Can a Physician Assistant Perform Surgery?

Aspiring physician assistants (PAs) interested in becoming well-rounded members of a medical team often wonder if a physician assistant can perform surgery. Physician assistants are highly trained professionals who work alongside doctors and nurses performing many functions and surgical procedures are one of them. The continued shortage of primary care physicians has put PAs very much in demand.

What is a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant is a licensed medical professional who has earned a master’s degree and completed an approved physician assistant program. PAs work alongside doctors and perform many of the same duties as doctors. Physician assistants are found working in many clinics, hospitals, or outpatient clinics. They take patients’ medical histories, order x-rays, and tests, interpret test results, prescribe medication, diagnose patients and discuss medical issues with the patients and their family members. They work in many areas of medicine, including emergency medicine, primary care, family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

What Kind of Surgeries Do Physician Assistants Do?

Although the general surgeon typically performs complex surgeries, the PAs are the first assistants in surgery. PAs will do as much as the surgeons allow them to do. Some of the procedures commonly performed by PAs are cutting and draining abscesses, inserting IVs, putting in chest tubes, and assisting the anesthesiologist/nurse/surgeon team. About 38,000 physician assistants work in surgical environments according to the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants.

Of the many areas in which physician assistants can specialize, the surgical subspecialties area ranked the 5th-highest in terms of wage potential. The National Commission on Physician Assistants reports that physician assistants who go into surgical specialties can earn an average annual wage of $113,752, which can increase with experience.

Surgical Physician Assistant Specialties

Part of the education required to become a physician assistant includes completing clinical work in various areas of medicine including surgery. Additionally, they can choose to focus on surgery as an area of specialization and complete a physician assistant surgical residency. The PA can choose to work in general surgery or can choose from various areas of specialization. As it is apparent from the list, the surgical possibilities for the physician assistant are endless.

  • Critical Care
  • General Surgery
  • Trauma Surgery
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Anesthesia
  • Burn Surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Administration
  • Ophthalmology
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Head & Neck Surgery
  • Colon Rectal Surgery
  • Transplant Surgery
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
  • Surgical Oncology

Career Outlook for Physician Assistants

A physician assistant is one of the fastest-growing fields and one that continues to be in demand. Physician assistants perform many of the same duties as doctors, therefore allowing doctors more time to see patients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states the PAs should see job growth of 37 percent during the 2016-2026 decade, which is much higher than many other occupations.

Related Resource: Top 15 Most Affordable Master of Health Sciences – Physician Assistant Online

Physician assistants are highly respected and educated in their field and have a rewarding career whether they’re working in a clinic, treating patients in a hospital, or performing a surgical procedure. Having a physician assistant perform surgery can not only give the PA more experience but also increases and strengthens their role as part of the healthcare team.