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|What is a PA?|
More than 40 years ago...
Physician Assistants are health care professionals licensed to
practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs employed by the
federal government are credentialed to practice. 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 Education & Training
PAs are trained in intensive education programs accredited by the
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
(previously the American Medical Association's Committee on Allied
Health Education and Accreditation.)
Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with
physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement
physician training. Upon graduation, physician assistants take a
national certification examination developed by the National Commission
on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of
Medical Examiners. To maintain their national certification, PAs must
log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and sit
for a recertification every six years. Graduation from an accredited
physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam
are required for state licensure.
Scope of Practice
What a Physician Assistant does varies with training, experience, and
state law. In addition, the scope of the PA's practice corresponds to
the supervising physician's practice. In general, a Physician Assistant
will see many of the same types of patients as the physician. The cases
handled by physicians are generally the more complicated medical cases
or those cases which require care that is not a routine part of the PA's
scope of work. Referral to the physician, or close consultation between
the patient and physician, is done for unusual or hard to manage cases.
Physician assistants are taught to "know our limits" and refer to
physicians appropriately. It is an important part of PA training.