How to Become a Physician Assistant in Arkansas
Physician assistants have become very valuable in the medical profession due not only to their knowledge but also their ability to allow more patient care. Although they provide medical care like physicians, physician assistants are not required to attend school as long as physicians. Continue reading and learn more about becoming a physical assistant in Arkansas.
Physician Assistant Requirements
In addition to the required education listed below, physician assistants (PA) must be at least 18 years old and must submit to fingerprint and criminal background checks. Most PA programs require the applicant have some healthcare-related work experience prior to application or enrollment. Arkansas requires that aspiring physician assistants apply to a physician assistant program in Arkansas through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
Is Any Prior Education or Training Required?
To become a physician assistant in Arkansas, an individual must have at least a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or a related science field. However, most physician assistants have master degrees. Many PAs start their careers as registered nurses, paramedics or EMTs and enroll in a physician assistant training program. In order to be eligible for certification, the program must be accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA).
Physician assistant programs in Arkansas consist of classroom courses, lab studies and supervised clinical rotations. During the rotations, the student will gain practical experience working in various areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, emergency medicine and family medicine, among others. Courses the PA student can expect include pathology, physiology, medical ethics, physical diagnosis, general medicine, anatomy and clinical medicine. According to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA), there are only two accredited physician assistant schools in Arkansas. The two schools are Harding University and the University of Arkansas.
Are Physician Assistants Required to be Certified?
Like all other states, Arkansas requires physician assistants be licensed before they can practice. In order to obtain a license, the individual must show proof of completing an accredited PA program and must pass a certification exam through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. The Physician Assistant National Certification Examination is a computer-based test that can be taken at one of 200 approved testing sites.
Is Continuing Education Necessary?
Continuing education is required to maintain both licensure and certification. To satisfy the state’s licensing requirements, the PA must complete 20 hours each year. The certification period is ten years, which are broken into five 2-year periods. The PA must complete 100 hours of continuing education in each 2-year period. At the end of the ten years, the PA must have completed 500 hours of CE and then must take a recertification exam.
Physician Assistant Salary in Arkansas
As indicated in a May 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physician assistants across the nation earned an average annual wage of $92,970 with salaries ranging as low as $62,000 and as high as $130,000 or more. The physician assistant salary Arkansas PAs earned in 2013 was $79,350, substantially lower than the national average.
Wages can be affected by different factors such as years of experience, level of training, place of employment and geographic location. For instance, physician assistants in Pine Bluff earned an average annual wage of $84,520 while PAs working in Fort Smith earned $80,394 as of February 2013, according to Salary.com. During that same period, PAs in Jonesboro and Fayetteville earned $85,833 and $77,834, respectively.
Physician Assistant Job Duties
Physician assistants have job duties that are very similar to a licensed physician. The only difference is that the physician oversees the PA’s work. Some of the PA’s duties include the following:
• Reviewing patients’ medical histories
• Examining patients
• Providing diagnoses regarding illness or injuries
• Interpreting diagnostic tests
• Providing treatment
• Prescribing medication
• Counseling patients and family members about condition and treatment options
• Promoting health wellness
• Order medical supplies
• Giving immunizations
What Tasks is a Physician Assistant Legally Allowed to Perform?
Although physician assistants can do almost the same things a doctor can do, it’s important to remember that physician assistants must be under the supervision of licensed physicians and must provide a list of all physicians they are working under if asked. In addition, they can perform certain tasks only if certain conditions are met. For instance, a PA cannot own a medical clinic. The Arkansas physician assistant can only take x-rays if he or she is a certified Limited Licensed Radiologic Technologist. The physician assistant must have a valid Arkansas DEA permit before he or she can prescribe schedule prescriptions. Because they are working under the supervision of licensed physicians, PAs are not required to carry malpractice insurance.