How do I Become an Orthopedic Physician's Assistant?

Elva K.

In order to become an orthopedic physician’s assistant, it is necessary to get academic and work experience. For instance, it is necessary to attain at least a bachelor’s degree, gain health care-related work experience, complete a licensed physician's assistant program, and complete an orthopedic residency for physician's assistants. In addition, it is typically necessary to pass a licensing exam.

Many orthopedic surgeons have a physician assistant who helps care for their patients.
Many orthopedic surgeons have a physician assistant who helps care for their patients.

For those aspiring to become an orthopedic physician's assistant, the bachelor’s degree phase of education will usually include participation in an accredited physician’s assistant program. Diagnosis and interpretation coursework will be emphasized. You will typically be expected to learn applied and functional anatomy via studying anatomic models, cadavers, computer representations, and classroom lectures. Additional coursework will include classes such as immunology, physiology, and pharmacology. Also, clinical problem solving, patient assessment, disease prevention, and disease management are important courses that are typically taken.

Once the coursework is finished, an orthopedic residency is required if you want to become an orthopedic physician's assistant. Orthopedic residencies are typically 12-month intensive experiences where a physician’s assistant learns about various musculoskeletal disorders and is trained in clinical, operative, emergency room, and outpatient work. The residency usually provides a stipend and a benefit package which can include health insurance, life insurance, meals, books, and vacation pay.

During this time, the physician's assistant usually works alongside physician (M.D.) residents to gain skills in evaluation, treatment, and providing care for orthopedic patients. Specific examples of the type of training done by those hoping to become an orthopedic physician's assistant include taking patient histories, developing patient care plans, triaging, evaluating, and treating various injuries. Practice is also gained in surgically assisting orthopedic physicians and making sure no complication has occurred for the patient after the surgery. Training in the use of skeletal traction, casting, or splinting also typically occurs.

Also, there is training provided so that those aspiring to become an orthopedic physician's assistant can learn the basics of manipulative reductions of dislocations or fractures of the lower and upper extremities. They learn to instruct patients pertaining to their treatment. There are weekly case presentations, weekly reading assignments, written exams, and weekly lectures given by orthopedic physicians. In addition to training, to obtain a license, an aspiring osteopathic physician’s assistant must pass the physician’s assistant national certifying examination given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and the Certification Examination for Orthopedic Physician Assistants (CEOPA) given by the National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Physician Assistants (NBCOPA).

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