A Physician Assistant (PA) is a mid-level provider of medical care. The PA is licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. The Explore Health Careers website provides the following description. “PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.
In 47 States and the District of Columbia, PAs may prescribe medications. They also may have managerial duties. Some order medical and laboratory supplies and equipment and may supervise technicians and assistants. Physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician. However, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is present for only 1 or 2 days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the physician.”
Most PA programs are 2-3 years in length and vary widely in their requirements. Be sure to research the programs in which you are interested so that you can take the required coursework and completed any necessary clinical experience. Below are links to a variety of different sources of information for students interested in pursuing a Physician Assistant degree.