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Physician Assistant - Vascular Surgery: Career & Employment Information

A physician assistant in vascular surgery provides interpersonal patient care, technical assistance, and other support to vascular surgeons to ensure the safety of surgical procedures. Read on to learn about the required education and employment outlook to see if this is the career for you.

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Career Definition for a Physician Assistant in Vascular Surgery

For those with interest in medicine and the surgical field, a career as a physician assistant (PA) in vascular surgery offers the chance to work alongside surgeons in the care and treatment of all vessels outside the heart. This particular specialty requires knowledge of and attention to multiple systems of the body. The American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants (AASPA) describes physician assistants as 'champions of patient safety'; PAs in a vascular surgery role accomplish this goal by controlling blood flow and stopping or preventing hemorrhage during surgery. Other responsibilities might include coordinating surgical procedures and tending to the patient before and after surgery under the surgeon's supervision.

Required Education Physician assistant education program accredited by ACR-PA after a bachelor's degree or healthcare work experience
Job Duties Include working alongside surgeons controlling blood flow, stopping or preventing a hemorrhage during operations
Median Salary (2015)* $98,180 (all physician assistants)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 30% growth (all physician assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Aspiring physician assistants in vascular surgery must complete a physician assistant education program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission for Education of Physician Assistants (ACR-PA) through a college, university, or academic health center, says the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Most students enter these programs with a bachelor's degree or some healthcare work experience; programs include coursework in biochemistry, anatomy, medical ethics, and clinical medicine, usually earned over a 2-year period. Once the PA program is completed, students must pass an exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it takes 100 hours of continuing medical practice every two years and a re-certification exam every six years to maintain NCCPA certification. Once certified, physician assistants wishing to specialize may complete a 2-year surgical residency in vascular surgery. According to the AAPA, more than half of all physician assistants work in specialty practice, and vascular surgery is one of the most complex and challenging.

Skills Required

Along with the appropriate certification and experience, physician assistants in vascular surgery must bring to their work a comprehensive knowledge of the circulatory system, including atherosclerosis (arterial) and thrombophlebitis (venous) disease processes, according to the Vascular Surgery Department of Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, New York. Physician assistants in vascular surgery must also possess a good bedside manner, an ability to make decisions in emergency situations, and an understanding of surgical techniques and medical ethics.

Career Outlook

Physician assistant jobs will grow much more quickly than average, at 30%, from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. As surgical resident jobs are reduced and a greater emphasis is placed on cost control in the healthcare field, the AASPA expects that demand for surgical physician assistants will increase, especially in rural and inner-city areas. More than half of all physician assistant jobs are in physicians' offices, but many others can be found in general medical and surgical hospitals, academic medical centers, and outpatient treatment centers. The BLS reported an annual median salary in 2015 for physician assistants in general of $98,180.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Registered Nurse

Choosing between a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing program, these professionals provide patient care and education pertaining to a wide variety of health issues. In 2015, the BLS reported an annual median wage of $67,490 for registered nurses and predicted a faster than average increase of 16% in jobs during the 2014-2024 decade.

EMT and Paramedic

Requiring completion of a formal training program and licensing, these professionals provide care in emergency medical situations. A much faster than average job increase of 24% was expected by the BLS from 2014-2024. The BLS also reported a median salary of $31,980 per year for these professionals in 2015.

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