How to Become a Physician Assistant in Oregon
Have you ever considered the medical field as a profession but dreaded spending the next 8 to 15 years (depending on specialty) in medical school? Why not consider a career as a highly paid physician assistant?
While the education requirements for a physician assistant are very similar to those of a nurse practitioner, because the physician assistant is more likely to work in a doctor’s office than in a hospital, the work schedule is more predictable and manageable than it is for a nurse practitioner, and the educational requirement and the pay are virtually equal. While the duties of a nurse practitioner and the physician assistant are quite similar, the nurse practitioner is legally allowed to work independently, while the physician assistant must work under the observation of a licensed physician. Some of the duties include taking medical history from patients, conducting physical exams, diagnosis, ordering and interpreting tests, developing treatment plans, counseling on preventive care, in many cases assisting in surgery, and writing prescriptions. While uncommon in hospital settings, they can also make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes.
If you have decided to go down this path, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are interested in becoming a physician assistant in Oregon:
In addition to an undergraduate degree, as a physician assistant in Oregon, you are also required to obtain post-baccalaureate training that typically lasts between 23 and 30 months from a training program that is approved by the American Medical Association Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA), and there are many physician assistant programs in Oregon that fit the bill quite well. Physician assistant programs in Oregon generally take an average of 26 months of full-time study to complete. For first-year students, the focus is mainly on classroom instruction in medical science and clinical preparation. In many physician assistant schools in Oregon, many of the prescribed courses required may include pathology, pediatrics, diagnosis, surgical technique, emergency medicine, pharmacology, and research methods. Applying to physician assistant schools or programs in Oregon can be very competitive, so it is always a good idea to start applying while still an undergraduate; and it will not hurt to take any or all of the following courses if possible, such as chemistry, physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and biology. Afterward, the curriculum shifts to an exploration of the various disciplines, such as general surgery, gynecology and behavioral medicine, which will help you gain first-hand experience in patient care under the supervision of licensed physicians. Once the training program is completed, the physician assistant must be certified in the State of Oregon by filing the necessary documentation with the Oregon Medical Board.
Unlike most other master’s programs, physician assistants can put in an average of 27 months of graduate school and get paid at much higher levels than other master’s program graduates. The prospects in this profession are bright, with a faster than average job growth of 30% for physician assistants through the 2010-2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Based on the Forbes 2014 list of highest paid master’s degrees, the physician assistants master’s program was rated as the one with the most value for at least four of the last five years; and a physician assistant job applicant is almost guaranteed immediate employment opportunities long-term, with nearly unlimited options, in a field with an astonishing $97,000 annual national median pay! While the Physician assistant salary in Oregon is slightly below average at $85,000, it is still significantly above the average than it is for other master’s programs, and you will get the most bang for the buck, if you will. But keep in mind that as a physician assistant in Oregon, you will be required to be licensed by the state. And, along with the completion of the aforementioned accredited training program, the licensing process will also entail passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). PANCE, which is sanctioned and administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), will evaluate the fundamental medical and surgical comprehension. Candidates who pass the PANCE may use the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) designation.
Physician assistants must maintain the PA-C designation by earning 100 continuing education credits every two years, and they are also required to pass the Physician Assistant National Re-certifying Exam every six years. PA-Cs are subject to re-certification and testing fees.
But whatever the challenges are for this profession, the one thing that is certain is that if you have a passion and a genuine compassion for others, and you intuitively feel this calling, a career as a physician assistant can be extremely rewarding, both emotionally and financially.