It’s kind of nice when you have paid the price of a mortgage for your professional degree and spent years of your life exchanging parties for organic chemistry books and Mountain Dew and coffee for tea and water to find a job waiting for you at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And right now, a graduate from PA school who is willing to open their arms to the many possibilities will find close to 40,000 open jobs waiting for them.
The average wage for someone with a master’s degree right now in the US is around $71,000. The median salary for a PA is $104,860, and if you choose your location, wisely this can translate into a decent quality of life. Nearly all PA jobs come with excellent medical benefits for you and your family along with retirement plans, vacation, education allowance, and yearly bonuses.
I currently work part-time as a PA, splitting my days between online computer-based work here and on my smartypance.com website, and clinical practice where I see a panel of patients among 14 peers in a shared office space. As easy as it is to mourn office politics there is still something very charming about Christmas parties, shared laughter over office antics and working with others to solve big problems.
As PAs, we get to be part of the team, among MAs, nurses, doctors, clinic managers, therapists, integrative health practitioners, social workers, etc. etc. all with the singular goal of making peoples lives better. And it rocks! Now, I won’t lie, right now I am writing this post at 7:30 am while still in my pajamas and last night I didn’t get home from the clinic till almost 10 pm, but it’s totally worth it.
If you are a PA, you will know what I’m talking about, and if you are on the path to PA, you will someday learn, that the job isn’t an easy one. The word charting raises my systolic blood pressure by ten points, and the barriers to providing adequate care can be overwhelming at times.
Fifteen-minute time slots filled with highly complex patients who need 40 minutes of attention combined with a constant barrage of phone calls, lab results, patient messages, staff messages, etc. etc. and I’m sure you get the picture. But compared to my first job flipping Whoppers for ten hours a day, I will take the latter. This stress, although bad for my hairline, is the kind of pressure that makes a day fly by and as my 8-year-old will tell you “makes your mind grow bigger.” Compare this to hard physical labor or monotonous line work, and I will take the stress of PA any day.
Although attorneys aren’t healthcare workers unless of course, they’re suing you, when an attorney goes to litigation one guy wins, and another loses. As a PA, when you go to work and everything runs as it should everybody wins. This is a good feeling, working for the cause of improving the life of another person. I mean does it get any better than this?
When it comes to work-life balance (the number one reason why people choose PA school), it’s all about priorities. I know plenty of PAs who put in long hours with very little freedom and zero flexibility. I know others who work as locum tenens, travel the world, only take part-time assignments, work abroad, etc. etc. The point is that you do have options.
If you choose to accept a job in orthopedics that requires irregular hours and regular call with a boss who works you to the bone for his/her financial benefit you do have the choice of keeping said job or looking elsewhere in search of a better work environment. As a working parent, many PAs take jobs in the ER where they can work three 12-hour shifts and split time with their partners to share childcare and still make it to field trips and soccer games on the weekends. There is a demand for PAs 24/7, so you can be very creative here. The pay is good enough that many PAs can work part-time and still raise a family, or take extended time off for travel and come back to find a job waiting for them.
Maybe you have heard the news? MD schooling in the United States is crazy long, so long, in fact, that many are asking if doctors are too educated?
U.S. physicians average 14 years of higher education (four years of college, four years of medical school and three to eight years to specialize in a residency or fellowship). That’s much longer than in other developed countries, where students typically study for 10 years.
If you go the traditional route and graduate college at let’s say 21, take your MCATS and walk right into medical school, complete four years of medical training graduating at 25, then going on to complete a 4-8 year residency, if you’re lucky you can be working by age 30. If you take a gap in between that get’s pushed back even farther.
Compare this to my path as a PA. I graduated college at 21, spent two years in-between working and traveling, attended PA school at 24 and graduated at 26 quickly accepting my first job. This opens the doors to older students, as well as “non-traditional” students, people changing careers, and students like myself who likely wouldn’t have had a medical school degree until my mid 30’s.
Have you heard the term MDM? It stands for medical decision making. Everyone in healthcare makes medical decisions, from the front desk staff who triages a patient call all the way up the food chain to the medical director who implements hospital or clinic-wide protocols. But as PAs we get to sit one-on-one with patients, hand in hand, making team decisions that directly impact their lives, are measurable, and produce results that we can often see in real time. And in reality, most of the time this is done alone, in conjunction with our patients, yes, with the oversight of a supervising physician, usually indirectly, and always in the form of a supportive role. This autonomy, along with a rather high degree of uncertainty makes the job very rewarding.
We all know the cost of higher education is going through the roof, and in a recent blog post, while crunching the numbers, I concluded that the current cost of PA education results in an ends that doesn’t always justify the means. In other words, PA school may not be worth the cost based on median job salary.
The good news is that there are plenty of PA school scholarships and grants available for those who seek them out including The National Health Service Corps Scholarship and Loan Repayment Program which I used to pay off 100% of my student loan debt before the age of 35. But it’s not for everyone, I spoke with a new grad recently who was offered $125,000 in the Bay Area to work as a psychiatry PA, and that was before benefits. So, in this scenario, you may or may not need loan repayment programs. But the fact that there are repayment programs available is golden, and it means even those like myself who didn’t have a golden parachute can work as PAs while eliminating student loan debt in a timely manner.
Unlike radiologists which are just one software upgrade away from extinction, PAs work alongside existing healthcare AI (electronic medical records) to provide hands-on care that improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.
As reported by the Oxford Martin School, around 50% of all U.S. jobs are at risk of being automated and replaced by robots. According to the replaced by robot website, PAs will almost certainly not be replaced by robots, and we are rated #190 out of #702 with only a 14% chance of automation.
Given the fact that human medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, certainly, AI and emerging technologies like IBM’s Watson will improve patient outcomes while grossly expanding access to care and decreasing costs. The question is how can PAs compete against an advanced AI capable of processing the entire worlds medical literature every .002 seconds, one that learns from its mistakes and can tailor treatment plans based on 1000’s of independent patient variables?
Well, we can’t, but it’s still going to be hard for Watson to perform a PAP smear, console a dying patient, calm a screaming toddler and explain a cancer diagnosis or treatment plan to a terminal patient. While nurses can do many of these things, advanced level practitioners such as PAs and NPs may hold the perfect balance of medical and human IQ to thrive alongside emerging AI. In my opinion even more than doctors.
Source – https://www.thepalife.com/10-reasons-why-physician-assistant-is-the-1-healthcare-job-in-2019/