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​​​Your PAth to Success!

Essays That Will Get You Into Physician Assistant School 

How to Ace The Physician

Assistant School Interview

All New - 4th EditionThe Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School

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Applying to Physician Assistant School?

History of the PA Profession

In 1965 Dr. Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina started the first PA program. He is considered the pioneer of the PA profession. The profession got its start because of a shortage and disproportionate distribution of primary-care physicians at the time. The first program comprised former navy corpsmen who served in Vietnam and already had considerable clinical experience. These former corpsmen had no avenue for transferring their skills to the civilian world. Dr. Stead trained these corpsmen in a way comparable to the fast-track programs physicians completed during World War II. The profession grew from these first few veterans to over eighty thousand practicing PAs in 2015–2016.

 What Is a Physician Assistant?

By definition, PAs are “dependent” health care professionals who must always work under the supervision of a licensed physician.  Rather than follow their physician colleagues around like puppies, most PAs work autonomously and, typically, collaboratively with their MD supervisors. PAs are broadly trained and perform a variety of duties, depending on the specialty, practice setting, supervising physician, and scope of practice. In general, PAs take a comprehensive medical history and perform physical examinations, formulate diagnoses and treatment plans, order and interpret diagnostic tests, assist in surgery, prescribe medications, counsel patients and family members, perform minor surgical procedures, and consult with their supervising physicians on a regular basis.

PAs are found in almost every area and specialty of medical and surgical practice. About half of all PAs work in primary care (family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and internal medicine). Another 20 percent of PAs work in the various surgical specialties, and the remainder of PAs works in a host of other specialty and subspecialty arenas. Some PAs actually own their own practices and hire supervising physicians to work as their medical directors.

 How Are PAs Trained?

Most PA programs are approximately two years in length. Students are trained in the medical model, similar to most medical school programs. In fact, the didactic phase of a PA program is often equated to the first three years of medical school. Many PA students share certain classes with medical students at those programs affiliated with a medical school. The main difference between physician training and physician assistant training is the number of years physicians are required to spend in residencies after the didactic phase is completed.

The first year of PA school is typically dedicated to the classroom and clinical practicum sessions. PA students can expect to take courses in clinical laboratory sciences, electrocardiography, emergency medicine and trauma, interviewing techniques, medicine and surgery, microbiology and infectious disease, pharmacology, physical examination, physiology and biochemistry, psychodynamics of human behavior, anatomy, diagnostic imaging, epidemiology and public health, ethics, human sexuality, and pathology.

The second year of PA school is geared toward clinical rotations. Most programs have mandatory rotations in emergency medicine, family/general medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. In addition, students can typically choose from a number of elective rotations.

Upon graduating from an accredited PA program, students are eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which is given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Students are eligible for state licensure after passing the PANCE. PAs must acquire one hundred hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and pass the Physician Assistant National Recertification Examination every ten years --which is currently being reevaluated.​