by Pamela Young, Published October 05, 2012
With the shortage of health care professionals, particularly in inner city and rural areas, there is a strong demand for physician assistants (PA) to fill a projected shortage of primary care physicians.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants will celebrate National PA Week Oct. 6-12 to get the word out about a profession that the business publication Kiplinger has called one of the "Great Careers of the Future."
The academy estimates that more than 84,000 certified physician assistants provide patient care in nearly every specialty and setting, but the demand is still there.
"There is a high demand for physician assistants," said Jay Peterson, director of Eastern Michigan University's new graduate program for PAs. "The physician assistant degree was named one of the Best Master's Degree for Jobs (Forbes) and the second Best Job in America (CNN Money)."
Eastern Michigan's 24-month physician assistant program is scheduled to start in May 2014. The professional program will emphasize basic medicine and clinical methods, and prepare graduates for certification and licensure to practice as extenders to practicing physicians.
Students will be trained under what Peterson says is structured like a medical school, but in a shorter time frame. They will then graduate with a master of science in physician assistant studies.
"With the aging population and imminent health care change in our country, it's projected that there will be many more patients and a need for more health care providers," Peterson said. "PAs can help meet this need for cost effective, high quality health care that is provided by an interdisciplinary health care team."
The PA profession developed in the 1960s due to a shortage of primary care physicians, Peterson said. Now, these professionals practice medicine in all 50 states and are an integral part of the medical team. Physician assistant positions can be found in clinics, private practices and hospitals - any place where physicians and physician assistants are needed. There are approximately 3,500 licensed PAs in Michigan.
Traditionally, students who enroll in physician assistant programs are on their second career in medicine, Peterson said. Many have worked as EMTs, respiratory therapists or in nursing.
"We anticipate having students from a varied background," he said. "Some will be on their second career while others will be "at the top of the class" seniors from undergraduate programs."
Peterson advises prospective students to plan for this career. That means taking all preadmission classes, such as anatomy, physiology and general chemistry, among other requirements.
"Eastern is putting the pieces in place to build an excellent program through hiring a medical director and faculty, discussing interdisciplinary experiences with other Eastern students and conversations with local hospitals about collaboration," said Peterson.
"Geographically, Eastern Michigan is set up perfectly because students will have access to all types of patients, ranging from urban and suburban to rural areas."
Our program will be devoted to primary care where PAs can best impact the lives of the community, he says.
For more information, go to the College of Health and Human Services physician assistant program homepage or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-487-2843.
Eastern's PA program has applied for provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The program anticipates matriculating its first class in May 2014, pending provisional accreditation in Sept. 2013.
Provisional accreditation is an accreditation status for a new PA program that has not yet enrolled students, but at the time of its comprehensive accreditation review, has demonstrated its preparedness to initiate a program in accordance with accreditation standards.