How to Become a Physician Assistant in Colorado
Physician assistants play an important role in the delivery of healthcare, especially in underserved areas where there are few medical doctors. Physician assistants, or PAs, provide a range of medical services under the supervision of a more advanced healthcare professional, usually a physician but sometimes a surgeon. PAs help to alleviate the demand upon the physician by seeing patients who have basic healthcare needs such as routine illnesses like influenza, providing childhood vaccinations, prescribing medications and ordering x-rays or other diagnostic tests. Nationally, PAs earn about $90,000 per year. The average physician assistant salary in Colorado is similar to the national average, with those working Denver and other metropolitan areas typically earning a higher salary than those in more rural areas. With the growing demand for healthcare services, there is also a growing demand for PAs.
The line between physician assistant and physician is not always clear, but physician assistants must work with the supervision and approval of a medical doctor. In Colorado, physician assistants are allowed to complete more complex job duties than in many other states. For example, Colorado allows PAs to participate in surgery and does not limit the types of prescriptions that a PA writes. In fact, PAs can even prescribe controlled substances in Colorado, as long as the PA is properly registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
To become a physician assistant in Colorado, a person will need to complete a master’s level, physician assistant program. PA programs of study generally last two or three years depending on the school. Upon completion of an approved program, a graduate will need to apply to the state of Colorado for a PA license. A number of medical organizations offer certifications for PAs in different areas of medicine. For example, a PA can obtain a certification in emergency medicine to prove that he or she is competent in that area of medicine.
PA Schools in Colorado
Before enrolling in one the PA schools in Colorado, a student will need to have completed a bachelor’s degree program. Though not required, most schools prefer students who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as nursing, biology or pre-med. Many students enrolling in a PA program will have some work experience in the medical field, usually as a registered nurse or as an emergency medical technician. Most PA programs in Colorado, and other states, are quite selective. Those interested in applying to be admitted to a PA program will need to have good undergraduate grades and a high Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test score.
Once a student graduates from a physician assistant program and obtains a license, the graduate will be required to find a medical doctor to supervise his or her work. In Colorado, a PA has 180 days after receiving a license to find a supervising doctor. PAs who do not find a supervising doctor in the 180 days will have their license become inactive and they will need to reapply for a new license. In addition to needed to be supervised to maintain a license, a PA will also be required to acquire continuing education credits over time to maintain a license. Credits are available from a number of different sources, including many of the schools that offer physician assistant programs in Colorado and other states.