You have completed an accredited LPN program and know you are a certified Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), which means you are a primary caregiver, assistant and medical helper for several patients. But now however, you want to make the leap from being an LPN to Physician Assistant (LPN to PA).
Life is hectic, packed with activity, and fulfilling—but it would be much more fulfilling with more prestige, better salary and benefits,and the licensure that takes you into the competitive job market; all of which a PA position can give you.
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What is a Physician Assistant?
A Physician’s Assistant is more than a step up from an LPN; it is a professional licensure in health care which can actually practice medicine, rather than just basic nursing, under the limited supervision of a doctor. In other words, it’s similar to an RN, and even takes you beyond to the various degrees to make you even more marketable in the nursing field. However, it’s also quite different from an RN position, in that a PA has a great more latitude in actual medical services they can do.
As a PA, your treatment spectrum, as it were, is a good deal broader than that of an LPN or even RN. You are allowed to do virtually all the traditional services and treatments that a medical doctor can perform, include examine patients, order tests (and interpret them), treat illnesses that you diagnosed yourself, write prescriptions and even assist in surgery.
What Is the Path from LPN to PA?
It’s not like the traditional nursing leap from LPN to RN, because the PA is trained in the medical paradigm, rather than the nursing one so the leap is more than just about finding suitable LPN to Physician Assistant programs. The training required may take several forms, but it is invariably at least two years, usually three, of medical education past the college and nursing school/LPN level.
A PA gets training in several courses that lean towards a medical specialization. These include:
Pharmacology and pharmaceuticals, including reactions to combination of pharmacopeia
Hematology and studies of blood and lymphatic diseases
Pathology and bodily reactions to illness, trauma or injury
Obstetrics and gynecology
Anatomy and microbiology
Are you ready to hear about the second year? Your clinical experience will include primary care, surgical techniques (and assistant’s protocol), geriatrics, ER procedures and problem/solution paradigms, psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an extensive training in pediatrics.
As you can see from the list, there is a great deal of advanced and difficult training involved in the medical model, and the PA who earns her degree has gone through years of rigorous coursework and extensive clinical experience to achieve it.
In addition to the LPN, you should be aware that you will need at least a BA-PA to successfully achieve a job in the PA market. This is a Bachelor’s degree as Physician Assistant, and it complements your two year training with another two years of clinical course work and a year of “clinical rotations,” where you really get into the thick of the medical profession.
Clinical rotations are the lynchpin of the medical community, but they are the most wearying of routines, in which you may find yourself working one,two, or three days on and off. This step “separates the men from the boys,” but if you can tough it out, the rewards are well worth it.
Speaking of toughing it out, you might consider an MA in the PA cycle, which adds two more years of medical training and clinical experience to the mix.
Physician Assistant Job Outlook and Salary
If you do achieve the leap from LPN to Physician Assistant, you will be in constant demand, far more than you were as an LPN, and command a much better salary and benefits package. In essence, you’re being paid to be a doctor, and do what a doctor does. And if you specialize—as in HIV/AIDS treatments or other specific conditions—you do even better in prestige, salary and benefits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (source) predicts a 21 to 26 percent increase in job opportunities in this field; the median salary averages over $90,000. If you work in a high-demand urban setting with a specialization up your sleeve, you can make over $110,000 a year.