What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistant sees a patientTime for a wellness check-up? Looking for a primary care provider to treat your chronic illness? 

A physician assistant (PA) can do those things and more. 

Don’t be fooled by their title: PAs aren’t assistants to a physician. These licensed medical experts can examine, diagnose, and treat patients, as well as prescribe medicine. And while they collaborate with doctors, PAs can see patients on their own. 

They see patients in medical offices, hospitals, outpatient centers, and other settings. In some clinics, PAs are the primary care providers you might see on a regular basis. Some even specialize — for instance in family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics or surgery. 

Their specific duties can depend on where they practice, their specialty, state laws and other factors. But in general, PAs can:

  • Do physical exams.
  • Diagnose and treat diseases and injuries.
  • Order and interpret x-rays, bloodwork, or other medical tests. 
  • Create treatment plans.
  • Talk to you about ways to stay healthy or manage a chronic disease.
  • Assist in surgery.

PAs have a solid medical education and experience. Their background typically involves a master’s degree, state licensing and extensive clinical training.