Physician assistants are educated in intensive medical programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The average PA program curriculum runs approximately 26 months. There are more than 140 accredited programs in the United States. All PA programs must meet the same ARC-PA standards.
Because of the close working relationship PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in a medical model designed to complement physician training. PA students are taught, as are medical students, to diagnose and treat medical problems.
The education consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic medical and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, and geriatric medicine.
A PA's education doesn't stop after graduation, though. PAs are required to take ongoing continuing medical education classes and be retested on their clinical skills on a regular basis. A number of postgraduate PA programs have also been established to provide practicing PAs with advanced education in medical specialties.
PA programs look for students who have a desire to study, work hard, and to be of service to their community. Most physician assistant programs require applicants to have previous health care experience and a bachelors degree. The typical applicant already has a bachelor's degree and approximately four years of health care experience. Commonly nurses, EMTs, and paramedics apply to PA programs. Check with PA educational programs of interest to you for a list of their prerequisites.
The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in all medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities.
The PA role demands intelligence, sound judgment, intellectual honesty, appropriate interpersonal skills, and the capacity to react to emergencies in a calm and reasoned manner. An attitude of respect for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in communicating with patients, and a commitment to the patient's welfare are essential attributes of the graduate PA.
Visit the following web sites:
Physician Assistant Education Association
Contact information for each PA program in the U.S. may be obtained from this site.
PA Program Directory - http://directory.paeaonline.org
Idaho State University PA Program
American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
Idaho Board of Medicine (IBOM)
Idaho Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA)
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)