How to Become a Physician Assistant in Washington DC
The Physician Assistant profession is expected to grow by thirty percent over the next few years. This means that nearly 25,000 positions will be available nationwide and individuals interested in pursuing it as a career should have no trouble finding work upon completion of their studies. The following information is intended to provide an overview for those who may be interested in Physician assistant programs in Washington DC.
Education and Training Required
There are two Physician assistant schools in Washington DC to which prospective students may apply: George Washington University and Howard University. They are among the 173 schools offering Physician Assistant programs in the United States that have accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). It is important that students ensure the schools to which they are applying have this accreditation because without it, graduates will not be able to take the certification exam or apply for licensure. Both of the Washington schools are fully accredited.
Although there are some schools that offer a five-year bachelor’s program, most require a bachelor’s degree as a pre-requisite to the master’s program, the average completion time for which is 27 months. In addition to classroom instruction, approximately 2,000 hours of clinical training is required for program completion. The clinical experience is likely to include several rotations among a variety of medical settings.
Upon completion of the educational requirements, including the necessary clinical experience, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) must be passed before one is allowed to practice as a Physician Assistant. Offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the exam consists of 300 questions over a five hour time frame. Individuals who do not pass the exam can re-take it after 90 days with a maximum of three attempts in a year. The exam is designed to test the applicant’s level of knowledge in the following areas:
• Laboratory procedures and diagnostic studies
• Producing most likely diagnoses
• Taking histories and performing physical examinations
• Maintaining health
• Basic science concepts
• Clinical intervention
Although the exact licensing procedure varies somewhat from state to state, passing the PANCE is a requirement across the board, including Washington, D.C. In addition to submitting the completed application and fee, applicants should request that a school transcript and the PANCE score be forwarded to the licensing body.
Licenses in Washington are issued for a two-year period and must be renewed by December 31 on even numbered years. During each licensing cycle, 100 hours of continuous education is required. This requirement is also met by maintaining NCCPA certification.
Job Duties and Salary
The basic job functions of Physician Assistants in the nation’s capital include but are not limited to the following:
• Conducting physical examinations
• Assisting during surgery
• Ordering diagnostic tests and lab work
• Writing prescriptions
• Making hospital rounds
• Counselling patients and family members on treatment options
The Physician assistant salary in Washington DC: Practitioners can expect averages just over $82,000 annually, though top earners may reach six figures. In order to network with colleagues, practitioners can join the District of Columbia Academy of Physician Assistants where they can participate in a support system and stay abreast of the latest developments in the field.
In summary, individuals who are facing career choices and have an interest in Physician assistant programs in Washington DC can expect the process from start to finish to include:
• Applying to an accredited school’s Physician Assistant program
• Completing the studies required for graduation
• Completing the required clinical experience
• Taking and passing the national certification exam
• Applying for and receiving a state license
Before applying for acceptance into Physician assistant schools in Washington DC, applicants should check on any school-specific requirements that may apply.