An orthopedic physician assistant is someone who helps orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic physicians in day-to-day operations. The main focus of the orthopedic assistant is always on the medicines administered to the patients. They also keep a tab on the progress of patients and keep the doctors or surgeons updated. On an average, the salary of an orthopedic physician assistant starts from US $77,000 and with years of experience it can go up to US $106,500.
Note: Orthopedic Physician Assistants - Certified (OPA-C) are not to be confused with Physician Assistants in Orthopedics - Certified (PA-C). The two are completely different professions with different educational requirements, duties and salaries. PA-Cs are health professionals who work in all specialties, including orthopedics. These individuals are licensed in all states. On the other hand, OPA-Cs undergo training as assistants to orthopedic surgeons with special importance given to orthopedics, and are not licensed, except in a few states.
Education and Training
To be a qualified orthopedic physician assistant, a candidate must have a Bachelor's Degree in nursing, paramedics or any other health care field. One may also complete a related allied health care program and possess at least 5 years of experience under the supervision of a certified orthopedic surgeon. It is necessary that the candidate has prior medical working experience to become an orthopedic assistant. To get a valid certificate, passing the Certification Examination for Orthopedic Physician Assistants (CEOPA) is essential. Candidates who pass this examination, receive a certificate from National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Physician Assistants (NBCOPA). This certification is recognized for four years after which the candidate must either retake and pass the current Certification Examination. Lastly the candidate must also complete one year of residency where he/she will learn and perform a demonstration of all the things he/she has learned during the academic period. Like all medical careers, the job of an orthopedic physician assistant is a continuous learning process. Candidates have to continue learning and studying so that they can renew the Certification of Practice in the future.
An orthopedic assistant is a part of an orthopedic surgeon's professional role. Here is a detailed description of the duties and responsibilities of the orthopedic physician assistant.
- Performing complicated medical examinations and maintaining a record of the history of the patient. The assistant also updates the patient about the operating and laboratory procedures.
- They prepare a Preliminary Patient Care Plan. The assistants also perform and collect detailed laboratory procedures. They also keep a detailed check on the EMG, Electrocardiogram, X-ray examinations and Bone scans.
- Performing procedures like administering drugs and anesthesia. They can also perform tendon repair, wound healing management, incision and drainage, wound debridement, pinning of fractures, needle biopsy and hardware removal.
- Assists an orthopedic surgeon in surgeries and helps in deep and artificial closures. Usage of tools and performs any other operating procedures as delegated by the surgeon. Conducts rounds with the surgeon, take notes and keeps a check on the recovery of the patient's health. Gives a clear and simple clarification to patients and even registers them for treatment. The assistants also dictate discharge summaries and explain each and everything written on the bill.
- Orthopedic assistants also execute diagnostic and therapeutic procedures like treatment of fractures, and treating infections of bones and tendons. They also give a detailed update about the braces, cast and splints if required.
Average Orthopedic Physician Assistant Salary
Job outlook of orthopedic assistants is very good in the coming years and the salary structure is impressive. Though your skills and experience are the main driving factors behind the pay package. Other factors like location, the place of your working (hospitals or private health clinics) also play an important role. Some of them also shift to new locations in search for better prospects. Here's a look at a rough estimate of the salaries of orthopedic assistants in different states.
Besides knowledge and the degree, there are many things which need to be followed if someone want to be a successful orthopedic physician assistant. It is obvious that this job will always keep you on toes and standing for long hours would be a daily task. So get used to this. The surrounding environment will consist of people who will always have difficulty in walking or performing some action, so it is your job to make sure that they don't face any problem. The quality of being patient and adjusting to the environment where everyone will need your guidance or help are two things which you need to have. A passion for excellence and a desire to help others in times of difficulty is a must for this job and it will help you survive in the long run. Great communication skills and fast writing speed is also very helpful in this field. Last but not the least, maintaining a great relationship with every patient, the orthopedic surgeon or whoever you interact with.
So this was everything that you needed to know about an orthopedic physician assistant's role in a hospital. Yes, the job is stressful and you will have no time to even take a breath. But this is the medical field and when you work over here, you have to be ahead of time.