The professional of physician assistants (PA) were introduced to the American Medical Association in the early 1960s when a shortage of physicians first became evident. With the demand for physicians continuing to grow as baby-boomers near their retirement age, the role of a physician assistant today is more important than ever before.

Physician Assistant Job Description

A physician assistant is a medical professional that is educated and trained for the purpose of performing medical treatments and patient care procedures that are much similar to those of a physician. These individuals are able to complete many of the same essentials tasks, but without the same credentials. This may include performing physicals or medical examinations, diagnosing and treating patients, and even prescribing medications. Physician assistants can be found in various medical fields, as they may practice family medicine, emergency medicine, primary care, psychiatry, and more.

A physician assistant is required to work under the direct supervision of the physician. Their responsibilities may vary depending on the state they reside. Usually, physician assistants are allowed to perform all the tasks that are listed below.

In general, physician assistant job description entails the following:
  •  Provide patient’s with written prescription notes
  •  Keep track of patient’s medical progress
  •  Perform physical examinations on patients
  •  Assess and evaluate medical test, blood test, and X-ray findings
  •  Provide patient with an early diagnosis and suggestions on which medical tests to consider
  •  Monitor the patient’s medical and health histories
  •  Perform therapeutic care on patients, including immunization, infection care, injection, and dressing of wounds
  •  Monitor performance of healthcare professionals at lower levels, including nurses, technicians, and their assistants
  •  Fill out paperwork for insurance purposes

How to Become a Physician Assistant

A physician assistant must undergo a two year course at a school offering an accredited program. There are more than 150 schools that are accredited within the United States, which also includes medical schools and academic health centers. Colleges also offer four year courses for aspiring physician assistants. The two year course is the bare minimum requirement for becoming a physician assistant. In these programs, completion of studies usually leads to a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies, but may also provide degrees in Medical and Health Science. 

Physician Assistant Training

Clinical training is accomplished while completing the physician assistant program at an accredited school. The program will include a multitude of classroom, medical lab, and clinical environment studies and experience. This will cover various medical fields, such as family medicine, internal, and emergency medicine, and pediatrics. Throughout the course, the students will usually spend some time working with physicians to get a more hands on training experience at a clinical environment in the area. 

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Physician Assistant Certification

The United States, plus the District of Columbia, have regulations in place for physician assistants. All physician assistants must be certified and licensed before they can practice. Graduates of accredited programs must first take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which is a computer-based, 300 questions multiple-choice test assessing general medical and surgical knowledge. Those who complete and pass the certification exam will become a certified physical assistant, with a designation of PA-C. Once certified, they can then apply for licensure in the state they wish to practice.

To maintain certification and a license to practice, all physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. Furthermore, they have to pass a recertification exam every 6 years.

Physician Assistant Salary

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Physician Assistant Job Description Summary

  • Examine, diagnose, and treat patients
  • Under supervision of licensed physicians
  • 2 years of education minimum
  • Must be certified and licensed to practice
  • Continuing education required
  • 38% employment growth by 2022