Stephens College aims to address need for more physician assistants

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COLUMBIA - Stephens College will see the first graduating class for its master's of physician assistant studies program. Administrators hope this will help fill a crucial need for more health care providers in mid-Missouri.

"The importance of it was that it was needed and the patients needed it," said Eric Johnson, director of the physician assistant program at Stephens College.

The job outlook for physician assistants is 37 percent growth, compared to an average of 7 percent for other careers. 

"There's more patients than providers, so this was the impetus for a physician assistant program," Johnson said. "Extend the physician's care in concern for the patients, especially in rural health and those populations." 

Stephens College's PA program will place its students in hospitals and private practices all over the state. It will also encourage students to help those in rural areas where health care can be scarce.

PA programs can be appealing to students because of the shorter length of time it takes to obtain the degree and start their career.

Brandi Van Booven is a second-year PA student. She said she likes her program because of the flexibility the field offers.

"I could start in critical care and then I could move to dermatology office, so it gives you a lot of flexibility."

Van Booven, like many other students, likes how accelerated the program is.

"It was something I found to fit my life style well, and it was a cheaper option," said Van Booven.

Stephens College's PA program takes 27 months to complete.