How To Become a Physician Assistant in South Carolina
The physician assistant field in South Carolina consists of a complex group of individuals capable of performing many medical tasks and procedures. The American Academy of Physician Assistants defines a physician assistant as “a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional.” From ordering and interpreting tests to the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, PAs work in every area of medicine ensuring patients receive appropriate medical care. Whether working collaboratively with physicians or independently, PAs are the backbone of many medical practices.
Prior Education Requirements
Individuals interested in entering the physician assistant programs in South Carolina must have a strong interest in their education. In order to begin a physician assistant program in South Carolina, it is recommended that the individual already have a bachelor’s degree as well as some background in the medical field. Emergency medical technicians as well as nurses often have a keen interest in becoming PAs and find an easy fit within this field, but candidates for this job come from other areas of study as well.
Physician assistants receive certification after formal training through a program approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (or ARC-PA.) THE ARC-PA ensures programs stand up to the rigorous standards set forth in order to become a PA within the United States and is the accrediting agency that ensures schools comply with the standards set forth.
Physician assistant programs usually consist of approximately 26 months of full study and are based off of two phases of study. In the first phase, students will learn in the classroom in regard to primary patient care. Through lectures and exams, students will study everything from gross anatomy to medical ethics. During the second phase of study, students will move into clinical rotations and will learn their duties first hand as they interact with patients and handle cases on a daily basis. While there is a succinct lack of physician assistant schools in South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina currently runs an accredited program for students.
After finishing both phases of the program, candidates must then pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (APANCE.) Individuals who pass this exam may then use the designation PA-C. In order to be a practicing physician assistant in the state of South Carolina, candidates must also pass the Medical Practice Act, a criminal background check, an Affidavit of Eligibility, and pay a $120 processing fee. Three letters of recommendation are also required within the state to operate as a practicing physician assistant.
PAs education does not stop after becoming certified. Instead, they are required to receive 100 continuing education credits every two years. PAs also must pass the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam every ten years. Due to the constant growth of knowledge and changes in the medical field, PAs must be dedicated in furthering their education long after they finish their initial training.
Physician Assistant Duties
PAs are multifaceted individuals capable of performing many healthcare procedures throughout numerous fields. A physician assistant may conduct physical exams, develop treatment plans, counsel patients on preventative care, assist in surgery, as well as specialize in various fields of medicine. PAs also work in the surgical field assisting the physician in patient care. These PAs enable the physicians to concentrate on more intricate cases and ensure more dedicated patient care.
Unlike the name suggests, however, physician assistants are not typically true ‘assistants’, but are capable of one-on-one patient care. PAs can prescribe medications, including narcotics (although a DEA registration may be required), and do not practice under a doctor’s license.
A physician assistant salary in South Carolina will vary depending upon location and the competitiveness of the local field. Salaries range from $70,000 to over $100,000 with a median salary near $85,000.
The physician assistant field is an exciting area of medicine that requires dedicated as well as motivated individuals. Due to the shorter schooling as well as the base salary, it is definitely an area to consider when one is interested in working within the world of medicine.