Meet Dr. Philomena, Physician Assistantship ’20 shares what the program really entails. She is now a surgeon and getting ready for her Postgraduate Degree.

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals who are licensed to practice medicine with physician or surgeon supervision. Their responsibilities can also include administrative management services, education and research. Physician Assistants have been integral parts of medical teams since the mid 1960’s. Most physician assistant programs were created to help offset the shortage of doctors. PAs are trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, assist in surgeries, set fractures and provide treatment. They work in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, physician offices, education, public health agencies, research centers and government institutions. Their responsibilities depend on their practice setting, education, experience and state laws. PAs are required to be licensed to practice in every state. PAs can specialize in a field or work as generalists in primary care.

Most PAs have a bachelor’s degree. The vast majority of PA programs are Master’s level and require at least 2 years of prerequisite college coursework, similar to pre-med prerequisites, in addition to a minimum GPA and number of direct patient contact experience hours. Some PA programs require previous paid healthcare (i.e. direct patient contact) experience, while others recommend it strongly. PA programs that require healthcare experience are usually specific regarding the length of time and types of experiences they are looking for in applicants. In order to be considered competitive most applicants have a minimum of 1000 hours of relevant healthcare experience. Some PA programs accept international service hours while others prefer domestic healthcare experience. It is best to know the kinds of previous healthcare experience a program requires before you apply.

The general length of PA programs is roughly 2.5 years and includes supervised rounds of clinical rotations lasting between nine to fifteen months. PAs can also obtain post graduate residencies and further specialize in areas including, but not limited to, emergency medicine, neonatology and surgery by pursuing further education.