Originally Posted by HgaleK
Less schooling (though PA school is getting to be incredibly competitive) and much more patient/professional interaction. PAs do most of the shit that doctors do, and spend most of the time with the patients. AFAIK, the only thing they can't do that a GP would normally do is prescribe meds.
PA's can prescribe under their own license. But on the same hand, are tied to the physicians license that they work under, as you might suspect given the name. It's not fair to paint all PA's equally.
PA's education and backgrounds are somewhat variable, though most** (hence asterisk) have worked in the healthcare field traditionally in another healthcare profession before making the jump to PA school.
Historically, a large amount have stemmed from backgrounds as military medics with a great amount of direct patient healthcare experience before making the jump to schooling for PA. Many were medics, EMT's, nurses, respiratory therapists, ect. for at least a few years before making the move to PA school. The scope of practice is generally as wide as the physicians whom the work under and the competency of their skill level. Some have been in the trenches as PA's for > 20 years and are just as capable to diagnose as the physicians they work under. It's not fair to paint all PA's under the same brush. You'll find PA's working in most any healthcare setting that a physician would from Emergency Medicine to Neurosurgery. However, you won't find (and likely never) find PA's actually doing surgery. You will find PA's who first assist in surgery however.
Most good PA schools will absolutely require great amount of direct healthcare experience before requiring entry to the the schools and profession. The schooling is a very rigorous 2 years round master's in addition to bachelor's beforehand. The schooling is taught akin to the first 1 & 2 years of those in actual medical schools.
What PA's lack primarily is the 3-8 year residency and fellowship training that physicians undergo for their chosen specialty. Many will refer to PA's as perpetual medical residency students. Though the delineation is more complex and nuanced.
Many experienced PA's in non-surgical settings will be found doing similar work as the physicians next to them, but at roughly half
the salary as fully licensed physcians. But, given physician's annual salaries this is still somewhat handsome. PA's CAN be sued for malpractice, but the line of fire still usually hits the overseeing physician.
One thing to know is that the amount of PA schools offers has grown rather tremendously in the last decade or so. This has arguably lead to a trending of less and less healthcare experienced students being admitted to lower tier programs. Anecdotally, I know of a peer in the midwest whos only previous healthcare experience was a summer patient research experience at a children's hospital (NOT direct patient care) being admitted into the local state school. She was from my alma mater thus, my anecdote. She had high grades sure (>3.7). However, she did not have the realworld healthcare experience that would have traditionally been required of say a military medic of 10 years, who decided to go back to school to be a PA to further his career and knowledge base.
The thought of new PA student right out of undergrad with only a science undergrad degree and a simple hospital internship is somewhat troubling to hear. This is a more recent phenomena from interviewing PA family members I know.
Overall, PA schooling is still not a walk in the park, and expect 60- 70 hour weeks of studying/clincals to do well those years. Many PA's will do the grunt work physician's don't want to do to save $$$ for their practice. Some gigs depending on setting are naturally cushier than others. One thing PA's can do that physians canNOT is to switch practice specialties during their career. This is a somewhat of a benefit for the PA's, whereas physicians would usually require another residency of >3 years to do otherwise.
Story short, some of those long standing PA's may be quite competent despite Flambeur's remarks, without knowing background it's hard to but them all into the same box.
If Pio wants to correct I'd be happy to hear.
I've only described what I've shadowed/ picked up from family members, and familial acquantances here in the U.S. Utlimately, the last word is still with the physicians and their scope of practice will be always tied to this relationship. Hope, you enjoy who you work under.
BTW, no I'm not a PA, but merely a healthcare student of another profession. Still, the field is interlinked somewhat, so I've been sure to research for my own sake and future reference.
Remember, a Quack is a Quack, despite their potential to bark 'woof'. They'll be found riddled throughout the healthcare field whether they be PA, MD (physician), or otherwise.