What is a PA?
A physician assistant (PA) is a graduate of an accredited physician assistant educational program who is authorized by the state to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs are invaluable members of the health care team, working in concert with physicians to ensure the highest quality of care for patients.
How long have physician assistants been providing health care?
Duke University Medical Center established the first program in 1965. Today, there are approximately 85,000 physician assistants eligible to practice.
What is a physician assistant’s scope of practice?
A PA performs many services, including:
- Taking health histories.
- Performing physical examinations.
- Ordering and interpreting X-rays and laboratory tests.
- Establishing diagnoses.
- Treating and managing patient health problems.
- Instructing and counseling patients.
- Providing continuing care to patients in the home, hospital, or extended care facility.
- Providing referrals within the health care system.
- Performing minor surgery.
- Providing preventive healthcare services.
Can a physician assistant prescribe medications?
Yes. Physician assistants can prescribe medications that can be filled in any pharmacy.
Does a physician assistant have a supervising physician?
Yes. Each PA must be supervised by a physician. The physician supervises the PA either when both are at the same location or by telephone. The supervising physician must always be available to the PA should the need arise.
What does "PA-C" stand for?
Physician assistant-certified. It means that the person who holds the title has met the defined course of study and has undergone testing by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The NCCPA is an independent organization, and the commissioners represent several different medical professions. It is not a part of the PA professional organization, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). To maintain certification, a physician assistant must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and take the recertification exam every six years.