Physician Assistant Education

Physician Assistant Education


Who is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants are medical providers who work under the supervision of a doctor or medical professional. They are referred to as Physician Associates in the UK. 

PA’s are licensed to diagnose, treat illnesses/diseases and to prescribe medication for patients. They work in hospitals,  clinics, physician offices/group medical practices, colleges, and government agencies in collaboration with a licensed physician. Physician assistants are integral members of the health care team.


How do I become a physician assistant?

PA’s are required to have an advanced education and extensive training in a medical setting. Medical schools are uniquely qualified to train physician assistants. 

Requirements vary slightly in different regions(countries, states etc.) but obtaining a license to practice usually requires a 4-year degree and completion of an accredited Physician Assistant program. You have to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and obtain a state license before they can practice.The program is usually 2-years and a few months.  

You will also have to successfully complete a one-year clinical rotation to gain hands-on medical experience. As a practicing PA, you will be required to complete ongoing continued education classes and you will be subjected to regular re-testing of your medical expertise.

Coursework and clinical hours prepare graduates to provide support during surgical procedures, develop treatment plans, and work in a fast-paced hospital or clinical setting.


Academic Requirements 

The courses undertaken may include:anatomy, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, genetics, microbiology/bacteriology, organic, chemistry, physics, physiology, calculus, college-level algebra, english composition, humanities, literature, medical terminology, psychology, sociology, speech, statistics and technical writing.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, some students go on to complete a two-year master’s physician assistant program. Master’s degree requirements vary by school but most mandate at least 2,000 clinical hours be completed before entering the field. Physician assistant shadowing internship opportunities help to fulfill the clinical rotation requirement. 


Physician Assistant Skills & Competencies

Becoming a physician assistant takes dedication. You have to be a team player. You need self-drive, focus, compassion, persistence, ability to cope with stress, flexibility, critical thinking, agility and maturity. 

The most common sort of skills for physician assistants are:

  1. Analytical skills

This is the ability to apply logical thinking in order to break complex problems into their component parts thus ensuring accurate patient diagnoses and the implementation of responsive care plans.

  1. Patient and care team communications

PA’s often have a direct influence on the care of a specific patient or client therefore they have to communicate clearly and compassionately with the sick and their colleagues within often stressful medical treatment settings.

  1. Interpersonal skills 

This are behaviors and tactics a person uses to interact with others effectively. Interpersonal skills/soft skills are key to displaying a good bedside manner when working with patients.

  1. Technical skills

They are  often related to mechanical, information technology, mathematical, or scientific tasks. The development and almost universal adoption of electronic medical records across the healthcare industry means that physician assistants must be more technically savvy than they were in previous generations. 

  1. Operational Management

This involves planning, organizing, supervising in the contexts provision of services.

  1. Adaptability and flexibility

Adaptability can help you maintain a consistent level of satisfaction in light of inevitable changes. This may include integrating a patient's cultural values and beliefs into any encounter.

What is the difference between a PA and a physician?

One of the main differences between PA and physician is the amount of time spent in formal education. 

Medical school takes about four years, and future physicians must complete several years of residency post-graduation. This means training could take over 10 years.

PAs do not have to undertake an internship or residency.

A physician has complete responsibility for the care of the patient. PAs share that responsibility with the supervising physicians.

Where do physician assistants practice?

Physician assistants practice in all areas of medicine. They are well represented in primary care medicine, which includes the areas of family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics.  

PAs also practice in OBS/GYN, pediatrics and child health, general medicine, surgery, psychiatry and accidents & emergency, anesthesiology, cardiology, emergency medicine/urgent care, epidemiology,  internal medicine, neurosurgery, orthopedics.


Physician Assistant Duties & Responsibilities

Physician assistants carry out many of the same functions as traditional medical doctors often under the supervision of physicians or surgeons, but they can work more independently in some regions (states, inner-city areas,rural areas etc.) consulting with physicians only when they need help with cases.


These duties include:

  1. Examining patients

  2. Interview and examine patients to determine a diagnosis.

  3. Prescribing medicine and suggest lifestyle changes to remedy medical problems. 

  4. Ordering tests to ascertain the nature and extent of illnesses and injuries.

  5. Stitching/suturing wounds and set bones.

  6. Administering immunizations.

  7. Developing and carrying out treatment plans

  8. Counseling patients on healthcare plans.

  9. Maintaining patient records and provide documentation for insurance companies.


Working Conditions

PA is typically a full-time career. However, schedules vary according to practice setting or may depend on the hours of the collaborating doctor/surgeon. Therefore work hours may include weekends, nights and early morning hospital rounds.

It can also be physically demanding. You'll be lifting, shifting, and maneuvering patients who are unable to do these things for themselves, and They also walk a lot  and stand for long periods (especially in surgeries). 

Regular involvement with the sick, the handicapped, patients who are in critical conditions, and grieving and worried families may cause emotional exhaustion.


Physician Assistant Clinical Rotations

Clinical rotations give students the opportunity to apply knowledge from the classroom to real life medical situations.Clinical rotations are meant to offer different clinical experiences. Regardless of the chosen area of medicine, one has to work under supervision. Some rotations including Emergency Medicine may also involve the occasional night shift or afternoon.

These rotations assist students in figuring out what residencies are right for them. By shadowing physicians in a variety of disciplines, the participants are able to make a more educated decision about what specialty they want to join.  These sorts of decisions don’t come easily. That is why it is pivotal to explore as many rotations as you can. This way, you will discover the specialty you are truly passionate about.

Elective Africa’s PA Rotations give you the opportunity to have Continuous Medical Education (CMEs) in the hospital of placement and also interact with healthcare professions through our organized Global health tutorials that normally take place every week in the students residence.

Clinical rotations can be exhausting. You can feel like you are starting a new job every two days or weeks, with all of the learning curves that come with them. 

You might also like Blog: What I wish you Knew Before Traveling to Africa for a Healthcare Internship


How to Make the Most of Your Clinical Rotations

  1. Stay Engaged

The only way you can learn as much as possible is by avoiding distractions. Avoid social media, phone calls or personal texting while on a rotation, unless it’s an emergency. 

Soak up everything, and ask as many questions as possible. You'll learn more in a month of a clinical rotation than you could in a year on the same topic in the classroom. Take advantage of that training time; it may never come again. 

Taking this step will show your dedication to learning and help streamline rotation concerns, allowing you to concentrate on improving yourself and providing the best patient care possible without any distractions.

  1. Keep a journal

Clinical rotations are meant to provide students with the skills to improve patient care and advance treatment capabilities. Take notes of your experiences to catalog your medical firsts and remember each situation. 

  1. Set goals

You should be advancing each week of your clinical experience. Ensure that you are by setting weekly goals for example, how many procedures do you want to see this week? How will you make them stick? Do you want to see new patients on your own? 

You can get more out of the experience by setting goals alongside your mentors goals. Once a week, discuss your goals for the coming days. 

However, it is important to note that  some mentors/preceptors may seem too busy for you. Some will be engaged in teaching and have mapped out training plan from day one. It is your role to be aggressive so as to get the most out of the program. 

  1. Maintain Professionalism

Health care institutions expect individuals that exhibit a great work ethic and professionalism. This includes dressing appropriately, showing respect to colleagues and interacting with patients in meaningful ways.

Learn about the respective institution’s policies  and rules such as sharing patient information on online social media posts. 

  1. Ask for feedback along the way

Asking your preceptor/mentor for feedback makes you seem more engaged and willing to learn. This will be extremely beneficial to you.  

  1. Save your mentor’s contact info

This comes in handy when referencing for credentialing in a new position. Hang on to their information now; you'll need it for something in the near future.


Physician Assistant Salaries

The demand for PA’s is set to keep rising. Therefore the salaries are expected to be very competitive, This makes it a lucrative career choice.

An internship will Elective Africa give you a rewarding, enriching, adventurous and an exquisite learning experience.


Why Elective Africa?

Our Healthcare Internship programs are customized to suit your objectives and interest areas as well as your university requirements providing you with hands-on experience and clinical exposure under supervision and mentorship.

The Programs are suited for all levels of experience and qualifications, whether you are a Healthcare Student, a New Doctor or a practicing professional.

They will expose you to a health system that is different from that of your home country, with different diseases, different treatment methods and diversity of culture.

Off the hospital activities, you have the opportunities for sightseeing, excursions, experience the Maasai Mara, hiking the Mount Kilimanjaro among others.

Click Here to Inquire/Apply for your Clinical Rotations Abroad


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