How to Become a Physician Assistant in Indiana
In today’s world, the job market is growing tighter and tighter. Therefore, it is imperative for those graduating from college or switching careers to make smart decisions. Many people enter healthcare professions due to the strong demand for many of them, and the job of physician assistant is no exception. With expected job growth of almost 40 percent between now and 2022, it’s one career that is gaining more and more attention. Job opportunities are expected to be plentiful in many parts of the United States, with Midwestern states such as Indiana expected to have many job openings. For students who may be interested in physician assistant programs in Indiana, there are many fine ones from which to choose.
What Duties Can a Physician Assistant Perform?
Working under the supervision of a doctor, physician assistants provide direct medical care to patients in a variety of settings. Most work in physician’s offices and hospitals, while others may be employed in nursing homes or assisted-living centers. Typical duties they may perform include prescribing medications, ordering diagnostic tests such as blood work or x-rays, giving physical exams, immunizing patients and even assisting surgeons by closing incisions or helping patients with broken arms or legs. As many rural areas lose physicians to retirement and have difficulty attracting new doctors, many physician assistants actually serve as primary care physicians in these offices. However, they are still required by law to consult with a licensed physician prior to beginning treatment on a patient, so many offices now rely on live video conferencing to connect a PA with a doctor.
How Much Education is Required to be a PA?
To become a physician assistant, it all begins with earning a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although a degree in any subject is acceptable, it is recommended students interested in this field obtain a degree in such fields as nursing, biology, chemistry, medical technology or other related field of study. Because most PA programs expect students to have prior medical experience, many students opt to volunteer as emergency medical technicians or gain experience in hospitals before enrolling in a PA program.
After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, students can enter a two-year PA Master’s degree program, where they will have a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. Subjects studied will include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, clinical medicine and medical law and ethics. These programs are very demanding and difficult to get accepted into, so students should have high grade-point averages, a high score on the Graduate Record Examination and amass as much related experience as possible. In addition, students should make sure their program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Within Indiana, Butler University in Indianapolis offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in the field, and is considered one of the best physician assistant schools in Indiana as well as the United States.
Physician Assistant Certification
Upon graduating from an accredited program, physician assistants must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, better known as PANCE. The exam is a tough one, consisting of 300 multiple-choice questions and taking almost five hours to complete. Students can take the exam up to six times over six years, but if they fail to pass after six tries they must complete another educational program before trying again. Upon successful completion, the student is given the title of Physician Assistant-Certified, or PAC.
Continuing education is a must in this field, with most physician assistants being required to complete a minimum of 100 hours every two years and successfully pass a recertification exam every ten years.
Physician Assistant Salary
When researching a physician assistant salary Indiana fares quite well among other states in the nation. Entry-level salaries average $46,310 per year, and the average annual salary for those with several years experience is slightly over $79,000. For those physician assistants who have many years of experience and are highly-skilled in such specialties as surgery, the average salary can exceed $102,000 per year. Most jobs are full-time, though some part-time jobs are available. For those positions, average wages exceed $44 per hour.
Between the long hours, being on-call at times, the rigors of continuing education and much more the job of physician assistant is one that requires much time, effort and commitment in order to succeed. However, for those who enjoy helping others who are suffering with illnesses and want a career that enables them to work with some of the best doctors in the world, being a physician assistant is a job they embrace with passion and a level of dedication unlike many other careers. So for those who don’t mind hard work, the rewards and satisfaction that come from this job make it one of the best career choices available.