Physician Assistants (PAs) are health care providers who practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs provide health care in a variety of practice settings, from family medicine to specialties.
Physician Assistant (PA) Facts According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
“PAs are vital to healthcare. The Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010, recognized PAs for the first time as one of three primary care providers (PAs, nurse practitioners and physicians). The law also empowered PAs to lead patient-centered medical teams. Team-based care is at the core of a PA’s training. PAs can practice autonomously or in a collaborative relationship with other members of a patient’s healthcare team. This combination is a major source of their strength.
PAs are experts in general medicine. They undergo rigorous medical training. PAs must take a test in general medicine in order to be licensed and certified. They must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass a certification exam. Like physicians and NPs, PAs must complete extensive continuing medical education throughout their careers.
PAs diagnose, treat and prescribe medicine. Thanks to an education modeled on the medical school curriculum, PAs learn to make life saving diagnostic and therapeutic decisions while working autonomously or in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team. PAs are certified as medical generalists with a foundation in primary care. Over the course of their careers, many PAs practice in two or three specialty areas, giving them deep experience and the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their patients, employers and communities.
PAs are trusted healthcare providers. Studies have shown that when PAs practice to the full extent of their abilities and training, hospital readmission rates and lengths of stay decrease and infection rates go down. A Harris Poll found extremely high satisfaction rates among Americans who interact with PAs. The survey found that 93 percent regard PAs as trusted healthcare providers, 92 percent said that having a PA makes it easier to get a medical appointment and 91 percent believe that PAs improve the quality of healthcare.
PAs are in heavy demand. Three quarters of PAs receive multiple job offers upon passing their initial licensing and certification exams. Studies show that the most financially successful hospitals maximize their use of PAs. The PA profession has been named by several top media outlets, including Forbes and USA Today, as the most promising job in America. The demand for PAs increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins. As of January 2016, there were more than 108,000 certified PAs nationwide who interact with patients upwards of 350 million times annually.”
In January 2001, Marietta College received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to help launch the master's program. The “Pioneer” cohort began the 12-month didactic (classroom) and 14-month clinical phase (family, internal and emergency medicine, general surgery, orthopedics, prenatal care/gynecology, psychiatry/behavioral health and pediatrics rotations) program in 2002; graduating in 2004 with a Master’s of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation - Continued status to the Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Marietta College. Accreditation - Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be 2018.
While the Pioneer class of 15 students has grown over the years to our current class size of 36, the program has continued to maintain the intimate feel a small cohort provides. This is especially evident in our PASP 502 Physical Exam I and PASP 504 Physical Exam II courses where the class is divided into two labs (18 students/each) allowing for optimal faculty to student ratios and opportunity for individualized attention if needed.
The Marietta College PA program has an overall 98.6% graduation rate which is above the national average for the 2015 cohort of 90.8% (PAEA By the Numbers Program Report 31). Upon graduation, many students securing positions with physicians or hospitals where they completed clinical rotations. Graduates currently work in numerous fields of medicine including primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, emergency medicine, general surgery, cardio-thoracic surgery, neurosurgery, hospital medicine, hematology/oncology, urology, cardiology, rheumatology, OB/GYN, interventional radiology and many more. Other graduates go on to successfully compete for positions in post-graduate residency programs across the US. The profession and career opportunities are only limited by one's imagination.