As a profession, pharmacy exists to serve the needs of society, most often represented as the needs of individual patients. Pharmacists are the health professionals who serve patients and other health professionals in assuring appropriate use of, and optimal therapeutic outcomes from, medications. Pharmacy’s ultimate goal is to render pharmaceutical care.
Some pharmacy schools will accept students upon the completion of a minimum of 60 semester units of pre-pharmacy coursework. However, due to a high number of applications, a bachelor’s degree is highly preferred at many institutions. A Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy) degree requires at least four years of professional study. The first two years usually cover the basic sciences and the last two years, pharmacy theory and practice. Upon graduation, increasing numbers of students are seeking residency training in institutional and community pharmacy practice. These residency programs may be in pharmacy practice or specialty areas, depending upon personal interests and specific career requirements. Completion of a pharmacy residency is oftentimes a requirement for employment in hospital pharmacy practice or clinical faculty positions. In addition, some pharmacy schools offer joint degrees: PharmD/PhD, PharmD/MBA, and PharmD/MS.
Physical Therapist’s (PTs) are experts in movement and function of the body. Physical Therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities associated with injury or disease. Patient examination in physical therapy include, but are not limited to: testing of muscle function, strength, joint flexibility, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, respiration, skin integrity, motor function, quality of life, and activities of daily living. PTs also determine a patient’s ability to reintegrate into the workforce or community after illness or injury.
All professional (entry-level) physical therapist educational programs currently award a Master’s or Doctoral (DPT) degree and are usually three years long. By 2016, all physical therapy programs will be offering the DPT degree. Generally speaking, the first two years are focused on academic and clinical course work including relevant clinical rotations. The third year consists predominately of challenging clinical experiences, as well as advanced courses and seminars. All states require physical therapists to have graduated from an accredited physical therapist educational program, as well as pass a national licensure examination. Physical therapist practice is governed by state licensure law and, as such, there may be additional requirements and fees beyond the required national licensure examination.
Upon graduation, an array of opportunities are available to licensed PTs that include, but are not limited to pursuing clinical mastery in practice by completing an approved clinical residency or clinical fellowship, pursuit of clinical specialization in eight specialty areas (i.e. cardiopulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports, and women’s health) through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, furthering one’s formal academic education.
Physician assistants (PAs) are licensed health professionals who practice medicine with physician supervision as members of a medical team. The exact responsibilities of a PA depends upon the type of medical setting in which they work, the understanding they have with their supervising physicians, their level of experience, and the laws of their state. Physician assistants can develop treatment plans, perform physical exams, order and interpret laboratory tests, diagnose and treat illnesses, counsel patients on preventative health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.
Physician assistants are educated as generalists in medicine, and their education and credentialing are based on a primary care foundation, which gives them the flexibility to be employed in all areas of medicine. PA’s practice in family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology, as well as in any specialty fields such as cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. PA’s must have a license and a supervising physician before they can practice.
Most physician assistant programs award a Master’s degree and the average length is about 27 months. PA’s are required to complete more than 400 hours in basic sciences, 75 hours in pharmacology, 175 hours in behavioral sciences and nearly 580 hours of clinical medicine. They also need to complete 2,000 hours of clinical rotations with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician’s offices and acute/long-term care facilities. All states require that PA’s graduate from an accredited PA program and are required to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).