Duties and responsibilities
A general surgery physician assistant is a PA who has a broad range of medical and surgical knowledge. They are usually involved in all aspect of patient care, both in the outpatient and inpatient setting. Typically, most PA’s in general surgery will be involved in a wide range of abdominal procedures. However, in some smaller hospitals, PAs deal with patients undergoing a broad range of procedures. Their typical responsibilities and duties include:
- Checking the patients history and performing physical exams
- Handling daily patient rounds and discharge summaries
- Educating and advising patients on how to look after themselves post surgery
- Performing a wide range of abdominal surgeries for many forms of intestinal and abdominal wall neoplasms, gallbladder disease, gastric and pancreatic disease
- Anticipating and correcting post-operative problems
- Continuing care by managing patient care in pre-, intra- and post-operative settings, such as in the case of trauma
- Evaluating a trauma victim
- Following trauma patient through critical care and surgical recovery and handling their outpatient care
All 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. On top of this, general surgery PA’s will need extensive experience as a physician assistant and experience in critical care.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as completing all the relevant medical training, general surgery PA’s will need skills such as:
- Communication skills, as general surgery PA’s will need to communicate with patients and with other medical professionals, often in emergency situations
- 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 general surgery PA’s will work in a close environment with surgeons and physicians
- Problem solving skills, as general surgery PAs will need to find the solutions to a wide range of problems, sometimes in an emergency
- Attention to detail, as general surgery PA’s need to spot problems with patients post-surgery
- Dexterity, as general surgery PA’s may use sharp tools in small spaces. Therefore, they need excellent hand eye coordination.
Most general surgery PA’s will work full time and they may have to work long and irregular hours. They may be on call and have to attend emergency surgery, which means they may find themselves working nights, weekends or holidays!
According to salary.com, the average annual salary of a surgical physician assistants in the United States was $117,885 as of 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $92,004 per annum and the highest 10% earned more than $140,561.
Due to the growing and aging population, there will always be a demand for physicians assistants to help provide the surgical procedures necessary. The employment of PA’s as a whole is expected to grow hugely over the coming years, creating many exciting employment opportunities. General surgery PA’s have progressed overtime, with experience in the PA field and in other healthcare roles. They can progress further, 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.