For some, there’s no question about which subtropical state they prefer to live in. Whether it’s for the authentic Mexican food and killer surf spots of SoCal or the famous Orlando amusement parks and nightlife of South Beach, both California and Florida have an abundance of unique draws for prospective residents. But in which state is it better to be a PA? In this article, we’ll check out what it’s like and what it takes to be a PA in 2 of the sunniest parts of the country.
Let’s cut to the chase. Which state pays more? According to SalaryByState.org, the 2010 median pay for PAs in the US was $86,410, and rose to $92,460 by 2012. For California, the current average salary of a PA is $99,000, while Florida lags behind the national average at $86,000. So if salary is your deciding factor for which state to practice in, California wins this one. However, it may be worth it to point out that whereas the average PA salary in California is about 15% higher than in Florida, the average cost of living in California is also about 15% higher than in Florida.
How to Become a PA
The road to becoming a PA in the 2 states is pretty much the same. In both, completion of an approved PA training program is required. A list of approved programs can be found here for California: http://www.arc-pa.org/acc_programs, and here for Florida: http://www.caahep.org. Both states also require prospective PAs to take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). However, when it comes to the fees associated with applying for licensure and initial licensure, the 2 states vary slightly. In California, it costs $25 to apply and the initial licensure fee is $200, making it a grand total of $225. Florida’s fees are a bit higher. There, the application fee is $100, and $205 is required for the initial licensure fee, for a total of $305. Once again, if money is the issue, even the slightest difference, California wins again.
Can PAs Prescribe Drugs?
Both states allow PAs to write drug orders, but the extent differs. In Florida, PAs are able to prescribe any medication, except those prohibited by the Formulary Committee of the PA Council and the Boards of Medicine. The drugs that Florida PAs are excluded from prescribing include controlled substances, general anesthetics, and radiographic contrast materials. California code permits physicians to grant authority to PAs to write drug orders for medication and medical devices, and in doing so, "the physician assistant is acting on behalf of and as an agent for a supervising physician and surgeon." California PAs, however, are permitted to issue Schedule II through V controlled substances if the supervising physician delegates that authority to the PA. In this case, California PAs may have more leeway than Florida when it comes to prescribing drugs, depending on their supervising physician.
Can a PA Perform Surgery?
PAs often act as a first or second assistant in surgery, but to what extent are they allowed to perform it? Both states allow PAs to perform surgery, but only with the permission of the supervising physician. California law states that PAs may only perform surgery if the supervising physician delegated the PA authority to do so in writing, even without the personal presence of the supervising physician. Florida law is almost identical, stating that “the decision to permit the physician assistant to perform a task or procedure under direct or indirect supervision is made by the supervising physician based on reasonable medical judgment regarding the probability of morbidity and mortality to the patient.”
There you have it. Overall, PAs are generally delegated the same responsibilities and authority in both the Golden State and the Sunshine State, but if money is a factor, California wins hands down.
- Department of Consumer Affairs Physician Assistant Board website. http://www.pac.ca.gov.
- Florida Board of Medicine website. http://flboardofmedicine.gov.
- Physician assistant salary by state. Salary By State website. http://salarybystate.org/healthcare/physician-assistant-salary-by-state.