04 January 2010
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a health professional licensed by the state or credentialed by a federal employer to proactive medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a physician. PAs provide a broad range of medical and surgical services that traditionally have been performed by physicians.
The PA works as a member of a team with his or her supervising physician as the leader of the team. PAs can meet the needs of patients in a variety of clinical settings. PAs have long been recognized as quality health care providers.
PAs perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, develop and carry out treatment plans, order and interpret lab tests, suture lacerations, apply casts, assist in surgery, provide patient education and preventive health care counseling, and prescribe medications.
What is a PA-C?
Physician Assistant-Certified. It means that the person who holds the title has passed the certification exam developed jointly by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and is currently certified by the commission. The NCCPA is an independent organization, and its commissioners represent different national medical organizations and the PA profession. Only graduates from an accredited PA educational program are allowed to take the initial exam.
What is the difference between a PA and a physician?
PAs are trained in medicine, just like physicians, and in some programs PAs attend many of the same classes as medical students. Both professions are educated to detect diseases and treat them, and to assist patients in living healthier lifestyles.
What kinds of conditions can PAs treat, and what situations require the doctor’s care?
What a PA does corresponds to the supervising physician’s practice. The cases handled by physicians are generally the more complicated medical cases or those that require care that is not routine part of the PA’s scope of work.
Supervising physicians determine which patients and what kind of illnesses they want PAs to treat. Close consultation between the patient, PA, and physician is done for unusual or hard-to-manage illnesses. PAs are taught to know when it is appropriate to have the patient seen by the physician. It is an important part of PA training.