Physician’s Assistant – training and job description

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A physician’s assistant or physician assistant is a medical professional who lends doctors support in the diagnoses and management of patients. Although physician assistants and doctors have similar job functions, the one significant difference between the two is that a doctor operates completely independently without any supervision. However, a physician assistant is necessarily supervised by a doctor and does not take major medical decisions without a doctor’s supervision.  

The physician assistant career path has been newly introduced in the UK in direct response to the European Commission’s restrictions on doctors’ working hours.  The main idea in starting this initiative is to develop qualified and trained healthcare professionals who are proficient enough to relieve the pressure on overworked doctors in hospitals, clinics and community services.

The idea has been borrowed from the US, where PAs were introduced almost forty years ago to meet the acute shortage of qualified physicians at that time. Today, this career path is an appealing option for graduates who are keen to pursue a career in medicine but without having to commit to a five-year rigorous programme that is necessary to become a full fledged doctor.

Training Required To Become A Physician Assistant

Becoming a physician assistant involves 2 years of intensive training, with studying for 46 to 48 weeks each year. In addition to significant theoretical learning, students also undergo 1,600 hours of clinical training during the 2 years. 

Several of the topics covered during this time are similar to those covered in a standard 4 or 5 year medical program to become a doctor. However, a phys asst course focuses primarily on adult healthcare in hospital and general practice settings. The program does not cover specialty care.   

Physician Assistant Programmes In The UK

In the UK physician associates programmes are currently being offered by only a few higher education institutions including St George’s Medical School at the University of London and the medical schools at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Birmingham.

Outstanding academic achievement, an interest in healthcare and excellent communication skills are three of the basic qualities that admissions authorities look for in potential students before accepting them to their Physician Assistant programme.

A student assisting her mentor with taking a patients blood pressure Job Description of a Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants work in all health care settings, including large hospitals, private clinics and rural healthcare facilities.

A Physician Assistant’s responsibilities include the following:

  • Take medical histories
  • Perform routine examinations
  • Analyse laboratory test results and X Rays
  • Treat minor injuries, which includes suturing and dressing wounds
  • Treat minor illnesses including prescribing the proper course of treatment
  • Perform therapy
  • Administer First Aid
  • Administer medication, injections and IV
  • Assist in the operation theatre
  • Develop management plans
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