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Physician Assistant Programs in Alabama

How to Become a Physician Assistant in Alabama

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, provide medical treatment to patients under the supervision of licensed physicians. If this type of career appeals to you, continue reading and learn how to become a physician assistant in Alabama, including state requirements and the various physician assistant programs in Alabama.

Educational Requirements for Physician Assistants

Physician assistants are usually graduates of master degree programs. Most PAs possess a bachelor’s degree and have healthcare-related work experience prior to enrolling in a physical assistant training program. Many physician assistants have started their careers as paramedics, EMTs or registered nurses. The actual physical assistant program generally takes at least two years to complete. Students complete a curriculum that includes classroom courses, laboratory classes and supervised clinical training in the form of internships. Students can expect to complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in various areas of medicine.

Course topics may include pharmacology, physiology, pathology, medical ethics and clinical medicine. Physician assistant students take many of the same type of prerequisite courses as medical students. Some may also specialize in specific areas of medicine such as internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics or emergency medicine. Alabama requires that the PA training programs be accredited by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Although there are about 170 accredited physician assistant programs nationwide, there are only three accredited physician assistant schools in Alabama. These schools are University of Alabama at Birmingham, Oakwood University and University of South Alabama.

Are Physician Assistants Required to be Certified?

Physician assistants are required to be licensed in all the states including Alabama. In addition, the physician is required by state law to be registered with the state’s medical board. To be eligible for licensure, the candidate must pass a national certification exam. This computer-based exam, called the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination, is administered through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Upon passing the exam, the individual may use the Physician Assistant – Certified credential. The state of Alabama also requires applicants to provide fingerprints and submit to criminal background checks.

Is Continuing Education Necessary?

Physician assistant licenses must be renewed annually and the applicant must have completed at least 25 hours of continuing education. National certification, however, is good for ten years. To maintain certification, the PA must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years. The recertification examination must be taken every ten years. For purposes of CE, the ten years is broken into five 2-year periods and the 100 hours must be completed in each of the five 2-year periods, and at the end of the ten-year period, the PA must take the recertification examination, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. .

Physician Assistant Salary

Physician assistant salaries may vary from city to city. Other factors that may affect earnings are place of employment, level of training and years of experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that physician assistants nationwide earned an average annual wage of $92,970 as of May 2013. The lowest ten percent earned $62,030 and the highest ninety percent earned $130,620. The average annual wage for PAs in Alabama was $89,540 in 2013. Based on the information provided by the BLS, the physician assistant salary Alabama offers is slightly less than the national average. According to the BLS, there were 400 physician assistants employed in Alabama in 2013.

Physician Assistant Job Duties

Physician assistants have much of the same duties as a physician except they work as part of a team and must be under the supervision of licensed physicians. As such, the PA may assess patients’ medical histories, perform physical exams, make diagnoses regarding illness or injury, prescribe medication when necessary, research possible treatments, counsel and educate both the patient and his or her family, provide general treatment, interpret diagnostic tests such as blood tests or imaging tests and give immunizations. Many of a physician assistant’s duties may depend on the type of medicine they practice, such as pediatrics or emergency medicine, among others.

What Tasks is a Physician Assistant Legally Allowed to Perform?

Although this may vary by location and employment, physicians can legally perform almost the same tasks that would be performed by a physician. Physician assistants working in rural areas may even make house calls or act in the role of primary care provider. Physician assistants are considered a valuable asset to medical facilities because they help provide more health care for patients while keeping costs down as low as possible. Their ability to act in the role of physician but at a lower cost is what makes PAs such a valuable commodity in the healthcare industry.