Duties and responsibilities
A family practice physician assistant is a PA who has the skills and knowledge to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive care to all members of the family, regardless of their sex, age or problem. Like all PA’s, family practice physician assistants can only practice medicine under the supervision of licensed family physicians. The physician may not always be present – the amount of supervision interaction depends on what is agreed between the PA and the physician and on the state rules and regulations. Family practice PA’s may work as part of a medical group or as part of independent practices, that are set up by family physicians. Their typical responsibilities and duties include:
- Diagnosing and treating a range of illnesses and injuries in patients of any age
- Making hospital and nursing home rounds
- Managing patients with chronic conditions
- Conducting, ordering and interpreting lab tests
- Performing minor surgical procedures (such as mole removals)
- Performing physical examinations where necessary
- Prescribing medications and treatment plans
- Providing home visits
- Providing education to patients of any age (could be on newborn care, how to reduce cholesterol level or how to prevent diabetes)
Physician assistants complete a physician assistant education program. To do this, they must have a bachelors degree that focuses on science and experience in healthcare. The physician assistant education programs usually take at least 2 years of full-time study and include a master’s degree. PA’s then need to become licensed, meaning they must pass the certifying examination.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as completing all the relevant medical training, family physicians assistants will need skills such as:
- Written and verbal communication skills, as family practice PA’s will need to communicate with patients, coworkers and with specialists throughout the whole treatment process. They will also need to maintain files that document patient treatments and referrals
- Compassion, as family practice PA’s will be approached by patients with a huge array of problems and issues. They must show the utmost understanding and compassion
- Attention to detail, as family practice PA’s need to spot issues with patients during checkups and when providing care
- Compassion, as PA’s will be faced with patients in great distress and pain. They must show the utmost understanding and compassion
- Teamwork skills, as family practice PA’s will work in a close environment with physicians
- Problem solving skills, as family practice PAs will need to find the solutions to a wide range of problems, sometimes in an emergency
Most family PA’s will work full time and they may have to work long and irregular hours. Although unlikely, family practice PA’s may be on call, which means they may find themselves working nights, weekends or holidays!
According to salary.com, the average annual salary for a family practice physician assistants in the United States was $95,793 as of 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $81,242 per annum and the highest 10% earned more than $114,551.
Due to the growing and aging population, there will always be a demand for family pracitce physicians assistants to help treat patients of all ages and sex. The employment of PA’s as a whole is expected to grow hugely over the coming years, creating many exciting employment opportunities. Family practice PA’s can progress overtime, with increased knowledge and skills, to have more responsibility. For example, they may lead other PA’s and spend less time supervised by licensed physicians.