The physician assistant (PA) field is growing rapidly, and PAs are now considered vital to any healthcare team. Physician assistants are healthcare professionals who practice medicine with the supervision of licensed physicians, providing patients with services ranging from primary care to very specialized surgical care. Physician assistants obtain patient histories, perform physical examinations, diagnose illness and develop treatment strategies, order and interpret lab tests, counsel patients on preventative health, perform various medical procedures, assist in surgical operations, and in most states can write prescriptions.
Physician assistants also perform various medical procedures and in most states, including New York, PAs have the authority to write prescriptions. Their job descriptions are as diverse as those of their supervising physicians, and their function is regarded as critical to any healthcare team. While many PAs work in primary care settings and general internal medicine, the possibilities are unlimited and can encompass administration, academia, and research opportunities.
Because of the close working relationship PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. To maintain their national certification, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and sit for a recertification exam every ten years. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.