Are these true about a surgical PA? (read inside)

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2NeRLyFsTyLE

    I spoke to my Biology professor today and he gave me some information on a surgical PA that sounds really enticing but I'm not sure if what he said was true or not because it sounds too good to be true.

    -He said that surgical PA's, in some settings, can do most of a surgical procedure and the surgeon just oversees what they do.
    -He also said that a surgical PA can make about $140K per year, which I was immediately surprised at because I thought PA's only made between $70K-$100K from some sites I looked at.
    -I also asked him about the length of training for a surgical PA, I have another thread open about this that has already been answered, but he said that it takes 5 years. I assumed he meant 5 years including undergrad, but that's too little to become a surgical PA and be making in the mid $100K's. I'm not sure if he possibly meant 5 years after undergrad.

    Can anyone please verify this information for me and tell me what's true and what's not? Thanks.
     

    lapelirroja

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      It takes as much time to become a surgical PA as it does a PA for any field--all PA's are trained as generalists, and can work in any field that they wish. It is true that some PA programs have a surgical focus (ie Cornell) but they still must cover the basic primary care curriculum. PA programs can take anywhere from 24 months to three years. However long it takes for you to complete your prerequisites is up to you and your background. If you enter a BS or Certificate program, you do not need 4 years of undergrad prior to applying. If you do enter a MS level program, you must have a Bachelor's degree. All programs consider prior medical experience and most require it. The more the better. As far as salary goes, while 100K might be more than average for a fresh graduate, it wouldn't be unheard of in some areas of the country--this also depends on what field you choose to practice in and your level of experience prior to entering school. You can find lots of information on www.physicianassistantforum.com as well as www.aaspa.com.
       

      core0

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        I spoke to my Biology professor today and he gave me some information on a surgical PA that sounds really enticing but I'm not sure if what he said was true or not because it sounds too good to be true.

        -He said that surgical PA's, in some settings, can do most of a surgical procedure and the surgeon just oversees what they do.
        Probably an overstatement. Most PAs first assist. PAs that do CV surgery do the vein harvesting themselves while the surgeon opens the chest.
        -He also said that a surgical PA can make about $140K per year, which I was immediately surprised at because I thought PA's only made between $70K-$100K from some sites I looked at.
        CV surgery can be in that area. The data on PA salaries is here:
        http://www.aapa.org/research/07census-content.html#4.13
        The data on different specialties is here:
        http://www.aapa.org/research/SpecialtyReports07/index.html
        General surgery shows a median salary of $83k and a new grad median of $70k. However for example CV surgery pays much better with a median of $101k. It depends on the area and the specialty. New grads are going to make less.


        -I also asked him about the length of training for a surgical PA, I have another thread open about this that has already been answered, but he said that it takes 5 years. I assumed he meant 5 years including undergrad, but that's too little to become a surgical PA and be making in the mid $100K's. I'm not sure if he possibly meant 5 years after undergrad.
        Most PA programs are masters program requiring 2-3 years after undergrad. There are some certificate and bachelors programs that need less undergrad. There are also a few five year programs that you enter as a freshman and enter the PA portion after three years. You graduate in 5 years with a bachelors and a Masters. You are unlikely to make $100k right out of school. The average salary for all PAs is $82k. The average new grad makes $72k. You can make more than that as a new grad but you can also make less (hence the average).

        Can anyone please verify this information for me and tell me what's true and what's not? Thanks.
        Look at the AAPA section entitled data and statistics which has all the information you are looking for. The AAPA FAQ has this also.
        http://www.aapa.org/research/index.html
        http://www.aapa.org/glance.html

        David Carpenter, PA-C
         
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          I spoke to my Biology professor today and he gave me some information on a surgical PA that sounds really enticing but I'm not sure if what he said was true or not because it sounds too good to be true.

          -He said that surgical PA's, in some settings, can do most of a surgical procedure and the surgeon just oversees what they do.

          In my experience, that just does not happen very often and certainly not on a regular basis. There are some places where a PA, in an institutional (i.e., teaching hospital) setting may get a patient ready for surgery and take them to the OR, position and may even do the incision, but the primary operation is done by the surgeon. I also know some PA's who do exposure with the doc on the other side of the table and close but not the meat of the operation.

          -He also said that a surgical PA can make about $140K per year, which I was immediately surprised at because I thought PA's only made between $70K-$100K from some sites I looked at.

          It is not unreasonable and certainly not unheard of for a surgical PA to make that kind of money, but they are in the top 5 or 10 percent of money earners and most of them work 70 to 80 hours a week and take call. A more reasonable range is $80,000 to $110,000, I would say that includes probably about 70% of us in that range.

          -I also asked him about the length of training for a surgical PA, I have another thread open about this that has already been answered, but he said that it takes 5 years. I assumed he meant 5 years including undergrad, but that's too little to become a surgical PA and be making in the mid $100K's. I'm not sure if he possibly meant 5 years after undergrad.

          As has already been mentioned total time for a PA curriculum varies in-between 2 and 3 years with or without a Bachelors depending on the program. There is the option of completing a one year, voluntary residency if you want. The vast majority of us do not do them.

          Can anyone please verify this information for me and tell me what's true and what's not? Thanks.

          The money and the lifestyle sound really great and glamorous until you've been doing it for awhile. Believe me, after morning rounds, then operating for 12 to 14 hours and then seeing the consults and possibly a trauma or two for days in a row it does not seem near as glamorous and turns out to be a job. If you look at hours worked vs. money made it is not a lot more than other jobs, just more hours. The bonus is when you really like your job and enjoy helping folks. That is what makes it worth it.
           

          foreverLaur

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            I've heard quite a few stories of well seasoned surgical PAs (15+ years with the same doc) who will do most routine procedures pretty much solo. My sister has had both a torn ACL repaired and a torn meniscus removed. The doc + PA did the ACL repair but supposedly the PA did the meniscus removal solo.

            Is this rare or more common after spending this much time working with the same doc?
             
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            deleted6669

              I've heard quite a few stories of well seasoned surgical PAs (15+ years with the same doc) who will do most routine procedures pretty much solo. My sister has had both a torn ACL repaired and a torn meniscus removed. The doc + PA did the ACL repair but supposedly the PA did the meniscus removal solo.

              Is this rare or more common after spending this much time working with the same doc?

              a good friend of mine is a residency trained ortho pa. when he and the doc do b/l procedures the doc does 1 entire side and my friend does the other at the same time.
               

              core0

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                They have residency training for Ortho PAs?

                They have post graduate orthopedics programs for PAs. The programs don't like to use the term residency or fellowship because residency and fellowships in medicine represent specific training for physicians. Unfortunately a lot of people use the name because it fits into an easy context.
                http://www.appap.org/prog_specialty.html
                There is a lot of debate in the profession about what the post grad programs mean, but right now about 0.05% of PAs are trained in post graduate fellowships.

                As far as what happens, I haven't seen bilateral knees done that way (not saying it doesn't happen). The more common area is in ACLs where the PA will harvest the graft and prepare it while the surgeon gets things exposed. I also knew an orthopod (in the days before bilateral TKAs were common) who would run two rooms with two PAs. One PA would get exposure. The orthopod would come in do the sawing and fit the knee. The PA would close. The orthopod would go to pre-op see the next patient and then go to the second room where the other PA had the next knee ready. Could do a total about every 30 minutes all morning. Pretty good paycheck for everyone concerned.

                David Carpenter, PA-C
                 
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