Physician Assistant (P.A.)

Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. PAs should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

Although physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is present for only 1 or 2 days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the physician. In 47 States and the District of Columbia, PAs may prescribe medications.

There are currently about 137 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States, more than 90 of which offer a master’s degree. Education generally includes a bachelor’s degree and 2-3 additional years to obtain a master’s degree.

For more information, see:

PAEA

CASPA Application