What is a physician assistant?

As their title suggests, physician assistants, or PAs, assist doctors with patient care.

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Training for physician assistants, which includes classroom and laboratory instruction across a wide range of medical specialties, typically takes two to three years. Most physician assistant programs are graduate-level programs, which require a bachelor's degree for admittance. All physician assistants must pass a certification exam to receive their license and take ongoing continuing medical education (CME) courses throughout their careers.

Physician assistants provide care by performing exams and some types of procedures, taking medical histories, ordering diagnostic tests and treatments, making diagnoses, prescribing medications and making referrals to other specialists. Many physician assistants work in primary care clinics, and as active members of other providers’ health care teams.

A physician assistant (PA) is a health professional who practices medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs work in primary care or more specialized areas such as cardiothoracic surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.