Outside the Clinic

There are many options for PAs beyond clinical work

By Jennifer Anne Hohman

Do you ever wonder about the options for nonclinical employment open to you as a PA? There are many available. Here are some questions to help you think about what might be of interest to you in the nonclinical world:

  • What skills or talents would you like to use that you are not able to use in your current clinical position?
  • Is there a specific cause for which you have a passion?
  • How do you envision PAs making a positive difference in the world of medicine and society at large beyond clinical practice?
  • Would you enjoy doing research or working on policy or regulations?
  • In which situations are you at your most creative and best at solving problems?

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device manufacturing corporations hire PAs to work in research and development, medical clinical trials, regulatory affairs, education, communications, and sales and marketing. You’ll find job descriptions and position listings on major employment websites.

Expert witness and legal medicine

PAs can act as expert witnesses in areas in which they are clinically expert to render an opinion as to whether a fellow clinically practicing PA has met a standard of care. For more information and a network of PA leaders in this field, visit the American Academy of PAs in Legal Medicine.

Insurance

In the insurance world, PAs can establish treatment and reimbursement protocols and review charts, among other responsibilities. Jobs in this industry are found in the areas of health, disability, and life insurance as well as workers compensation. The National Association of Health Underwriters offers insight into the world of health insurance professionals, and SEAK Inc. has additional resources to explore.

Medical writing and communications

Medical communications professionals provide services to the media, governmental/public health agencies, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies in the areas of marketing/advertising, medical education, and regulatory submissions. According to the American Medical Writers Association, “Medical communicators write, edit, or develop materials about medicine and health. They do this by gathering, organizing, interpreting, and presenting information in a manner appropriate for the target audience. Professional medical communicators have communication expertise, awareness of ethical standards, and health care knowledge.”

Academics

Does the idea of teaching and mentoring the next generation of PAs and other clinicians appeal to you? PAs are professors, instructors, and leaders at PA programs in academic institutions around the country. The Physician Assistant Education Association is a resource for individuals and organizations interested in the educational aspects of the PA profession. And PA programs are always looking for preceptors — contact your local PA program if you’d like to offer your services. In addition to the satisfaction of passing along your knowledge to the next generation, many programs offer incentives such as access to university resources.

Hospital administration

PA administrators are in a position to make many positive changes as leaders in hospital administration (including PA use) and act as liaisons among governing boards, medical staff, and department heads. Leadership raises the profession’s visibility and role in promoting professional and quality patient healthcare. If you are interested in pursuing this kind of work you can contact the AAPA special interest group PA Administrators, Managers and Supervisors.

Government, policy and organizational leadership

Become an elected official or an organizational leader or work behind the scenes as a healthcare policy expert. In any of these roles, you can raise the profile of the profession and promote public health. Learn more from fellow PA leaders at the AAPA’s yearly Leadership and Advocacy Summit.

Medical informatics

Interested in improving healthcare through IT? Medical informatics is a growing field concerned with the application of informatics and information technology across the clinical and public health domains. The American Medical Informatics Association is an in-depth resource for learning more about this multidisciplinary field.

Wellness director or coach

Do you have a special passion for wellness? Consider a role in wellness and health coaching in the areas of diet, nutrition, exercise, mind-body, and smoking cessation, whether in a corporate wellness setting or as an independent health coach. Learn more at the Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference.

Research

Conduct clinical trials and other forms of vital medical research in university, government  or corporate settings. Connect with colleagues working in research via the PAs in Research (PAR) group, whose mission states: “The purpose of PAR is to promote awareness of the growing need for physician assistants in research, provide educational materials, and create networking opportunities.”

Media

In today’s ever-expanding media environment, PAs can offer their expertise as healthcare correspondents (and health promoters) for online, print, and broadcast news services.

Finally, here are some suggestions on how to start exploring nonclinical options:

  • Volunteer or find a fellowship area that interests you.
  • Connect with peers in the nonclinical fields that interest you. Offer to take them out for coffee to learn more about their work. Networking is especially important to learn about and land nonclinical jobs. Resolve to reach out to existing contacts or create new ones as part of your exploration of nonclinical worlds.
  • Attend nonclinical conferences and events in the areas you’d like to explore — Google may surprise you with the options and events available.

Jennifer Anne Hohman is the founder and principal of PA Career Coach, a service dedicated to helping PAs create rewarding, healthy, and patient-centered careers. Contact her via email.