Health Care Providers: Physician Assistants (PAs)
What Is a Physician Assistant?
Physician assistants (PA) work with doctors to give medical care. They can do much of the patient care that doctors do, such as physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering tests, and prescribing medicines and other treatments. They also can help doctors during surgery, go on patient rounds, and oversee treatment plans.
PAs can see patients on their own but they must have a doctor on their team. How involved the doctor is varies from state to state.
Why Would Someone Need One?
PAs can provide routine medical care. So your child might see one for:
- well-child visits and vaccinations
- common infections
- minor injuries
- care for a minor wound (for example, to get stitches or fix a dislocation)
- concerns and problems related to puberty and sexual development
- blood tests
- STD screening
- mental health screens (checking for depression, etc.)
Some PAs choose a specialty, such as:
- women’s health
- emergency medicine
- ear, nose, and throat (ENT)/otolaryngology
What Is Their Training?
Physician assistant training includes:
- a 4-year degree from a college or university
- 2–3 years of PA training modeled after physician programs
- graduation from an accredited PA program
- 2,000 hours of clinical rotations
If they decide to specialize, they will complete a fellowship in that field for advanced training.
Good to Know
Besides working in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices, PAs also care for patients in nursing homes, community health centers, schools, and correctional institutions.