Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PA) are health care professionals who are licensed or credentialed to practice medicine as members of a physician-PA team with their supervising physicians. They work in all medical and surgical specialties, and deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Due to the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. PAs are trained in intensive education programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs (NCCPA) 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 every six years. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.

Scope of Practice:

Physicians may delegate to PAs those medical duties that are within the physician's scope of practice and the PA's training and experience.

State medical and PA practice acts and regulations generally allow physicians broad delegatory authority, which permits flexible, customized team practice.

In facilities such as hospitals, PAs obtain clinical privileges through a system similar to the one used for physicians.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam authorize PAs to prescribe.


As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs:

-Conduct physical exams
-Diagnose and treat illnesses
-Order and interpret tests
-Counsel on preventive health care
-Assist in surgery
-Prescribe medications
-They can also be involved in education, research, and administrative services.