As a physician assistant (PA), you’re able to examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the supervision of a physician. Depending on what state you practice in, you may also be able to prescribe medication to your patients. When it comes to PA jobs, most PAs find work in family medicine (people of all ages and genders), obstetrics and gynecology ( women), pediatrics (children), and even geriatrics (older adults). However, these aren’t the only medical settings/specializations where you can be employed.
Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia to patients to relieve pain before, during, and after surgery. While PAs can’t administer anesthesia, you will be able to prepare patients for their surgery and monitor their condition to ensure their safety during their surgical procedures.
Cardiologists provide care to patients experiencing problems with their heart and blood vessels. In cardiology, PAs are allowed to examine patients, order tests and interpret results, diagnose, develop treatment plans, and in some cases/states, perform certain procedures and prescribe medications.
Dermatologists diagnose and treat skin conditions, as well as conditions affecting the nails and hair. PAs in dermatology are also able to diagnose and treat conditions of the hair, skin, and nails. You’ll also be able to perform medical and cosmetic procedures, and possibly even surgical procedures, depending on the state you’re practicing in.
Endocrinologists diagnose and treat disorders of the endocrine (hormonal) system, including the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands. They also treat diabetic patients. PAs in endocrinology can meet and consult with patients, as well as perform biopsies and ultrasounds, start insulin pumps, and conduct bone densitometry.
Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat diseases affecting the digestive system. You can also work in gastroenterology as a PA, assisting the gastroenterologist in assessing, diagnosing, planning, and treating patients. You may even be able to perform endoscopies and colonoscopies.
Immunologists (including allergists) diagnose and treat patients who are experiencing allergic reactions from food, drugs, and insect bites. They also help people dealing with asthma and immune disorders. As a PA, you’ll assist the immunologist or allergist in providing a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
Neurologists diagnose and treat diseases of the nerves, muscles, brain, and spinal cord. As a PA in neurology, you’ll be able to perform neurological exams, order imaging tests, and prescribe medications (if your state allows it). Neither neurologists nor their PAs performs surgery; neurosurgeons do.
Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that affect the eyes. Not many PAs work in this field, but it is possible to find work in ophthalmology. PAs in ophthalmology will perform eye exams, diagnose and treat eye conditions, and assist ophthalmologists in LASIK eye surgery and other types of eye surgery.
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Psychiatrists are medical professionals who diagnose and treat mental illness, usually by prescribing medication. Again, PAs aren’t typically seen in this field of medicine, but with your broad medical training, you’ll be able to assist psychiatrists in treating patients. Once again, you’ll also be able to prescribe medications if your state allows PAs to do so.
Radiologists use medical imaging techniques (e.g., CAT scans, MRIs, x-rays, etc.) to diagnose and help come up with the right treatment for their patients. As PA in radiology, you’ll assist radiologists in these imaging procedures. If you’re assisting an interventional radiologist, you’ll be able to perform various interventional procedures.
Surgeons perform the most invasive procedures on patients, so they require more schooling and training. However, PAs can assist surgeons in all specializations. You will be able to cut and drain abscesses and put them in chest tubes, but the more invasive procedures will be done by the surgeons.
Urologists diagnose and treat conditions that affect the urinary tract and the male reproductive system. As a PA in urology, you’ll assist urologists, as well as be able to perform minor procedures, such as a cystoscopy, as well as perform prostate exams.
As you can see, there are various positions for PAs in almost every medical specialty, including those not listed here. If you’re looking for your first job as a PA or you’re looking for a new health job as a PA, know that there are many options out there.
Compared to physicians, PAs can more easily switch between specialties, so if you’re not satisfied in one area, you can find work in another. Your graduate education as a PA gives you more generalized training in medicine, allowing you to do this. For those trying to decide whether to become a physician or a PA, take this into consideration. You’ll spend less time in school (meaning your cost of education will be significantly lower), but you’ll also have job security and a salary comparable to physicians.