Opportunities In Physician Assistant Careers

Choosing a right career for students after completing their studies is crucial to lead a prosperous livelihood. There have been a host of options in today’s career world and physician assistant (PA) program in the health care field is an emerging al course these days. Here is some detailed information on the opportunities in physician assistant careers and prospects in India and abroad and the universities/institutes/hospitals conducting physician assistant programs in India.

With more urbanization and increasing illnesses due to this and impact of technology development, awareness among the people to seek appropriate medical treatment and prevention of illnesses has risen. As per the CRISIL (Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited) Research report, there would be a shortfall of paramedical staff and medical doctors at the primary level post this decade. This attributes to greater attrition catering to increased demand for additional healthcare professionals or paramedical staff in the healthcare avenue. Added to this, numerous medical graduates aiming on higher education to become specialists and super specialists, there has been an extensive vacuum in the duties to be executed by medical doctors at the primary level. Here comes the role of the physician assistant or an associate thus fulfilling the huge vacuum efficiently.

Who is a Physician Assistant or an Associate?

A Physician Assistant is a healthcare professional academically and clinically qualified to perform healthcare duties to assist the specialists and super specialists and to help in conducting research regarding patient's healthcare. Simply to say, physician assistants are substituted as junior doctors at the entry level with the institutional setup. They need to perform duties under the supervision of a physician or a surgeon or any other sub specialist/super specialist. The academic and clinical training imparted to them through a four-year program makes them well-equipped to offer diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive medical services equivalent to doctors at the primary level. With immense responsibilities, the Physician Assistants deal in physical exams, diagnosis and treatment of diseases under the specialists' supervision. They also interpret in lab testings and carry over counseling on preventive health care issues. As a physician assistant they involve in surgeries to assist the surgeons and conduct research activities and clinical trials in regard to the patient's medical care. With the medical profession being highly exorbitant in our country, many potential but unfulfilled medical aspirants are unable to make through this noble profession due to innumerable factors. The physician associates have enormous role to get hold in this profession equal to the MBBS doctors since this career is exceptionally challenging and of importance. Moreover, since India emerging as a hub for clinical research and medical tourism, opportunities in physician assistant careers and prospects are immense in the future.

Evolution of Physician Assistant program

A few decades past, it was observed that there was a dearth of primary care physicians in the United States of America. To fulfill the requirements for additional healthcare professional first Physician Assistant program was instituted by Dr. Eugene Stead in the mid 1960s in North California at the Duke University Medical Center. The program was initiated with men in Navy corps who had substantially been trained clinically while on military service and in Vietnam battlefield. The curriculum was based on the skills of medical professionals at the time of World War II. It has been claimed that more than 44,000 Physician Assistants in forty-eight states in the United States have been accredited to sign prescriptions for patients through this PA program. In other words, they are granted permission to diagnose and prescribe medicines. The number of Physician Assistants may exceed 75,000 by the end of 2015 as per a study.

In India, life-threatening diseases such as HIV, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and obesity are in the alarming rise that leads to the expansion of healthcare profession with enormous growth of sub specialists and super specialists. With increased number of graduates in Life Sciences in India and inspired by the proactive concept of physician assistant program in the US, the PA program was commenced in 1992 in Madras Medical Mission by the famous cardiac surgeon, Dr. K.M. Cherian. Currently, this innovative physician assistant program is being pursued with hundreds of PA graduates engaged in several hospitals throughout the country and abroad.

Scope for Physician Assistant program

Career opportunities and employment prospects for PA are aplenty since this course has been a newfangled and emerged as of seeking great importance in the healthcare services. In addition, this program as a paramedical science has been recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in India and has tremendous scope in a country like India with diverse population. Amidst the healthcare fraternity particularly in the cardiac surgery, this BS course is becoming a widely accepted and popular career, claimed by the Indian Association of Physician Assistant (IAPA). The physician assistants play active role in various departments of medical field such as surgery, outpatient wing, cardiac anesthesia in which they also work as perfusionist, catheterization labs, coronary care units, intensive care units, organ transplant wing, trauma care, orthopedics and rehabilitation unit, and nuclear medicine. This program enables the graduates to avail job placements in medical software establishments, pharmaceutical companies, medical devices industry, medical insurance and tourism as well. Besides, the physician assistants may work as coordinators to take up several clinical trials. To serve as a general physician assistant in ambulances, fire and police rescue squad, airplanes and helicopters, they have been eligible. Above all, abroad opportunities are numerous to be engaged as medical technologists, cardiac technician, case managers, and research assistants and so on in various foreign countries like USA, Canada, and Britain. To be the best of all, the remuneration package at the initial stage ranges between Rs. 15,000-22,000 in addition to allowances and accommodation benefits. This would, no doubt, increase in the future as the healthcare services sector continues to grow projecting more employment opportunities for physician assistants than those of other occupations.

About the course, B.S. (Bachelor of Science) Physician Assistant

Currently as a paramedical course, physician assistant program in India is a unique, integrated module designed to be of four-year duration with eight semesters including one year internship. The curriculum makes the PA graduates to equip themselves in different spheres such as preventive healthcare, clinical research, teaching, rural medicine, management/administration for development of institutional information system, etc. The B.S. physician assistant course is an off-campus, work-integrated learning program by the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani in collaboration with Madras Medical Mission and Frontier Lifeline Hospital in Chennai. For higher studies, PA graduates can also pursue M Phil and PhD programs and are eligible for abroad universities too. The course has been conducted through classes with laboratory work completely at the Madras Medical Mission (MMM)-BITS Training Center, Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Chennai.

Eligibility for the PA program

The aspiring candidates must be in a 10+2 stream from CBSE/Matriculation/State Board or equivalent with physics, chemistry, and mathematics or biology and proficiency in English. Admission is being processed through an entrance exam and interview in Chennai.

Course curriculum by MMM-BITS Training Center

First Year – First Semester

1. Mathematics I
2. Introduction to Computers
3. Biological Chemistry
4. General Anatomy
5. General Physiology
6. Cell Biology

First Year – Second semester

1. Mathematics II
2. Scientific measurements
3. Nutrition & Dietetics
4. Clinical Biochemistry
5. Pediatrics & Geriatrics

Second Year – First Semester

1. Principles of Management
2. Microbiology
3. Introduction to Psychology
4. Technical Report Writing
5. Inservice Training - I

Second Year – Second semester

1. Introduction to Surgery
2. Introduction to Medicine
3. Molecular Genetics
4. Data Processing
5. Inservice Training - II

Third Year – First Semester

1. Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery
2. Anesthesiology
3. Cardiac Nursing
4. Pharmacology & Toxicity
5. Biostatistics
6. Inservice Training - III

Third Year – Second Semester

1. Principles of Emergency Medicine
2. Medical Instrumentation
3. Advances in Cardiology
4. Advances in Cardiac Surgery
5. Management Information Systems
6. Inservice Training - IV

Fourth Year – First & Second Semester

Internship I & II

Application Details
Web site: http://www.bits-pilani.ac.in/dlp-home

Contact Details
Ms. Farida Farzana A.J, PA Program Coordinator
International Centre for Biomedical Sciences and Technology
Frontier Lifeline and Dr. K. M. Cherian Heart Foundation
#932, T.V.S. Avenue, Jeevan Bhima Nagar
Mogappair, Chennai – 600 101
Phone: +91-44-26548998, 26548997, 42017575
Fax: 91-44-26565150
Email: icbst@frontierlifeline.com, drkmc@frontierlifeline.com
Web: www.frontierlifeline.com

Other institutes offering PA program

Various institutions to offer physician assistant course in India are as follows:

Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS)

Enthroned in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences located in Tiripati, Andhra Pradesh extends its services in the healthcare sector offering three-year B. Sc physician assistant course. Aspirants for PA program, who are the passed-outs of 10+2 with major subjects of biology, physics, and chemistry have been eligible for the program. SVIMS has been accredited by Medical Council of India and has been included in the list of upgradation at par with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Contact information: http://svimstpt.ap.nic.in

Osmania University

A one-year postgraduate diploma course in physician assistant has been featured in the directory of courses in the Osmania University, Hyderabad. Graduates in any subject other than the oriental languages are qualified for admission of this PG diploma course through an eligibility test.
Contact details: http://osmania.ac.in

Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences

Located in Kochi in the State of Kerala, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences provides a three and half year post-graduation program or M. Sc in Physician Assistant or Allied Health Sciences. B.Sc. graduates in life sciences or BPT degree holders have been eligible for the course.
Details for communication: http://aims.amrita.edu

Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women

In association with the G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital and D.J. Academy, the Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women in Coimbatore conducts the Physician Assistant program and admission based on the qualifying higher secondary examination results. Since the B.Sc. Physician Assistant program is a four-year paramedical course candidates are required to be from science stream in the higher secondary (State/Central/Matriculation or equivalent).
For details: http://avinashilingam.edu

Netaji Subhas Open University and Care Hospitals

The PA program structured for three years inclusive of one-year internship by the CARE Foundation and CARE Hospital has been offered in collaboration with Netaji Subhas Open University (NSOU) in Kolkata. As one of the leading state open universities in West Bengal, NSOU was instituted in 1997 with University Grants Commission recognition. Eligibility of the candidates for PA program has been a Bachelors degree in any discipline but with preference given mostly to graduates from science group.
For further information: http://carehospitals.com

Abroad prospects

With its evolution and strong base in the US, this physician associate program has huge prospects abroad in European countries such as Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, England, also South Africa, Canada and Australia apart from US. If one has been wondering what career paths would help to acquire a job overseas PA program definitely might be a good choice especially in America.

The AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistants) claims that as of 2008 the physician assistants engaged in clinical practices have been estimated to be 68,124. The employment opportunities for PAs have also been anticipated to be risen to 27% from 2006-2016 per the report by the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics in the USA. Short-listed at number five among the best jobs in America on the basis of remuneration and employment prospects, PA profession is no doubt a prosperous career. It has also been estimated that the earnings of PAs in emergency medicine, dermatology, and surgical subspecialties range between $100,000 and 200,000 annually, affirms the AAPA.

There have been around 154 accredited PA programs in America as of 2011 out of which mostly are graduate programs through which master's degrees can be pursued with the eligibility being a bachelor degree and GRE or MCAT scores. Prior to become a certified PA, a physician assistant graduate from a recognized institution should clear the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) conducted by the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants). This certification is a licensure enabling the physician assistant to work in all states. Moreover, every two years, the PA must obtain and log 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) and should register again his/her certificate with the NCCPA. In addition, s/he needs to re-certify his/her license by undergoing the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every six years.

In the United States of America, since the physician assistants are considered as medical professionals they are employed under their own licenses, not necessary to work under a physician's license. Mostly PAs do practice themselves in the satellite clinics in the remote/rural/under-served regions as the physician collaborator who supervises need not be available in person or on-site. They would offer expertise by means of telecommunication or other means through the PA-C (certified physician assistant).

The didactic PA concept being explored currently in Canada, this program has been offered in the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the University of Toronto and the Canadian Forces Base Borden at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre. The duration of the program is of 24 months.

Aiming on a unique project in regard to PA program, the US-trained physician assistants in England are working on it with the education programs being provided at the St George's, University of London. Though there has been lack of awareness, the NHS (National Health Services) trusts in the West Midlands forecasting the requirements currently employ PAs to a great extent. PAs can do practice under relegation rules subordinate to a medical doctor and it has been expected that mandatory legislative steps would be forwarded to make it as a registered body since it has not been registered at present.

Certain German universities offer three-year B.Sc. physician assistant programs to fill up the huge deficit of "Primary Care Physicians" in various city hospitals. In spite of the fact that the PAs are yet to be under a registered legislation they have been employed to practice within delegated rules of the medical practitioners.

Final word

In an overview, despite new schemes and projects are devised to create more employment opportunities at the national level, a bright paramedical study program rendering great job potential is being neglected in India. Back in 17 years, this promising PA concept was introduced in India. Yet it is going unnoticed amidst the student community. Though various institutions provide numerous jobs in this life science career the outbound PA graduates are indeed the least in India, it should be mentioned. This has been due to various factors such as dearth of recognition and initiative from the government, lack of accreditation to govern different facets of the PA program, non-standardized course module and so on. It has been observed that a board was set up to standardize the course curriculum and to enhance the PA program to its max by Dr. M. G. R. Medical University in Chennai. It seems to be imperative that similar to this, other universities and institutional setups are required to look for the utmost recognition of the program.

The number of unemployed may be high. You will be set apart on the sidelines. Still getting ready for an in-demand career as a physician assistant will assist you to find your highly probable and remunerative job and be employed more stably. So, for what have you been waiting? Get-go!!

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Guest Author: Arun20 May 2012

This is really a good information. But i don't think that this course is being recognised by UGC and govt of India. They should encourage medical colleges and universities to run this course in India. Many students are unaware of this course.

Guest Author: kireeti kakara25 Sep 2015

I like this course but will you able to help me on how to apply for this? I have finished my 10 + 2.

Guest Author: Snehal hande26 May 2017

I am studying BSc in Physician Assistant from D Y Patil University, Navi Mumbai and I want to apply abroad for further masters and doctorate courses. Can you guide me please with the best options, the eligibility criteria and what I need to do further.

Guest Author: Elakeya30 Oct 2017

I am studying BSc Physician Assistant in PSG Institute of Medical Science in Coimbatore. I want to know further information about the higher degrees after completing BSc. Will I be able to do doctorate? Can you please guide me on these queries and also what I need to do next.

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