What Does A Physician Assistant Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Physician Assistants

Physician Assistants provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician. Conduct complete physicals, provide treatment, and counsel patients. May, in some cases, prescribe medication. Must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.

Salary
$116080
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Physician Assistants provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician. Conduct complete physicals, provide treatment, and counsel patients. May, in some cases, prescribe medication. Must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.

  • Examine patients to obtain information about their physical condition.
  • Make tentative diagnoses and decisions about the management and treatment of patients.
  • Prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.
  • Administer or order diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiograms, and laboratory tests.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Physician Assistants examine patients to obtain information about their physical condition. They make tentative diagnoses and decisions about the management and treatment of patients.

A typical day for a Physician Assistant will also include:

  • Obtain, compile, and record patient medical data, including health history, progress notes, and results of physical examination.
  • Prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.
  • Instruct and counsel patients about prescribed therapeutic regimens, normal growth and development, family planning, emotional problems of daily living, and health maintenance.
  • Administer or order diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiograms, and laboratory tests.
  • Interpret diagnostic test results for deviations from normal.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Physician Assistants also order medical and laboratory supplies and equipment. They may also provide physicians with assistance during surgery or complicated medical procedures.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Physician Assistants perform therapeutic procedures, such as injections, immunizations, suturing and wound care, and infection management. They might also visit and observe patients on hospital rounds or house calls, updating charts, ordering therapy, and reporting back to physicians.

In addition, they interpret diagnostic test results for deviations from normal.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them supervise and coordinate the activities of technicians and technical assistants.

To some Physician Assistants, it is also their responsibility to prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.

Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

78% said they were satisfied with their job and 83% said they found their job meaningful.


Katy Hines
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

I have been a physician assistant for over a decade. I’ve worked on the inpatient hospital units, in the outpatient clinics, and in the operating room. I also hold administrative responsibilities.

Inpatient hospital unit work involves meeting with your team in the morning. A team includes doctors, residents, other learners such as medical students. The team will round on every patient, perform a physical examination, and update the patient on their plan for the day. Then, PA then places all of the orders and writes all of the progress notes for the day. They also meet with multidisciplinary teams of nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, and more, who are also involved in patients’ plans of care. Throughout the day they tackle acute patient care issues (for example, a patient with acute elevation in blood pressure, or confusion), review and interpret testing and labs that were ordered, coordinate patient discharge, and perform patient education. The coordination of discharge is complex and can be time-consuming.

In the clinic, the PA will review your list of patients for the day. They will perform a complete history and physical on new patients who come in with a complaint, formulate a differential diagnosis, and come up with a treatment plan. They will also see and manage follow-up patients with chronic conditions. They write notes on all patients, and coordinate peri-clinic items such as outstanding labs and tests, triaging and managing patient phone calls, prescribing medications, and completing paperwork.

In the operating room, a PA will obtain patient consent forms, help set up the operating room, and prep the patient for surgery. As a physician assistant, one will scrub in to assist the surgeon with the case. Following the case, they will write a post-op note and orders, and transport the patient to their next destination.

Pros

  1. Working alongside a team of people who have a common goal – take quality and safe care of patients
  2. Partnering with patients along their journey to health, establishing rapport and trust
  3. The hustle and bustle keep things interesting from day to day and lifelong learning – you’ll never get bored!

Cons

  1. The hustle and bustle can be mentally and physically draining
  2. Emotional strain when patients do not have good outcomes
  3. At the mercy of state and national regulations which sometimes feel prohibitive to patient care

Katy Hines
The Johns Hopkins Hospital


Pros

Suitable for people who like to solve problems mentally.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

One of the fastest-growing careers.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$116080 per year

Average hourly wage

$56 per hour

Entry-level Physician Assistants with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $76,700 to $95,730 per year or $37 to $46 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $162,470 $78
Senior (Top 25%) $135,220 $65
Median $115,390 $55
Junior (Bottom 25%) $95,730 $46
No experience (Bottom 10%) $76,700 $37

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Physician Assistants based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Personal Care Services $144260 $69.35
Outpatient Care Centers $128820 $61.93
Scientific Research and Development Services $124400 $59.81
Employment Services $120400 $57.89
Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities $119970 $57.68
Individual and Family Services $118790 $57.11
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $117320 $56.40
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $116710 $56.11
State Government $115410 $55.49
Offices of Physicians $115120 $55.34

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Physician Assistants work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Physician Assistants including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Offices of Physicians 67870 $115120 $55.34
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 30860 $117320 $56.40
Outpatient Care Centers 10190 $128820 $61.93
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 4930 $108010 $51.93
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 2070 $111140 $53.43
Specialty Hospitals 1630 $114600 $55.10
Employment Services 1540 $120400 $57.89
Federal Executive Branch 1390 $105930 $50.93
Local Government 960 $113420 $54.53
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services 640 $96880 $46.58

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
40%

More than 40 hours
60%

Working schedule

85%

15%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
30%

Every day
55%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
30%

Every day
65%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
0%

Every day
100%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
15%

Once a year
60%

Once a month
25%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
5%

Slightly competitive
10%

Moderately competitive
25%

Highly competitive
55%

Extremely competitive
5%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
5%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
95%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
70%

Once a year or more
25%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
0%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
85%

Once a year or more
5%

Once a month or more
5%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
75%

Once a year or more
15%

Once a month or more
10%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
30%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
5%

Master’s Degree
50%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
15%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

Neurosurgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in neurosurgery.

Hepatobiliary Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in hepatobiliary surgery.

Hematology-Oncology Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in hematology and oncology.


Geriatrics Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in geriatrics.

Family Medicine Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in family medicine.

ENT Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in ENT (ears, nose, and throat) surgery.


Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in emergency medicine.

Critical Care and Trauma Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in critical care and trauma surgery.

Critical Care Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in critical care medicine.


Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in cardiothoracic surgery.

Cardiology Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in cardiology.

Transplant Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in transplant surgery.


Pediatric Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in pediatric surgery.

Orthopedic Surgery Physician Assistant Residency/Fellowship Program

A residency or fellowship program for licensed physician associates/assistants that provides advanced training in orthopedic surgery.


Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
30%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
15%

1 to 2 years
35%

2 to 4 years
20%

4 to 6 years
0%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
10%

1 month
30%

1 to 3 months
30%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
25%

1 to 2 years
5%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

The Builder
57%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
90%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
29%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
90%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
24%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
38%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

They also like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
76%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
79%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
67%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
86%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
76%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
71%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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