A physician assistant (PA) is a health care provider who is trained to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. A bachelor’s degree is required for acceptance to a PA school. Any type of bachelor’s degree is acceptable for admittance as long as specific course requirements are met, although medical experience is strongly preferred. Most PA programs are now masters programs with a length of approximately 26 months. After the completion of a PA program, each student must pass a national certification exam, through the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants to become certified. In order to maintain their certification they must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education hours every 2 years.
Physician Assistants can practice in many specialties. They work side-by-side with their supervising physician or they see patients in independently-run clinics. Clinical notes, patient recommendations, and treatment plans are reviewed by their supervising physician. Physician Assistants and their supervising physicians work together as a team to provide quality patient care. They are able to do this by completing physical examinations, making diagnoses, ordering and interpreting diagnostic imaging, and performing in-office procedures, such as injections. A PA can see patients with a new problem for an initial evaluation, follow-up appointment, post-operative appointment, or in the hospital or Emergency Room. Physician Assistants who work in surgery often act as a first assistant in the operating room as well. Many times, physicians assistants will take after-hours calls in the evenings and on weekends. This may be who you speak with if you have questions or concerns during one of these times.