How to Become an OBGYN Assistant
Learn how to become an OB/GYN assistant. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as an OB/GYN assistant.
Do I Want to Be an OB/GYN Assistant?
Assistants to obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYN) are typically considered physician assistants (PAs). These health professionals work under the supervision of doctors, providing services such as routine check-ups, preliminary diagnoses, evaluation of tests and patient consultation; some may prescribe medicines. PAs working in obstetrics and gynecology deal specifically with women and may assist with pelvic exams, prenatal care, menopause management, ultrasounds and delivering babies. Those who work in hospitals often work nights, weekends or holidays and might need to be available on call.
OB/GYN assistants undergo the same training as all other PAs, which usually includes a bachelor's degree, work experience and completing a graduate program. Every assistant is required to be licensed by the state in which he or she works. Continuing education credits must be earned every two years, and these professionals must pass a recertification exam every ten years. The following table presents the requirements for beginning a career as an OB/GYN assistant:
|Degree Level||Master's degree or equivalent accredited PA program*|
|Degree Field||Physician assistant*|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure is required by all states and the District of Columbia; licensure requirements often include certification*|
|Experience||Documented experience is required to be a competitive candidate for a PA program**|
|Key Skills||Attention to detail, ability to work in a team, compassion, problem-solving skills*|
|Computer Skills||Comfortable using electronic medical records and other healthcare software***|
|Technical Skills||Comfortable using medical equipment, such as x-ray and ultrasound machines, to perform check-ups and diagnostic tests*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Admission requirements for PA programs, ***O*Net Online.
Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program
The first step for prospective PAs is to earn a bachelor's degree. There are some PA programs that will accept students with only an associate's degree, but they are uncommon. Also, earning a bachelor's degree can greatly increase the opportunities a graduate has for attending a PA program.
PA programs do not require applicants to have a specific major, but they do require them to take core prerequisite coursework. Typical requirements include biology, microbiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus and psychology. Students will need to gain work experience in healthcare before applying to PA programs, so they should also take any courses that will prepare them for an entry-level job in a healthcare setting. Maintaining a high GPA is important, as well, since many PA programs require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Gaining work experience is a crucial step before applying to PA programs. Successful applicants to PA programs have at least a year of professional experience. Prospective PAs can complete this requirement by working as a nurse, paramedic, imaging assistant or in a number of other healthcare roles.
Step 3: Complete an Accredited PA Program
Students should choose a PA program that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), since this will ensure that all certification and licensure requirements are met. PA programs typically take 2-3 years to complete and usually award a master's degree. All physician assistants receive the same basic medical education, regardless of the specialty they intend to pursue. Topics covered may include human anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, pharmacology and medical terminology.
After finishing classroom studies, students complete clinical rotations under the supervision of an instructor or physician. Rotation areas include emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. The Association of Physician Assistants in Obstetrics and Gynecology (APAOG) provides a list of core competencies a PA student should master in the OB/GYN rotation. These include recognizing the signs of pregnancy and menopause, knowing contraindications of drugs during pregnancy and being able to interpret Pap smear results.
Step 4: Get Certified and Licensed
To become certified, PAs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The exam is delivered in multiple-choice format and administered at computer-based testing centers across the country. Upon passing the exam, an individual may begin using the title Physician Assistant - Certified (PA-C). To become licensed, PAs typically need to send their scores from the PANCE and their PA program transcript to the state's licensing board.
Step 5: Meet Continuing Education Requirements
To maintain certification and licensure, PAs must complete continuing medical education (CME) units on an ongoing basis. The NCCPA requires professionals to submit documentation of 100 CME units every two years and pay a recertification fee in order to remain certified. Every six years, PAs must also take a recertification exam. Beginning in 2014, the NCCPA will begin implementing a 10-year cycle to replace the 6-year cycle.
It is also common for states to require professionals to periodically renew their licensure by submitting CME units. States have different policies regarding the frequency a professional must recertify and how many CME units are required.
- Join a professional organization. Joining an organization such as the APAOG will give professionals access to opportunities to earn CME units. Membership benefits also include networking opportunities, professional support and updates on new developments in the field.
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