What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who has received academic and clinical training to provide medical care under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants practice in a variety of clinical settings, including family practice, primary care, general surgery, and surgical specialties.

PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications. In some some cases, physician assistants will bill for their medical services through their supervising doctor or employer.

Physician assistants are certified by a national professional organization and regulated at at the state level by the state medical board.

All state laws require physician assistants to have a supervising physician, but the physician does not necessarily have to be onsite at the same location. Most states allow physician supervision by telephone communication with periodic site visits.

Only physician assistants who are graduates of approved programs and have completed and maintained such certification may use the credentials PA-C (certified).

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Last updated: 5/13/2022