Family medicine physician assistants account for the largest segment of the practicing PA population – approximately one-in-four office visits are made to family medicine practitioners, making this area of medicine the cornerstone of integrated patient care.
Family medicine covers a broad scope of practice, with PAs who chose to practice in this area trained in general internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, basic surgery, emergency medicine, basic orthopedics and obstetrics and gynecology.
PA practitioners in family medicine are not specialists — they understand a good deal about many medical fields but depend on collaboration with specialist colleagues to help care for patients. The family medicine PA treats patients of all ages and both genders, rather than treating patients belonging to specific age groups with specific medical conditions.
These practitioners work as primary care providers, delivering comprehensive continuous healthcare to an individual or family. The focus of care is on prevention and health maintenance, as well as treating illness and disease. Taking medical histories; identifying and diagnosing illness and disease; developing treatment plans of care; writing prescriptions; determining appropriate referrals; and providing follow-up care are all part of the job.
Family medicine PAs tend to take a holistic approach, treating the total patient rather than one specific aspect or patient complaint. This enables these practitioners to build a strong foundation for long-term care.
“Family medicine is a massive undertaking because of the wide amount of knowledge necessary to practice,” said Dottie Fillion, PA-C, of Brockton Hospital in Brockton, Mass. “I see different things everyday. There is so much variety in the daily schedule – the day may start with hospital rounds and progress to acute visits, physicals and follow-up visits for chronic problems.”
The job market for PAs that are interested in family medicine continues to grow along the profession as a whole. The current average salary for family medicine PAs ranges from $75,000 to $88,000 dependent on experience and geographical location, according the American Academy of Physician Assistants.