Physician's Surgery Assistant: Career Outlook & Education Info

Explore the career requirements for physician's surgery assistants. Get the facts about educational and licensure requirements for this career along with average salary and projected employment growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Physician's Surgery Assistant?

Physician assistants work under the supervision of physicians to see patients, perform tests, diagnose illnesses and injuries, and prescribe and perform appropriate treatment. A physician's surgery assistant specifically assists a physician during surgical procedures. They may be responsible for ensuring appropriate medicines and supplies are available, that the operating room is ready for the procedure, and assisting with the surgery under the direction of the physician. Physician's surgery assistants are typically employed in hospitals.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Physician assistant studies
Key Responsibilities Provide medical care to patients both preoperatively and postoperatively, examine patients, take medical histories, chart progress, administer medications
Licensure & Certification State license from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, continuing education required to remain certified
Job Growth (2014-2024) 30%* (for physician assistants)
Average Salary (2015) $99,270* (for physician assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Physician's Assistant Do in Surgery?

Working under the supervision of surgeons, physician's assistants (PAs) in surgery provide medical care to patients both preoperatively and postoperatively. Before surgery, you examine patients, take medical histories, perform any necessary preoperative tests and prepare patients for the operation. After surgery, you remove monitoring devices, chart progress and administer medications. You may be charged with checking in on postoperative patients and giving nurses any additional tasks.

During operations, you're qualified to act as first or second assistants. You may be in charge of suturing incisions after the surgeon has completed the operation. In all states, you can prescribe medicine and administer injections. PAs in surgery work in hospitals, outpatient care facilities and other surgical offices.

What Are this Career's Projections?

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), 25.9% of all physician's assistants worked in surgery in 2013, including general surgery, cardiovascular or thoracic surgery (www.aapa.org). Job opportunities for physician's assistants are expected to grow by 30% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS reported that as of May 2015, physician's assistants in all medical areas made an annual average salary of $99,270 (www.bls.gov). This average is for a typical 40-hour workweek, but PAs are often on call. Nevada had the highest salary average of any state in the country with $124,180. Physician's assistants in Santa Fe, NM, topped all metropolitan areas with an average salary of $163,070.

What Requirements Do I Need?

Many people who become PAs already have some background in medicine as a nurse or paramedic. Degrees offered to prospective physician's assistants include associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs in physician assistant studies. Most employers require physician's assistants who work in surgery to have a master's degree.

Physician's assistants in surgery must be licensed by the state in which they work. Besides the completion of an accredited degree program, state licensing also requires the successful completion of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination given through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (www.nccpa.net). The AAPA offers continuing education opportunities needed to remain certified.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Surgeons, physicians and nurses may all perform tasks that are similar to those of a physician's surgery assistant. They are all directly involved in the treatment of patients and can specialize in surgical fields. Physicians working in an emergency room in a hospital may perform surgeries, while surgeons specifically train to perform surgical procedures. Nurses may also opt to focus on assisting a surgeon or physician during surgical procedures. Other tasks they may perform include preparing a patient for surgery and monitoring a patient after surgery.

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