What is a Physician Assistant (PA)
Physician Assistants (PA's) are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Common services provided by a PA include taking medical histories and performing physical examinations; ordering and interpreting lab tests; diagnosing and treating illnesses; assisting in surgery; prescribing and/or dispensing medication; and counseling patients. PA's are trained in intensive education programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs PA's are found in all areas of medicine. Today, approximately 50 percent of all PA'spractice what is known as "primary care medicine" - that is family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. About 22 percent are in surgery or the surgical subspecialties. PA's receive a broad education in medicine. Their education is ongoing after graduation through continuing medical education requirements and continual interaction with physicians and other health care providers. As their title suggests, PA's support physicians. However, they should not be confused with medical assistants. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PA's record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy. In 35 States and the District of Columbia, PA's may prescribe medications. PA's may have managerial duties too. PA's always work under the supervision of a physician. The extent of supervision, however, depends upon the location. For example, PA's working in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician may be available just 1 or 2 days each week, may provide most of the health care for patients and consult with the supervising physician by telephone. Other PA's may make house calls or go to hospitals to check on patients and report back to the physician. In some States, the duties of a PA are determined by the supervising physician; in others, they are determined by the State's regulatory agency. PA's assist physicians in specialty areas, such as general and thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, and pediatrics. Most PA's work in physicians' offices and clinics. For more information on PA's visit the AAPA web page, just click on the first link below.