Becoming a Physician Assistant in Iowa
If you desire a career that will allow you to make a difference in the lives of others, becoming a physician assistant is one way to follow that calling. Physician assistants work all over the world and in many different settings. PAs serve individuals and families in rural areas, cities, and suburbs. As part of a physician-led team, PAs make a positive impact in their communities by providing competent, compassionate medical care to those in need.
Physician Assistant Duties
Physician assistants provide many vital medical services to patients under their care.
• Obtain medical history
• Perform physical exams
• Provide routine primary care
• Order and interpret diagnostic tests and lab work
• Diagnose and treat illness
• Help patients manage their diabetes and high blood pressure
• Provide patient education
• Write prescriptions
Although restrictions vary from state to state, physician assistants cannot perform surgery or other invasive procedures. They are also barred from writing certain types of prescriptions, such as prescriptions for controlled substances.
Like most professions, there are requirements that must be met before you can become a physician assistant. To become a physician assistant, you must
• Earn a bachelor’s degree
• Pass the GRE or MCAT
• Successfully complete a master’s degree program
• Pass a national certification exam
• Submit your documents to a state licensing board
Choose an undergraduate degree that will prepare you to successfully complete the master’s portion of your education, such as biology or premedical health sciences. In order to be accepted into the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, you will need at least a 3.0 GPA, a passing GRE or MCAT score, plus 1000 hours of direct patient healthcare experience.
Physician assistant schools in Iowa are usually part of a university’s school of medicine. They are typically master’s degree programs that prepare the student to treat and diagnose patients in a clinical setting. It is during your master’s program that you will choose your medical specialty. Physician assistants can specialize in pediatrics, family medicine, or many other specialties.
National Certification Exam
After successful completion of your master’s degree program, you will need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, or PANCE. Only students who have completed a master’s degree from an ARC-PA, Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, accredited program may sit for this exam, so make sure the program you choose is accredited. There are several physician assistant programs in Iowa. University of Iowa, Des Moines University, and St. Ambrose University offer master’s programs that are ARC-PA accredited.
To become a certified physician assistant, you must submit your application, transcripts, and PANCE scores to the Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Professional Licensure to obtain your initial license. Processing this paperwork can take as many as sixty days, so be patient.
Once you have become a physician assistant, the state of Iowa will require you to maintain your license. Every two years, you will need to complete continuing medical education courses related to your specialty field. Certain topics, such as mandatory reporting of child abuse, are required as part of the continuing medical education requirements. You will also be required to take a re-certification exam every five years.
Salary and Job Outlook
Physician assistant salary in Iowa averages about $90,000 annually. Nationally, there is an expected growth rate in jobs of about 38% through 2022. However, the medical field is expected to grow faster than other occupations because of the Affordable Care Act, and some are predicting a shortage of healthcare professionals in the next ten years.
Final Thoughts and Encouragement
Becoming a physician assistant takes determination and a commitment to work and study hard. It requires perseverance and becoming a lifelong learner. For those who want to leave a legacy of caring, these demands must be met with enthusiasm and courage. After all, your future patients are depending on you.