How to Become a Physician Assistant in Maine
PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT DEFINED
A physician assistant (PA) is a health care practitioner who works under the supervision of a medical doctor. Physician assistants assume many of the same responsibilities as medical doctors. Some of their duties includes prescribing, advising and diagnosing medical conditions. PA(s) may also conduct minor medical procedures and complete hospital rounds.
Duties are largely based on the type of facility in which the physician assistant works. PA(s) may find employment in nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient facilities, correctional institutions and private practice. Responsibilities may also extend beyond health related protocols to include managerial duties.
Physician assistants must graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. These programs are generally 26 months or 2-3 years long. Some programs may also mandate the student have up to 2,000 hours of hands on, health related experience prior to being accepted.
Once educational requirements have been satisfied, the student must take and pass the Physician Assistant Certification Exam (PANCE). The PANCE consists of 300 multiple choice questions related to the medical field. Topics covered include disorders, disease and medical assessments. However, there are limitations to the number of times a student can take this exam.
As of January 1, 2003; applicants can take the PANCE up to six times or within six years of completing their education. If the exam is not successfully completed, the applicant must take an “unabridged ARC-PA program” to re-establish eligibility. The PANCE can only be taken once every 90 days or 3 times per year.
Continued education training mandates that physician assistants complete 100 hours of training every two years. Most of the courses can be completed online. The Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) is also required in the fifth or sixth year of certification maintenance. As of 2015, it is now required in the ninth and 10th year.
The PANRE is a 240 question exam that covers topics to include adult medications, surgery and primary care. Like the PANCE, it can only be taken every 90 days. However, the PANRE exam is limited to two times per year.
Due to increased health care regulation, chronic disease and a growing elderly population; employment opportunities within this profession are expected to see a 38% increase over the next 10 years. This translates into more than 120,000 jobs and easily outpaces the national average.
Leading medical professionals also forecast greater latitude given to physician assistants by insurance companies. Part of this motivation will be due to the fact that PA(s) are more cost effective than medical doctors.
More than half of all employment opportunities will be found with private health practitioners followed by hospitals and outpatient care facilities. Few opportunities will exist in government facilities. Geographically, most opportunities will be found in urban and rural areas where good health care is not as readily accessible.
SALARY AND COMPENSATION
As of 2012, the median physician assistant salary was more than $90,000 per year with some jobs paying more than $100,000 per year. Salary is generally dependent upon geographical location, education, training and experience.
Physician assistant salary in Maine is comparable to national averages. Median incomes within the state report approximately $84,000 per year to a maximum of nearly $110,000 per year. This is roughly $20,000 more than similar jobs within varying health disciplines and should encourage those considering physician assistant schools in Maine.
However, physician assistant programs in Maine are limited to the University of New England. This is a masters degree and is the only accredited program in the state. As with national forecasts, opportunities within the state are expected to increase significantly and provide stable career opportunities for those choosing this discipline. Physician assistants are the bridge between the community, medical profession and insurance companies. It is an ideal career for those who wish to practice medicine minus some of the demands typically associated with the field.