of PAs) voted to change the tile of the job from Physician Assistant. This name change process started in 2018 when marketing research was done to determine the best title for this profession. The title change is not finalized, and it will take years to implement this change. One of the reasons that thousands of PAs voted on the title change was to correct the stereotype that the level of care they provide is below what physicians do. In reality, the PA job was created to help fill the Physician shortage 60 years ago, and they are just as capable of providing quality health care as a doctor.
According to the AAPA, “PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal health care provider.” PAs perform different tasks depending on their specialties, but all provide holistic care. They all work collaboratively with doctors and other medical professionals. They practice medicine in medical settings such as hospitals, workplace clinics, and sometimes even in federal government agencies. One of the perks of this career is that it is not very difficult to change specialties. They receive a very well rounded education in general and surgical medicine, so 6-7 percent of PAs change their specialty every year. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, PAs were able to jump in and help where they were needed. The outlook for this career is very good. Between 2011-2014, their demand increased by 300 percent.
One of the differences between doctors and PAs is that while medical school is four years, and they also complete additional years of residency. PA school is 27 months. Their schooling includes a didactic curriculum in which they take medical courses. There is also a clinical part where they perform 2,000 hours worth of clinical rotations. While PAs have lower salaries and less prestige than a doctor, they have good work life balances while still being able to professionally practice medicine.
Image Sources: https://www.acep.org/administration/personnel--team-management/statement-on-pa-name-change/