Physician Assistant (PA)

Physician assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician. PAs are educated in intensive medical programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The average PA program curriculum runs approximately 26 months. PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. The majority of PA programs accredited today offer a masters degree. PAs are required to take ongoing continuing medical education classes and to be retested on their clinical skills on a regular basis. PA’s deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order, and interpret tests, counsel on preventative health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications. Physicians may delegate to PAs those medical duties that are within the physician’s scope of practice and the PA’s training and experience. All fifty states, the District of Columbia and Guam authorize PAs to prescribe. Physician assistants are certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and are state licensed. State medical and PA practice acts and regulations generally allow physician’s broad delegator authority, which permits flexible, customized team practice. The majority of PAs work in general or family medicine, general surgery, surgical subspecialties or emergency medicine.