Top 9 reasons to become a Physician Assistant

(This is the list that the admissions counselor at the school you have been eyeballing for the last year won’t tell you about.)

1) Enjoy patients asking, “Where is the real Doctor?”This comes in several forms, including “Is there a real Doctor here?” and “Oh, you’re not a real Doctor?” Don’t let this well laid verbal trap get you all worked up like some PA’s do. Be relaxed and calmly explain who you are and what you do. I will commonly let this kind of patient know that I will lay out a treatment plan, but will run it by my SP for agreement before we implement it. As time goes by the patient will gain confidence in the treatment options I put together.

2) Want to give up Saturdays and Sundays as well as a few weeknights a month to take call so your Doc can sleep in.
Nothing beats you down more than feeling like you are working for free, while the Doc is still in his/her PJs. Trust me, been there. Some specialties (think surgery and hospitalist) just have to take call. It’s part of the gig. The best way to keep from blowing up at that 2AM page from a nurse asking if she can use a bedpan instead of a bedside urinal on your patient; is to know that you are getting paid for it. (By the way, I actually took that call from a nurse about one of my male patients.) Make sure that if you have interest in a position, or are up for renegotiation of a contract that includes taking call that you have a payment schedule built in for it. You should ask for extra pay for being on call and additional funds if you have to travel to the hospital.

3) Look forward to the question, “So when do you finish medical school?”This is common. When you introduce yourself to patients they often think of you as a current medical student, asking when you are going to complete school or if you are doing a residency. Not so much aggravating as it is time consuming explaining to patients that my official schooling is complete. Well worth the time though because you can really inform them on a PA’s education. I do make mention that PAs must take a nationally recognized certification exam and that this must be repeated periodically to maintain certified status.

4) Want to spend countless hours studying your tail off, only to find out patients still wonder if you know what the hell you are talking about.
I have to admit that I think this might be more common among PAs than just about any other health care field. Since most people don’t have a clue what a PA actually is, they have a hard time understanding why you should know anything about medicine at all. To deal with this issue see Top 10 reasons to become a Physician Assistant #3 (or just look above)

5) Like explaining what you actually do for a living.
This is covered in much more detail in So what is a Physician Assistant anyway? My real advice here is to take advantage of this question from your patients to really show what PAs can do. The better you explain this to your patients the more confidence they have in a PA’s ability to positively affect their health.

6) Want to start massive twitter wars with NP’s.
This is an interesting phenomenon that just does not sit well with me. If you don’t know already, as a general rule, PAs and NPs just don’t play well together. It is multifactorial and will soon get a blog of its own. I encourage current PAs and wannabe PAs to settle this. This type of pissing contest does not serve us well. You really look like a tool trash talking NPs. It is better to raise yourself than to try and lower someone else.

7) Relish the opportunity to listen to some bean counter in billing explain to you how to practice medicine.
Trust me on this; you will never be able to avoid the business aspect of medicine. At some point in time, some dude from accounting or billing is going to call you into his office with his K-mart blue light special button down and his pocket protector and he is going to start pouring over your charts talking about how you should have done this and you should have documented that. If you would have done “X” we could have coded for an extra $20, do “Y” and we get an extra $35. You will ask yourself, why is this guy telling me how to practice medicine? Answer, because he is the guy that makes sure the practice can pay your checks! Learn from this man; listen carefully to what he says. These lessons will be invaluable to you.

8) Delight in the prospect of taking a 4-5 hour re-certification exam every 5-6 years to prove that you remember all the stuff you forgot.
PANRE, the stuff of legends. At some point as a PA you are going to have to re-cert. This exam will be based on all the stuff you learned in PA school. This means that if you have been working in Ophthalmology and forgot that the human body actually has an anus and genitals you are hosed. Better get crackin on the GI, GU systems. PAs as a rule are general practitioners. We learn all the systems of the body, but due to the unique flexibility offered to PAs some will branch out and forget the core systems. Advice; try and do CME’s outside of your current practice area. Or take a CAQ exam if offered in your specialty.

9) I like puppies.
Ok, I just threw this in to see if you were still with me. I mean, I do like puppies; they just have no place on this list. If you can think of anything I need to add to the Top 9 reasons to become a Physician Assistant, let me know.


    • qfwm2001 says:

      Thanks for the comment trish. Number nine is jsut because it makes me laugh. Plus it makes sure you are paying attention. Being a Physician Assistant is a fantastic opportunity to truly help people and the rewards of this profession are phenominal. It is important to make sure that as you move forward to becoming a Physician Assistant, you understand exactly what you are getting into.

  1. Kaylan says:

    I use to work in a doctors office with PA’s. I would always get a kick out of it when patients would ask where the real doctor was. Then I would get an even bigger kick out of it when they patient would come back after their appointment and verify that yes, indeed that was the DR. I always found the PA’s I worked with to sincerely care for their patients on a personable level. I always enjoyed seeing a PA. I like puppies too.

    • qfwm2001 says:

      Thanks for the comment Kaylan. One of the best parts of being a Physician Assistant is taking the time to develop relationships with your patients. It is the way they begin to trust and respect your decision making.

  2. J Farnsworth says:

    How about #10: You enjoy getting paid less than a new grad RN, without the benefits of having overtime, double backs, calling in sick, etc. Oh, and echo techs make more than a lot of PAs too.

    • qfwm2001 says:

      Perfect number ten. real truth in that. When getting out into the real world Physician Assistants need to put extra time and effort into finding the right job with the right salary plus benifit structure. thanks for the reply.

    • kachang says:

      So true, so very true. Wish someone would have told me this before I spent 150G’s on a fancy MA!! My friend got an Associates degree in nursing and is making 5,000 more and works about 25-30 hours less than I do. I am in plastic surgery.

  3. emedpa says:

    you enjoy having primary care docs(may of whom you trained) who know less about your specialty than you do trying to lecture you about how to do your job.

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