A Physician Assistant (PA) is a skilled mid-level medical provider that works under the supervision of a physician to assess, diagnose and treat and follow a variety of common ailments and conditions, generally in a primary care setting. PAs complete physical exams, and may order and interpret laboratory, radiologic and other diagnostic tests as needed to diagnose and treat a patient in conjunction with the physician. PAs may also order medications and other therapeutic procedures as needed. PAs serve to educate patient and promote health. Some PAs also serve as first-assistants to the supervising physician during surgical and medical procedures. PAs work in a variety of settings, including physician offices, hospitals, prisons, and assisted living facilities. Office-based PAs generally maintain bank hours. Other PA’s may have rotating schedules, including weekends, holidays, and on-call time. PAs normally work indoors under fast-paced conditions. Exposure to hazardous materials and bodily fluids may occur. Time management is a key skill for any PA. To become a PA requires a minimum of a master’s degree, state licensing, and passing a national certification exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). PA program entry requirements vary by school, but generally require a 4 year degree, volunteer experience, and GRE exam scores. With changes in the health care environment, PAs are an integral part of creating access to health care, and can expect increased job opportunities.
Physician Assistant (PA) Tasks
- Order and interpret test results and recommend treatment of patients.
- Conduct complete physicals, provide treatment and counsel patients.
- Prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.
- Administer therapeutic procedures.
- Provide physicians with assistance during surgery or complicated medical procedures.