By 2022, the government expects more than 33,000 new physician assistants nationwide to have already filled available posts. This projection marks an impressive 38 percent increase in the number of licensed professionals that were providing diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health care services in 2012. Throughout many rural areas and medically underserved communities, these practitioners are oftentimes the primary care providers at clinics, where a medical doctor may visit once or twice each week. Otherwise, they work at medical offices and hospitals. Regardless of the medical setting, they always perform their duties under the supervision of a physician or surgeon.
In Los Angeles, physician assistants earn an average annual salary greater than $104,000, according to current data. It is a physically and emotionally demanding vocation that requires formal education and experience within an established health care environment.
"To prepare for a position as a physician assistant, I majored in health sciences with a minor in microbiology," said De'Meya Brewer, a department administrator at Kaiser Permanente East Los Angeles Medical Offices. "While attending California State Dominguez Hills, I also worked in the student health center. After earning my bachelor's degree, I completed a two-year physician assistant program at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science."
How is your background as a physician assistant benefiting you?
"My physician assistant experience has enabled me to understand back-office operation, as it relates to processes and clinical workflow. I have over fifteen years of regulatory compliance experience with local, state and federal agencies."
Which areas of medicine are physician assistants needed?
"Physician assistants are most needed in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and sub-specialties, because there is a high patient demand in those areas."
How does one fortify a long-lasting career in this growing field?
"The best way to prepare for a sustainable career as a physician assistant is to get clinical experience prior to matriculating through the physician assistant program."
What is your message to endeavoring physician assistants?
"Physician assistants are an integral piece in the art of practicing medicine. You must be compassionate, patient and a dedicated advocate for improving the lives of others."
Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist. Some news articles she has authored are archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
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