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Physician Assistant Programs in Virginia

How to Become a Physician Assistant in Virginia

Physician assistants work hand in hand with doctors to provide patients the best medical care. They assist doctors in diagnosing patients and creating a treatment plan for various conditions and illnesses. They usually work in at a primary care facility.

Physician Assistant Requirements
In order to consider becoming a physician assistant, a student must have a minimum of two years college coursework under their belt, and the coursework must be in basic and behavioral sciences—a similar program to pre-med. Most students entering a PA program should have studied chemistry, anatomy, microbiology, physiology and biology. Before applying to a PA program, a student should have patient care experience as a medical assistant, paramedic, lab assistant, registered nurse, emergency room technician or a surgical technician. Before applying for a PA program, students generally have a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience in the healthcare field.

Is Any Prior Education or Training Required?
Students must have a bachelor’s degree or two years in a program designed to advance the student to a PA program. A physician assistant must also obtain a master’s from an accredited program that specializes in PA training. Students must also become certified physicians assistants and get licensed in the state they plan to practice in. There are several physician assistant programs in Virginia that students can choose from.

Are Physician Assistants Required to be Certified?
In addition to completing the required coursework and graduating from a master’s program, a prospective candidate must also be certified in the state of Virginia. After becoming certified, the candidate must also obtain a license from the state of Virginia and hold an approved practice application. In order to get the application approved, the candidate is advised to obtain the license first. Virginia does not collect a fee to take the first practice application; however, if the candidate must retake the test for any reason, he or she must pay $15 for each additional practice application. The wait time is three to five business days.

For candidates who are interested in practicing on a temporary license, Virginia does not offer temporary licenses; however, some candidates may be eligible for a provisional licensure, which is valid until the candidate can take the NCCPA exam.

For physician assistants who want to prescribe medications, Virginia requires 35 hours’ worth of training pharmacology. Physician assistants must request authority to write prescriptions under the supervision of the physician the PA plans to work under.

How Can a Physician Assistant Become Certified
The candidate must take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which is a multiple-choice test that determines the candidate’s knowledge of medicine and surgery. The test is taken via computer.
Before taking the certification test, the candidate must show proof of a degree from an accredited program. To be considered an accredited program, the educational institution must have been accredited at the time the student matriculated.

Is Continuing Education Necessary?
There are plenty of physician assistant schools in Virginia, and assistants must have a master degree, a license and a certification to become a physician assistant. Many schools offer a Master of Physician Assistant degree that involves 28 months of graduate skills, resources and training in assisting a medical doctor in their desired field. In order to qualify for such a program, students must have a high school diploma or GRE, they must have a least a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on the medical field or two years of coursework and in-person training.

Physician Assistant Salary in Virginia
A Physician assistant salary in Virginia is on average $84,000 a year. The majority of assistants who earn this salary have less than 20 years of experience. Salaries can rise depending on the complexity of the job, and assistants who work in an emergency room can expect to see a spike in pay within the first five years. After 10 years, most assistants who work in ERs do not notice much of an increase in salary.

Physician Assistant Job Duties
Physician Assistants are in charge of routine physicals and providing medical treatment to patients, as well as counseling patients on the correct treatments and providing some emotional support and guidance. They must be able to take tests and read the test results in order to recommend the best treatment plan for patients. Some physician assistants can prescribe medicine or advise patients to seek help from a specialist. They assist the physicians they work under during surgery or with medical procedures that the physician deems complicated.

What Tasks is a Physician Assistant Legally Allowed to Perform?
Some of the tasks a physician assistant is allowed to perform under the laws of the Virginia State Licensing Board include patient examinations, patient diagnosis, treatment programs for patients, physical examinations and routine examinations, the diagnosis of illnesses and providing patients with medical and sometimes emotional support and advice in difficult situations.