Assistant jobs to physicians highly ranked

By Brittany Abeijon

Though Lauren Etmekjian, junior in LAS, has always been interested in a career in medicine, the time commitment required to become a licensed physician was a major concern for her.

Working as a physician’s assistant seems to be the perfect solution to Etmekjian and other young Americans working toward a medical career.

The position was rated number five in the 50 Best Jobs in America for its amount of education, salary and workload, according to the CNN Money Web site.

Physician assistants, commonly referred to as PAs, have many of the same duties as physicians, but are required to operate under the supervision of a licensed physician.

Alison Lasater, senior in kinesiology and president of the Pre-Physician Assistant Club, said the main advantage of becoming a physician assistant is lower school requirements, then to start working in the medical field sooner than a physician.

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“A PA only has to complete a program that is about 24 to 27 months long while physicians go through four years of med school, residency and even more for specialization,” Lasater said.

Because physician assistants are required to complete fewer years of education than physicians, they have been perceived as “less educated,” said Jim Blatzer, a physician assistant who is employed at Christie Clinic.

He said physician assistants can do 80 percent or more of what a physician can do. He added that in the past, when he would contact a medical specialist about a patient’s case, they would not consider him capable.

“They would ask questions like ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘Did the doctor see it?’ as if I was annoying them,” Blatzer said. “Now, if I call general surgery, I don’t get an attitude.”

Restrictions for physician assistants are becoming more uniform nationwide, but generally they can assist with lumps, bumps and cysts, but cannot perform whole surgeries, Blatzer said.

Before becoming a physician assistant, Blatzer was an iron worker who was extremely unhappy with his job and longed for a profession that would let him be happy when he woke up in the morning, he said.

“I wanted to have a job that helps people, allows me to make a good living and also be able to enjoy myself, and I do,” he said.

The average salary for a physician assistant with more than two years experience working more than 32 hours a week is $77,341 and $68,472 for a physician assistant with fewer than two years experience, according to the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants.

“The lower salary is to be expected,” Blatzer said. “You are always working under someone.”

Physician assistants may not have the same amount of independence in their career as doctors, sometimes not as much experience with more difficult procedures and the hours are not as demanding.

The lighter workweek and stressful schedule of a physician assistant are a few reasons that people pursue the field, said Etmekjian, who is also vice president of the club.

The workload of a physician assistant is dependent on the field they practice in, but typically it is “doctors’ work, bankers’ hours” with an average of 35 to 40 hour work week, and they can work part time and in a variety of settings, according information on the CNN Money Web site.

“Depending on the field a PA chooses to practice in, they may or may not have to be on call, but their work day is usually shorter,” Etmekjian said.

For Etmekjian, being a PA is more conducive to the future lifestyle she strives for.

“I want to have the flexibility of being able to have a family and free time while being involved in a medical career,” Etmekjian said.