Plastic Surgeon Assistant Education Requirements and Job Duties

Plastic surgeon assistants work with patients in need of reconstructive or cosmetic surgery. Under the supervision of licensed professionals, plastic surgeon assistants examine patients, help determine potential treatment plans, and discuss surgical options with patients. The majority of plastic surgeon assistants have prior work experience in the medical industry. Read on for more information about the education requirements and job duties of plastic surgeon assistants.

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Plastic Surgeon Assistant Education Requirements

Degree and Certificate Programs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plastic surgeon assistants' educational requirements fall under the same guidelines as physician assistants (PAs), who typically complete a two-year graduate-level program (www.bls.gov). Some PA programs may allow previous experience in the medical industry to be substituted for lack of a formal bachelor's degree.

Applicants usually need to pass prerequisite courses before being accepted into a PA program. Common prerequisites include courses in chemistry, biology, anatomy, and psychology. Once in the program, students may take courses on patient assessments, various fields of clinical medicine, pharmacology, and medical terminology. They may also participate in supervised clinical rounds to treat and diagnose patients.

Additional Training

Although students can choose to focus on surgical coursework and clinical rotations during their training, not all programs provide students with opportunities to work directly with plastic surgeons. Oftentimes students will complete the PA program and then enter into a plastic surgery residency program. Plastic surgery residency programs provide PAs with hands-on training working with surgical tools, as well as experience with techniques used specifically in the plastic surgery profession.

Plastic Surgeon Assistant Job Duties

Plastic surgeon assistants provide plastic surgeons with support during surgery. Assistants often prepare patients for surgical procedures by laying out surgical tools for the surgeon to use. Plastic surgeon assistants can also examine patients and perform some treatments on patients, but assistants are limited by state guidelines on what duties they can perform.

Sometimes plastic surgeon assistants consult with patients if plastic surgeons are too busy. Assistants provide patients with explanations of diagnoses, treatment options and instructions for postsurgical care. Depending on state laws, some plastic surgeon assistants can also write prescriptions for patients.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of all types of physician assistants, including plastic surgeon assistants, would grow by 30% between 2010 and 2020. Physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $90,930 in May 2012, per the BLS, although salary rates can vary widely depending on location, education, and experience.

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