Pediatric physician assistants are licensed health-care professionals who provide diagnostic and treatment services for patients under the age of 18. Under the supervision and guidance of pediatricians, assistants perform a wide range of tasks, from diagnosing acute illnesses to setting and casting broken bones. The specific education and training requirements to become a pediatric physician assistant vary between regions and countries, but most professionals enter the field after earning college degrees, gaining experience in other health-care positions, and completing two-year training programs. After completing training and passing a national exam, a person can become a pediatric physician assistant at a hospital, public clinic, or private practice in his or her region.
A bachelor's degree is not always required to become a pediatric physician assistant, but the majority of hospitals and pediatricians prefer to hire assistants who have college experience. Most hopeful physician assistants choose to major in nursing or biology to gain a detailed understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in both lecture and laboratory courses to develop the skills necessary to succeed in physician assistant jobs.
After earning a degree, a person who wants to become a pediatric physician assistant can begin applying for entry-level health-care jobs. New workers can become medical aides, clinical assistants, or registered nurses by passing requisite licensing tests and continuing education courses in their region. Firsthand experience in a hospital setting is very important for a prospective physician assistant to learn what to expect in his or her eventual career.
In most regions, medical workers can enter two- to three-year physician assistant programs after gaining about four years of practical experience. Programs are commonly available at allied health schools, universities, medical colleges, and hospitals. The first half of a program usually entails classroom lectures and laboratory work in a range of subjects related to disease, human physiology, and biochemistry. A student typically spends the last part of training in a practical internship, where he or she works directly with physicians and experienced assistants.
A successful trainee can take written regional and national exams to earn the credentials necessary to work as a physician assistant. Some professionals are able to enter pediatric assistant jobs right away, but many regions require additional training and certification to work in the specialty. In order to provide quality pediatric care, an individual needs to know how specific injuries and illnesses affect children differently than adults. In addition, a person who wants to become a pediatric physician assistant must be able to interact with young patients on their level, using calming, easy-to-understand language. With the appropriate training and skills, new pediatric physician assistants usually enjoy many employment opportunities.