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What Does A Physician Assistant Do?

The physician assistant, also known as "PA," is now considered a key player to any healthcare team. Physician assistants are health care professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of licensed physicians. They work on several areas of medicine, from primary care to emergency service and even psychiatry. Neither they are a doctor nor a physician, but their job profile showcases many of these responsibilities. More than as assistants to the doctors, they are also equipped to examine, diagnose, and develop treatment strategies for patients.

Here are examples of responsibilities from real physician assistant resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Manage acute & malignant stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, traumatic brain injuries, and status epilepticus patients.
  • Evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage adult pulmonary consult patients with diagnoses including COPD, sleep apnea, and asthma.
  • Assist with follow-up visits managing chronic illnesses including hypertension and diabetes.
  • Manage disease states such as hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity.
  • Attain pertinent history & physicals for obstetrics and gynecological acute and preventative visits.
  • Set up procedures, preform device interrogations and manage complex arrhythmia and medication regimens.
  • Assist with DaVinci robotic cardiac and thoracic surgical cases.
  • See consults, office patients, perform joint injections.
  • Aid in the acute management of trauma patients including obtaining appropriate studies, suturing, and CPR.
  • Perform lifesaving emergency actions, Heimlich, CPR, and a, applying pressure to wounds to control bleeding.
Physician Assistant Traits
Communication skills shows that you are able to relay your thoughts, opinions and ideas clearly to those around you.
Compassion is a skill that is necessary for working with others as you're able to put aside your differences and show genuine kindness toward others.
Detail oriented involves being extremely mindful and observant of all details.

Physician Assistant Overview

Between the years 2018 and 2028, physician assistant jobs are expected to undergo a growth rate described as "much faster than average" at 31%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if the thought "should I become a physician assistant?" Has crossed your mind, maybe you should take the growth rate into account. In addition, the number of physician assistant opportunities that are projected to become available by 2028 is 37,000.

A physician assistant annual salary averages $126,450, which breaks down to $60.79 an hour. However, physician assistants can earn anywhere from upwards of $80,000 to $197,000 a year. This means that the top-earning physician assistants make $117,000 more than the lowest-earning ones.

Once you've become a physician assistant, you may be curious about what other opportunities are out there. Careers aren't one size fits all. For that reason, we discovered some other jobs that you may find appealing. Some jobs you might find interesting include a midlevel provider, adult nurse practitioner, nurse practitioner, and obstetrics gynecology physician.

Physician Assistant Jobs You Might Like

Physician Assistant Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 14% of Physician Assistants are proficient in Patient Care, Diagnostic Tests, and Surgery. They’re also known for soft skills such as Communication skills, Compassion, and Detail oriented.

We break down the percentage of Physician Assistants that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Patient Care, 14%

    Developed family medical home model successfully incorporating routine annual exams while incorporating daily open appointments for urgent care/walk-in patient care needs.

  • Diagnostic Tests, 11%

    Determined abnormal conditions by administering or ordering diagnostic tests such as x-rays, electrocardiograms and laboratory studies and interpreting test results.

  • Surgery, 7%

    Shadowed anesthesiologists and observed surgeries including hernia repair, open-heart surgery, liver transplantation, and robotic surgery.

  • Treatment Plans, 6%

    Worked within a large community hospital based emergency medicine group performing physical examinations, developing differential diagnoses and creating treatment plans.

  • Health Care, 6%

    Performed all functions defined for delivery of primary health care and medical practice in collaboration with supervising physician 11.

  • Urgent Care, 6%

    Worked independently with full autonomy at six busy state-of-the-art primary/urgent care facilities located in both rural and urban areas.

Most physician assistants list "patient care," "diagnostic tests," and "surgery" as skills on their resumes. We go into more details on the most important physician assistant responsibilities here:

  • Communication skills can be considered to be the most important personality trait for a physician assistant to have. According to a physician assistant resume, "physician assistants must explain complex medical issues in a way that patients can understand" physician assistants are able to use communication skills in the following example we gathered from a resume: "provide thorough documentation on electronic records for office visits, communication notes, interpretation of labs and diagnostic tests. "
  • Another trait important for fulfilling physician assistant duties is compassion. According to a physician assistant resume, "physician assistants deal with patients who are sick or injured and may be in extreme pain or distress." Here's an example of how physician assistants are able to utilize compassion: "communicate with compassion prescribed treatments, procedures, prevention and test results with patient. "
  • Another skill that is quite popular among physician assistants is detail oriented. This skill is very critical to fulfilling every day responsibilities as is shown in this example from a physician assistant resume: "physician assistants should be observant and have a strong ability to focus when evaluating and treating patients." This example from a resume shows how this skill is used: "prepare new patient charts with accuracy and attention to detail. "
  • In order for certain physician assistant responsibilities to be completed, the job requires the skill "emotional stability." According to a physician assistant resume, "physician assistants, particularly those working in surgery or emergency medicine, should work well under pressure" As an example, this snippet was taken directly from a resume about how this skill applies: "perform histories and physical exams while providing people with preoperative care and checking stability for surgery. "
  • Yet another important skill that a physician assistant must demonstrate is "problem-solving skills." Physician assistants need to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments This is clearly demonstrated in this example from a physician assistant who stated: "performed joint injections, casting and on-call resolution and inpatient consultations. "
  • See the full list of physician assistant skills.

    We've found that 40.3% of physician assistants have earned a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, 24.3% earned their master's degrees before becoming a physician assistant. While it's true that most physician assistants have a college degree, it's generally possible to become one with only a high school degree. In fact, one out of every seven physician assistants did not spend the extra money to attend college.

    Those physician assistants who do attend college, typically earn either physician assistant degrees or biology degrees. Less commonly earned degrees for physician assistants include medicine degrees or nursing degrees.

    Once you've obtained the level of education you're comfortable with, you might start applying to companies to become a physician assistant. We've found that most physician assistant resumes include experience from Indian Health Service, Mayo Clinic, and Concentra. Of recent, Indian Health Service had 51 positions open for physician assistants. Meanwhile, there are 51 job openings at Mayo Clinic and 34 at Concentra.

    But if you're interested in companies where you might earn a high salary, physician assistants tend to earn the biggest salaries at Marshall University, U B Foundation Activities, and Memorial Healthcare System. Take Marshall University for example. The median physician assistant salary is $198,234. At U B Foundation Activities, physician assistants earn an average of $181,294, while the average at Memorial Healthcare System is $179,231. You should take into consideration how difficult it might be to secure a job with one of these companies.

    View more details on physician assistant salaries across the United States.

    We also looked into companies who hire physician assistants from the top 100 educational institutions in the U.S. The top three companies that hire the most from these institutions include EMA, Kaiser Permanente, and Overlake Internal Medicine Associates.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious physician assistants are:

      What Midlevel Providers Do

      We looked at the average physician assistant annual salary and compared it with the average of a midlevel provider. Generally speaking, midlevel providers receive $7,353 lower pay than physician assistants per year.

      Even though physician assistants and midlevel providers have vast differences in their careers, a few of the skills required to do both jobs are similar. For example, both careers require patient care, diagnostic tests, and surgery in the day-to-day roles.

      These skill sets are where the common ground ends though. A physician assistant responsibility is more likely to require skills like "health care," "urgent care," "cpr," and "internal medicine." Whereas a midlevel provider requires skills like "diagnostic procedures," "emergency room setting," "assess needs," and "analyze data." Just by understanding these different skills you can see how different these careers are.

      The education levels that midlevel providers earn is a bit different than that of physician assistants. In particular, midlevel providers are 1.1% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a physician assistant. Additionally, they're 16.5% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of an Adult Nurse Practitioner?

      The next role we're going to look at is the adult nurse practitioner profession. Typically, this position earns a lower pay. In fact, they earn a $9,946 lower salary than physician assistants per year.

      While the salary may be different for these job positions, there is one similarity and that's a few of the skills needed to perform certain duties. We used info from lots of resumes to find that both physician assistants and adult nurse practitioners are known to have skills such as "patient care," "diagnostic tests," and "treatment plans. "

      While some skills are similar in these professions, other skills aren't so similar. For example, several resumes showed us that physician assistant responsibilities requires skills like "surgery," "cpr," "trauma," and "surgical procedures." But an adult nurse practitioner might use skills, such as, "rn," "diagnosis," "health history," and "health promotion."

      Adult nurse practitioners may earn a lower salary than physician assistants, but adult nurse practitioners earn the most pay in the health care industry with an average salary of $91,107. On the other side of things, physician assistants receive higher paychecks in the health care industry where they earn an average of $141,060.

      When it comes to the differences in education between the two professions, adult nurse practitioners tend to reach higher levels of education than physician assistants. In fact, they're 30.5% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 16.5% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      How a Nurse Practitioner Compares

      A nurse practitioner's role is diverse. It revolves around supervising nurses in a particular area and providing immediate care and treatment to patients through extensive knowledge and clinical experience. Among the duties of a nurse practitioner involves diagnosing and treating medical conditions, performing research and analysis through various tests, evaluating data and results, operating different kinds of medical equipment, and gathering samples from patients. Furthermore, a nurse practitioner must maintain an active line of communication and coordination among fellow health workers in a hospital or clinic.

      The nurse practitioner profession generally makes a lower amount of money when compared to the average salary of physician assistants. The difference in salaries is nurse practitioners making $28,347 lower than physician assistants.

      Using physician assistants and nurse practitioners resumes, we found that both professions have similar skills such as "patient care," "diagnostic tests," and "treatment plans," but the other skills required are very different.

      Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from physician assistant resumes include skills like "surgery," "cpr," "trauma," and "test results," whereas a nurse practitioner might be skilled in "rn," "diagnosis," "emr," and "health promotion. "

      Nurse practitioners make a very good living in the health care industry with an average annual salary of $101,521. Whereas physician assistants are paid the highest salary in the health care industry with the average being $141,060.

      Nurse practitioners are known to earn higher educational levels when compared to physician assistants. Additionally, they're 27.7% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree, and 1.1% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of an Obstetrics Gynecology Physician

      Obstetrics Gynecology Physician is a specialist doctor in childbirth, pregnancy, and female reproductive health. Their duties include conducting tests such as pelvic exams, breast exams, and pap smears, diagnosing diseases and disorders, carrying out a patient routine check-up, prescribing treatment plans, and monitoring expectant mothers during periods of postpartum, pregnancy, and childbirth. They maintain accurate patient medical records, educate patients on reproductive healthcare and disease detection and prevention. Obstetrics Gynecology Physicians works to keep abreast with the latest innovations, best practice and collaborates with non-medical and medical teams in accomplishing its tasks.

      The fourth career we look at typically earns higher pay than physician assistants. On average, obstetrics gynecology physicians earn a difference of $59,640 higher per year.

      While both physician assistants and obstetrics gynecology physicians complete day-to-day tasks using similar skills like patient care, diagnostic tests, and surgery, the two careers also vary in other skills.

      Each job requires different skills like "urgent care," "cpr," "internal medicine," and "acute care," which might show up on a physician assistant resume. Whereas obstetrics gynecology physician might include skills like "ob-gyn," "emr," "medical group," and "medical office."

      In general, obstetrics gynecology physicians make a higher salary in the health care industry with an average of $239,987. The highest physician assistant annual salary stems from the health care industry.

      In general, obstetrics gynecology physicians reach similar levels of education when compared to physician assistants resumes. Obstetrics gynecology physicians are 3.6% less likely to earn their Master's Degree and 19.3% more likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.