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Orthopedic Assistant Career Information

Mar 25, 2019

Orthopedic assistants are physician assistants who specialize in orthopedic medicine and work under the supervision of an orthopedic surgeon. Read further to learn about the required training and skills, in addition to the expected salary and employment outlook, to see if this job is the right one for you.

Career Definition for an Orthopedic Assistant

Orthopedic assistants work under the supervision of orthopedic surgeons. They may provide pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative care to patients. Typical duties include examining patients and taking their medical history, ordering and evaluating diagnostic tests, applying and removing casts and splints, treating fractures and dislocations, suturing, applying local anesthetics, taking progress notes and reporting relevant information, findings and potential problems to the supervising physician. Some orthopedic assistants may also be responsible for ordering medical supplies and assisting with patient education.

Education Graduate physician assistant degree program
Job Skills Knowledge of equipment and procedures, ability to handle emergency situations, basic computer skills, communication and bedside manner
Median Salary (2017)* $104,860 for physician assistants
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 37% for physician assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

All states require orthopedic assistants to complete an accredited physician assistant education program and pass the physician's assistant national certifying exam in order to obtain a license. Physician assistant programs typically take 2-4 years to complete. Most programs require at least two years of college for admission. Coursework includes physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology and medical ethics. In addition, students must complete clinical training in several areas of medicine, such as orthopedics, internal medicine, emergency medicine and pediatrics. Due to ever-changing technology, orthopedic assistants must complete several hours of continuing education every two years as well as passing a re-certification exam every six years.

Skills Required

Knowledge of medical equipment, medical procedures and safety hazards are required for a career as an orthopedic assistant. Orthopedic assistants should also have the ability to follow guidelines and to react calmly and decisively in emergency situations. Basic computer skills, strong oral and written communication skills and a good bedside manner are also important.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of physician assistants is expected to increase by 37% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average growth compared to all occupations. Also, the BLS reported in May of 2017 that the median annual salary for physician assistants was $104,860.

Alternate Career Options

Consider these other choices for careers in health care:

Registered Nurse

Requiring at least an associate's degree or diploma, along with licensing, positions for registered nurses involve providing patient care, education and advice. Much faster than average employment growth of 15% was forecast by the BLS during the 2016-2026 decade, and an annual median wage of $70,000 was reported in 2017.

Occupational Therapist

A career as an occupational therapist requires at least a master's degree in the field, to treat disabled or injured patients through the therapeutic means of everyday activities. In 2017, the BLS revealed a median wage of $83,200 per year for these therapists and projected much faster than average growth of 24% in available positions from 2016-2026.

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