Physician Assistant Training
A physician assistant is a medical professional that works as an integral part of a health care team. The physician assistant training is provided in the medical model, unlike nurse practitioner’s that are educated in advanced nursing. The term “mid-level practitioner” applies specifically to a federal designation that refers to drug prescription practice. Another commonly used term for physician assistant’s is “physician extender.”
Physician assistant education follows a similar path as traditional physician education. An initial baccalaureate degree is usually required to apply to a physician assistant program. After four years of undergraduate study, usually, but not necessarily in the sciences, an additional two years in an American Medical Association (AMA) accredited physician assistant program is required to be eligible to sit for the national board certification examination.
Most physician assistant programs are offered by institutions that also provide physician training, but there are programs not associated with medical schools. Most graduates of physician assistant training programs receive a Master’s degree, although some programs offer additional degrees based on an individual’s educational background or a certificate.
A typical physician assistant program involves one year consisting of three semesters of didactic study in the classroom. During this time, medical science is taught including biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, clinical medicine, abnormal psychiatry, anatomy and physiology. In addition, necessary course work to enhance medical practice is provided by courses including communication, medical sociology and medical ethics.
The second year of Physician Assistant training is all clinical experience. Rotations through each of the medical and surgical specialties perfecting skills such as history taking, physical examination, evaluation of diagnostic studies, and diagnosis and treatment are accomplished. Additional experience in sub-specialties can also be undertaken as electives in any areas of personal interest. Residency programs vary in length of training.
After successful graduation from an A.M.A. approved program of physician assistant training, the individual must sit for the national exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This examination is offered twice yearly and is required by all states to become licensed as a physician assistant. A recertification examination is required to maintain NCCPA certification every seven years. In addition, state licensure requires continuing medical education credits, approved by the AMA, to renew a state license.
Following successful certification by the NCCPA, there are physician assistant residencies available to those that desire post-graduate physician assistant training in a medical or surgical specialty. A successful graduate of a surgical residency uses the title S.A.C., Surgical Assistant Certified. Other residencies include emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, cardio-thoracic surgery, and radiology among others.
Physician Assistant Training Conclusion
Physician assistant training produces a medical professional that requires an association with a physician but not direct supervision. Within the requirements of practice, a physician assistant may only provide care that they are educated and experienced to provide. In addition, they may only provide services that the supervising physician is qualified to provide and allows the Physician Assistant to provide. Physician assistant training produces physician extenders.
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