Physician Assistants (PA) are licensed health care professionals who practice medicine with supervision of an MD or DO. PAs in conjunction with their supervising physician provide patient care by taking histories, performing physical examinations, diagnosing injuries and illnesses, prescribing, assisting in surgery, educating patients on prevention as well as their conditions, and ordering and interpreting lab and radiologic results. PAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, universities, governmental services, and industries.
How are PAs Educated?
In the mid-1960s, there was a shortage of physicians to provide primary care medicine. Dr. Stead developed the physician assistant curriculum based on a “fast track” of training physicians. He started the first PA program in 1965 with Navy corpsmen who had extensive medical training. This profession was developed to expand access to health care. Today, there are over 180 accredited PA programs. PA programs are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA).
PA programs educate students in primary care. Upon graduation from an accredited PA program, there are opportunities to work in all the different specialties of medicine. Graduates must successfully complete the PA program that is accredited by the ARC-PA and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) in order to obtain a license in the state(s) they desire to practice. PAs are required to complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and continue to pass the Physician Assistant Recertifying Examination (PANRE) every ten years to maintain certification.