Physician Assistants: High Demand Practice Areas


Physician Assistants function in many capacities across the medical spectrum, from preventive measures in family medicine to prepping saphenous veins in cardiothoracic surgery.

The ability to freely move from one medical specialty to another is a very attractive aspect of the profession. PAs have many choices when it comes to clinical care.

Below are some hot practice areas to keep in mind when considering either the PA profession or your next career move in healthcare.

Primary care

Primary care is a high-demand field for PAs. Both Forbes and The Wall Street Journal have reported on how PAs can help fill the void in primary care providers. In addition, Walgreens just announced their plans to offer primary care services. Their “Take Care Clinics” will use nurse practitioners and physician assistants to deliver needed healthcare to Americans.

PA procedure specialties

Beyond diagnosing and prescribing medications, PAs can also perform office and inpatient procedures in some specialties. These specialties allow you to practice technical skills without long hours in the operating room. Here are some common procedures PAs perform by specialty.

Orthopaedic surgery

  • Injections into joints such as knee or shoulderPhysician Assistant Practice Areas
  • Joint aspirations
  • Cast and splint in fracture care


  • Excisions
  • Skin biopsies
  • Laser therapies
  • Botulinum toxin injections

Emergency medicine

  • Suture lacerations
  • Incision and drainage on abscesses
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Apply casts and splints

Surgical specialties

For quite a long time, PAs have been able to first-assist in surgery. Your time may be spent in the operating room alongside your supervising physician, or, you may be responsible for pre- and post-surgical inpatient care. In some surgery specialties, the surgical PA’s role is well-established. The American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants has an outstanding reference that displays the job duties and skills of PAs in each surgical specialty. Here are a few PA skills from two surgical specialties:

Cardiothoracic surgery

  • Prepare veins for coronary bypass
  • Thoracenteses
  • Chest tube insertions

Plastic and reconstructive surgery

  • Utilize an array of suturing techniques to close with minimal scarring


Last but not least, PAs are beginning to have a presence in neonatology, evidenced by a surfacing of residency programs:

PA neonatology residency programs

Neonatal PA

Procedures taught in neonatology PA residency

  • Umbilical line placement
  • Needle decompression of the chest
  • Chest tube placement
  • Intubation
  • Lumbar puncture
Data on which inpatient procedures a PA will be performing post-residency in the newborn nursery or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is scarce.  However, the available jobs are not scarce. ‘Nonphysician providers’ such as PAs are being incorporated into the neonatology team. Which hot practice areas did I miss? Kimberly Mackey Kimberly Mackey, MPAS, PA-C is a graduate of The University of Texas Medical Branch PA program. She practices in orthopaedic surgery in Houston, Texas. You can connect with her via twitter @kimmackeyPA or email This post originally ran on

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