Physician Assistants are Specializing More

Specialized Physicians Assistants

Physician Assistant’s Career

The way in which physicians practice medicine versus the way physician assistants practice has been growing more and more similar in the past few years. While the PA profession initially emerged as a general care practice, physician assistants are now following the example of their physician counterparts and moving into specialized areas of medicine. As of 2005, 59% of actively practicing physician assistants were working in some sort of specialty practice*.

Ironically, the physician assistant profession was born as a result of a shortage of primary care physicians in America during the 1960’s.  A similar shortage of health care providers across the board exists today. However as patient care needs have become more specialized, physicians and physician assistant careers have become more flexible to meet those needs.

Physician assistant training remains based in a general, primary care model of the basics such as internal and family medicine and surgery. Physician assistants are also given the option of completing clinical residency in various medical or surgical specialty areas, allowing them the flexibility to move within different areas of medicine throughout their careers. PAs who are able to delve into specialty areas of medicine have greater flexibility in progressing toward their career goals, versus remaining in primary care for long periods of time.

There is a debate in progress amongst various physician assistant professional organizations, about the pros and cons of PA’s specializing on a large scale.  The pro side of the argument points to the career flexibility and increased opportunities for advancement that specializing allows to physician assistants. On the other side of the debate are those who worry that current standards of PA training are simply not enough to prepare the physician assistant adequately for a career as a clinical specialist.

For those considering a career as a physician assistant, this is a debate definitely worth following. In the meantime, it probably wouldn’t hurt to gain the most comprehensive PA education possible – in primary and specialty care.

*Source Material: Advance for Physician Assistants


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