What is a physician assistant?
Physician Assistants (PAs) are skilled health care professionals who:
- provide a broad range of health services, including taking medical histories, performing physical exams, making assessments and assisting in surgery, under the supervision of a physician.
- help increase accessibility to high quality health care in rural and urban areas.
- reduce health care costs by emphasizing preventive health care.
- improve the continuity of patient care within the health care system.
- prescribe medications in 33 states including Texas.
Physician Assistants are trained in programs at medical schools and universities affiliated with teaching hospitals accredited by the American Medical Association.
The curriculum consists of a basic medical sciences section which includes topics such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, biochemistry, and medical sciences. The clinical section consists of experiences in such areas as internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and family practice.
Candidates for admission into physician assistant programs usually have at least two years of college, and more typically, baccalaureate degrees in pre-medical sciences as well as one or more years of direct patient care experience. A baccalaureate or Master's degree is awarded on graduation.
After graduation, physician assistants take a national certification exam administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Recertification occurs every two years with continuing medical education and every six years by reexamination.