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Advantages & Disadvantages of Being a Physician Assistant

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An individual interested in treating patients, but not interested in completing eight years of postsecondary medical education, has another option. A physician assistant provides patients with medical care. For instance, an assistant examines patients, diagnoses illness and orders laboratory tests. However, working as a physician assistant has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage includes that the employment of physician assistants is expected to increase approximately 39 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Helping Patients

Working as a physician assistant offers may advantages. For example, a report published in the November 2009 issue of “CNNMoney” ranked a physician assistant career number two on the list of 50 best jobs in America. Another advantage involves helping patients who have limited access to healthcare. Generally, an assistant provides medical care to patients who live in rural and urban areas where physicians may work one or two days per week. A physician assistant also makes house calls and visits patients in the hospital.

Responsibilities

Besides the satisfaction of helping people, a physician assistant doesn’t have to worry about administrative responsibilities and malpractice insurance. For instance, an assistant typically has less administrative responsibility than a physician or surgeon. A doctor, for example, has the responsibility of supervising other medical professionals, such as nurses. Also, a physician assistant works in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, so malpractice insurance isn’t required.

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Supervision

Working as a member of a healthcare team allows an assistant to perform tasks similar to a doctor's. For example, an assistant interprets laboratory tests, counsel patients and can prescribe certain medications. However, a physician assistant provides medical care under the supervision of a surgeon or physician. Thus, an assistant doesn’t make medical decisions, such as a diagnosis, without out checking with a supervising physician first. A physician assistant may confer on medical cases in different ways. For example, an assistant and doctor may talk in person, over the telephone or during scheduled meetings.

Advancement Opportunities and Pay

The physician assistant career provides an individual with limited advancement opportunities. For instance, there isn’t another position for a physician assistant to advance to without gaining additional education or entering another career field. Also, regardless of an assistant’s knowledge or clinical experience, a physician must always supervise the assistant. Another disadvantage involves is annual salary. When compared with the salary of a general physician, an assistant doesn’t earn much money. For example, BLS cites, as of May 2010, general physicians and surgeons earn $180,870 per year. However, physician assistants earn considerably less. As of May 2010, physician assistants make approximately $87,140 a year, reports BLS.

About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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