A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. They practice medicine on health care teams with doctors and other medical professionals. PAs can practice autonomously or in a collaborative relationship with other members of a patient’s healthcare team. This combination is a major source of their strength.
They undergo rigorous medical training. PAs must take a test in general medicine in order to be licensed and certified. They must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass a certification exam. Like physician and nurse practitioners, PAs must complete extensive continuing medical education throughout their careers.
PAs diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication. PA education is modeled on a medical school curriculum, and PAs learn to make life saving diagnostic and therapeutic decisions while working autonomously or in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team. PAs are certified as medical generalists with a foundation in primary care. Over the course of their careers, many PAs practice in two or three specialty areas, giving them deep experience and the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their patients, employers, and communities.
Studies have shown that when PAs practice to the full extent of their abilities and training, hospital readmission rates and lengths of stay decrease and infection rates go down. Physician assistants can perform a variety of tasks, including taking medical history, conducting medical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting tests, developing treatment plans, counseling on preventive care, and writing prescriptions.
Most PA programs are approximately 26 months (three academic years) and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. Most programs also require students to have about three years of healthcare training and experience. Students take courses in basic sciences, behavioral sciences and clinical medicine across subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology and more. They then complete a total of more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine, and psychiatry.
Before they can practice, PAs who graduate from an accredited program must pass the PA National Certifying Exam and get licensed by the state where they plan to practice. In order to maintain certification they most complete a recertification exam every ten years and complete 100 hours of continuing medication education every two years.
For more information, visit the American Association of Physician Assistants website at the link below.