How to Become a Physician Assistant in Minnesota
What is a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant is a health care professional who practices medicine on teams with other health care professionals such as physicians. The main difference between physician assistants and doctors is that physician assistants must always work on a team with at least one supervising doctor. Physician assistants are allowed a wide range of responsibilities and duties including taking medical histories, conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, developing treatment plans, ordering and interpreting medical tests, assisting in surgery, writing prescriptions and making rounds in nursing homes and hospitals. Physician assistants work in a number of different health care settings. They can be found in not only hospitals and physician offices but also in schools, community health centers, correctional facilities, the military and federal institutions.
How to Become a Physician Assistant
To become a physician assistant in Minnesota, students must first complete an undergraduate degree. While the undergraduate degree can be in any subject, students wishing to become physician assistants will need to take prerequisite courses in psychology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, medical terminology and statistics. Prospective physician assistants are also advised to gain health care experience before applying to a physician assistant program. Health care experience can be gained through a number of ways including volunteering at a hospital, working as an emergency medical technician, working as a paramedic and working as a medical assistant.
All physician assistant programs in MN offer master’s level degrees to students seeking to become physician assistants. Currently, there are three physician assistant schools in Minnesota: Augsburg College, Bethel University and St. Catherine’s University. Physician assistant programs offered by these three school last from 27 months to 31 months. The first half of all programs is dedicated to coursework in subjects such as human medical physiology, pharmacology, patient assessment and diagnostic and medical problem solving. The second half of these physician assistant programs places students in clinical rotations to allow students to apply their classroom knowledge in real patient settings.
After students graduate from an accredited physician assistant program, they will need to pass the national Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. To maintain this certification, physician assistants will need to log at least 50 hours of continuing medical education every two years.
Physician Assistant Salary in Minnesota and Job Outlook
In Minnesota, the average salary for a physician assistant is $99,960 a year. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the field will grow by 38 percent by 2022. The demand for physician assistants is driven by the increased demand of health care services. Because physician assistants can perform many of the same job duties as doctors and because more and more doctors are moving into specialties, physician assistants will begin to fill the need in primary care providers. For hospitals and clinics, hiring more physician assistants who can perform many of the same primary care duties as a doctor is much more cost-effective. The Affordable Care Act will also help drive the demand for physician assistants as more Americans will be able to obtain routine health care.