A pediatric physician assistant works under the direction and supervision of a pediatrician. A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the care of children, usually from birth to the age of eighteen. Pediatric physician assistants are licensed healthcare professionals who carry out many of the same responsibilities as doctors. They examine patients, diagnose illnesses, order tests, and write prescriptions. Local licensing rules, personal experience and training, and the wishes of the supervising physician all influence what a pediatric physician assistant can do.
Pediatric physician assistants may be called upon to assist doctors during surgical procedures, provide pre- and post-operative care, suture wounds, set broken bones, and perform other tasks normally performed doctors. Pediatric physician assistants work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, and clinics for children. They could specialize in a variety of pediatric fields, such as adolescent medicine, neonatal care, pediatric emergency care, and so on.
A pediatric physician assistant may be the primary healthcare provider in busy inner-city clinics or rural areas, with the physician present only on occasion. Even if the physician is not physically present, a physician assistant must always work under the supervision of the physician. Pediatric physician assistants’ working hours vary depending on the practice and schedule of the supervising physician. They may be on call and work long hours in congested areas. Pediatric physician assistants in emergency rooms frequently work nights and weekends, whereas those in private practices may work a more traditional 9-to-5 schedule.
The field of physician assistants is expanding. In the United States, the profession began in the 1960s as a way to provide high-quality medical care in underserved areas. The first recruits into the profession were highly trained medical corpsmen returning home from the military.
Physician assistants typically complete a two-year training program. Colleges and universities, medical schools, academic health centers, and other institutions offer programs. A master’s degree is available in many programs, and some also offer bachelor’s and associate’s degree options.
Those interested in specializing in pediatrics take the same classes as other physician assistants who have specialized in pediatrics. Physician assistant training programs have a variety of admission requirements, but most require prior healthcare experience and, in some cases, a college diploma. To be licensed, a physician assistant must pass a certifying examination after completing a program.
Pediatric physician associate is another name for a pediatric physician assistant. A career that often has closely related duties to a pediatric physician assistant is that of a pediatric nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are nurses with advanced training who also carry out some duties traditionally performed physicians.