A physician assistant is a healthcare provider that has been trained in a model similar to that used in training physicians. By law, a physician assistant is required to work under the direction of a supervising physician. In order for a PA to practice medicine, he/she must have a bachelor’s degree, complete physician assistant school, pass the national certifying exam and become licensed in the state in which he/she plans to practice. Most PA schools are a three-year Master’s Program, including both academic and clinical rotations in different specialties of healthcare.
Physician assistants are trained to perform physical exams, order and read diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat diseases, educate patients on preventative medicine and write prescriptions. In addition, PA’s are trained to assist in surgery and perform minor surgical procedures. The emerging role of PA’s is the result of the benefits they offer to both the physicians that employ them and the patients they serve. Because a PA can see patients without the supervising physician present, they have improved access to care by allowing busy physician offices to see more patients. Also, many times a PA is able to spend more time with a patient at their visit, as the doctor may be unavailable. The physician and physician assistant work together as a medical team to provide efficient and quality healthcare for their patients.