What Is a PA?

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A physician assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional who provides healthcare services typically performed by a physician under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. PAs are concerned with preventing and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care as part of a healthcare team.   PA’s practice in a wide variety of specialties and settings.

To perform at this level of responsibility, much of the education of Physician Assistants is provided by physicians in order to assure that the patient-care functions provided by the Physician Assistant are equivalent in quality to those of the physician who delegates them.

Physician assistants typically do the following:

  • Review/take patients’ medical histories
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
  • Make diagnoses concerning a patient’s injury or illness
  • Give treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
  • Educate and counsel patients and their families regarding preventive health care, management of health risk behaviors, patient medical issues
  • Prescribe medications
  • Research the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care
  • Assist in surgery
  • Perform therapeutic procedures such as suturing, removal of minor lesions and casting

PA’s work in all specialties and settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Physician Offices
  • Rural and urban community health centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Retail clinics
  • Schools and university-based facilities
  • Industrial Settings
  • Correctional institutions
  • The uniformed services and other federal government agencies

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 (Bureau of Labor statistics):

The median annual wage for physician assistants was $94,350. 

Employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 38 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for healthcare services from the growing and aging population and widespread chronic disease, combined with a shortage of physicians, will result in increased demand for healthcare providers, such as physician assistants.

Forbes Highlights Nationwide Demand for PAs

PAs were the fifth most-hired medical professional in 2014 according to The Medicus Firm. The national physician recruiting firm told Forbes that PAs are among its top 10 most frequently placed medical care providers.