Educational and Licensing Requirements for a Pediatric Physician Assistant
Since the creation of the first Physician Assistant program at Duke University (Durham, NC) in 1965, the education, training and practice of PPAs have experienced tremendous changes. Educational requirements for Pediatric Physician Assistants are quite demanding. For one to practice the profession, he or she must first earn a degree from an elite school, followed by nine to twelve months of preclinical didactic studies and nine to fifteen months of physician-supervised clinical education. A licensing exam is also administered by the state, after passing the exam; the person can proceed to getting registered. In a pediatric physician assistant’s degree program, the course work may include Pediatric Pharmacology, Internal Medicine in Children, Pediatric Patient Evaluation and Human Anatomy. After collecting clinical and professional evaluations, the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties offers certification. (Striker, 2009)
The Job Outlook and Salary Information for Pediatric Physician Assistants
The much awaited expansion and improvement of the health care field and the increasing utilization of Pediatric Physician Assistants by physicians and health care institutions have made the profession become one of the fastest growing occupations.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the median annual income for physician assistants in clinical practice in 2004 was about $74,000.
The scope of practice for the Pediatric Physician Assistants
Although the Pediatric Physician Assistant works under supervision of the physician, he or she should be at position to handle any responsibility in the absence of a fully trained physician. Hence can work in wards such as a hospital pediatric intensive care ward, a pediatric burn ward, or alternatively, in the office of a private practice where pediatric care is offered.
Q. Why did you choose this profession?
A. I chose to become a Pediatric Physician Assistant because I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field where I could deal with children on a daily basis. I find the practice very intriguing. This is because I sometimes deal with helpless toddlers who cannot articulate their problem. I have numerous roles, however, from administering injections, dressing wounds, treating children with clindodactyly, prescribing medications to counseling parents on to provide the best care possible to their children.
Q Are you in solo or group practice?
A. I do group practice, under a physician’s assistance, of course.
Q. Are there other options of practice?
A. There are numerous options in this career. A Pediatric Physician Assistant may choose to work from an office or with a group. She or he can also choose to be in academic medicine and teach in a medical school on a part-time basis, like most pediatricians do. Other options include medical missionary or work in a health department.
Q. What does your typical work day involve?
Alongside a physician, I sometimes work in surgery departments in hospitals, where I get to perform physical procedures and minor surgeries. In the in-patient unit, I also make decisions, with the help of a physician, on the need to admit a patient. I also consult my physician on the discharge appropriateness of some patients.
Q. What are your hours?
A. My work schedule is largely flexible, since we have to ensure that the last patient is seen, at all times. However, we generally work Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8: 00 p.m. In most days, some assistants work in the morning hours, and the others in the evening.
Q. Can I get an example of one of your SOAP notes?
A. Sure! I hope this one will help you.
Patient Name: James Black DOB: 04/11/2002
Record No. B-413 cm 500
S- Throat pains x 2 weeks; follow up visit, no complains. He says pain gets worse when coughing or swallowing. NKA.
O- Wt. 80 lb, Ht. 4’8”.
A- Possible inflammatory infections.
P-Increase fluid intake, Cough syrup for 14 days, RTO.
Q. What type of patients do Pediatric Physician Assistants primarily serve?
A. We primarily serve children of varying ages, from infants to teenagers. We also assist expectant parents who may need any help before, or after seeing the pediatrician. For instance, we can help familiarize children and parents with the hospital environment, by doing offering children toys before they see the physician.
Q. How do you market to your patients?
A. We market to our patients through the hospital’s website or through the media.
Q. How do Pediatric Physician Assistants document their findings?
A. During consultations, they may record their findings in paper notebooks or paper files. However, we are highly recommended to transfer the same to notebooks or laptops, for ease in retrieval.
Q. What do Pediatric Physician Assistants offer that Pediatricians cannot?
A. Extremely high patient satisfaction. Contrary to popular believe, patient satisfaction with Pediatric Physician Assistants is many times higher than with physicians since the assistants are able to spend more time with patients. This puts them at a better position to explain medical terminology to the patients in much simpler, easy to comprehend ways. Moreover, compared to physicians, Pediatric Physician Assistants liability concerns are minimal.
Q. What are your future career goals?
A. To join Child Development programs and to do subspecialty training in Ambulatory pediatrics. I also plan to attend conferences, forums and work-shops to keep updated on pediatric skills and information.
Table of analysis (Terms and abbreviations)
A condition where one of a child’s finger or more are deformed.
Per orum (po)
Means to take by mouth
Means lack of oxygen
Means each eye
Means abnormally slow heart rate
Tab or cap
Means tablet or capsule
Congenital heart disease
Means abnormalities in the structure of the heart that occur before a baby is born
Means a medicine, given as pill that prevents blood clots.
Means once a day
Means once a day, at bedtime
Means once a day, in the morning
Means before meals
Means diving wall
Means twice a day
Means three times a day
Means four times a day
Q 8 hours
Means every 8 hours
Means every other day
Means as needed
Means fainting spell
Means abnormally fast heart rate.
Means trouble eating or swallowing. Can happen with a stroke
Change in behavior caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
A bulging of the wall of an artery, vein, or wall of the heart.
Inability to see on one side
A medication which delays the clotting of the blood.
A blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel or inside the heart
A tendency to form blood clots easily
Abnormal narrowing of one or more arteries that supply the brain
Visual field cut
A loss of vision on one side caused by brain injury
The interview was successful and I learnt a lot from the experience. One of the things I learnt was that pediatric physician assistants are better placed and more appropriate to deal with children, due to the unlimited time advantage they have. I also learnt that, however, the practice can be challenging, since it can affect one’s family life, in cases whereby for instant, one may be required to attend to a patient in odd hours. That, notwithstanding, I found the professional ideal for me, since there is no better satisfaction than being involved in the pre-natal preparations of a child, the day-by-day development of the child, and his or her maturity to become responsible citizens. As a result of the interview, the interviewee became my mentor.
Striker, T. (2009) “The Role of the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant in the Care of Hospitalized Children” Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved February 27, 2009 from http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/index.dtl