By Mike Perrota
National Physician Assistant Week was celebrated on Oct. 6-12 in the main lobby of Mercy College’s Bronx Campus. PA students in Mercy College’s Graduate School presented a “hands on” clinical exhibition to their fellow students and faculty demonstrating the knowledge they will be using in their future profession.
“The purpose of the exhibition is to promote awareness of the rapidly growing profession and to recognize the significance PA’s have made to the health care field,” said Physician Assistant Studies Director, Lorraine Cashin.
Bianca Bucci, Physics Major at Iona College stated “I never heard of PAs before. I did not know a profession like this existed without having to attend medical school.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment of Physician Assistants is expected to grow 37 percent through 2016, faster than all other professional occupations.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, there are 74,000 PAs in clinical practice compared to 20,000 in 1981.
PA students performed well visit examinations on volunteer students, faculty, and administrators. The exams consisted of blood pressure screenings, heart rate and respiratory rate checks, and oxygen saturation scans.
The exhibition offered additional information to prospective undergraduate students about the PA major and its benefits in the real world.
“Keeping costs down is a big reason behind the expected growth. Many medical offices want to take on more patients without hiring additional physicians,” said PA student, Elizabeth Kieltyka
PAs offer improved services to their facilities by assisting the medical doctor in clinical tasks, allowing more time for the physician to focus on their analysis of diagnosing and treating the patients. Medical offices, clinics, and hospitals are capitalizing on the growing PA profession because it increases the access to health care providers.
“PAs have become increasingly advantageous to medical facilities in elevating their quality of service by allowing more personal attention to the patients to discover the true underlining conditions when the physician is unavailable,” says Kieltyka.
PA student Paul Punla said, “I chose the PA program because it offers a broad education in the medical field, allowing me to work for general practitioners and a wide range of medical specialists.”
Raymond Pool, undergraduate biology major said, “I did not have any idea what careers my major would lead me to. After attending this event I’m aware of a master’s program offered at this school which would open great doors in the medical field. Now I have a clearer picture of what I can see myself doing in the next five years.”
The exhibition presented information regarding the program’s structure and the perquisites needed for admission.
“Mercy’s Master of PA Studies will prepare graduates to do all tasks involving routine medical care, diagnosing illnesses, assisting in surgery, and writing prescriptions” Says Cashin.
The main difference between a PA and a physician is the amount of education. Mercy’s Program is 27 months, divided into three terms of didactic instruction, three terms of clinical rotations, and a final term for the master’s capstone project.
To be a licensed physician takes four years of didactic instruction in medical school and three or more years of residency depending on the specialty.
Mercy’s PA Studies is a full-time program designed to prepare graduates to pass the NCCPA examination authorizing a state license to practice clinical medicine. PAs must practice under a supervising physician. PAs have a bi-annual requirement of 100 hours of continuing medical education.
To gain admission, applicants need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a high GPA in various upper level science courses. Upper level physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, and biology are needed for acceptance. Work experiences in medical related fields or volunteered community service is strongly recommended.
PA student Sarah Dillelo said, “I know my future PA career will be meaningful because it will allow me to fulfill my lifelong goal of making a significant impact to my community by attending to its medical emergencies.”