The Inners Works of a Physician Assistant (PA)

By: Swati Patel

In the world of medicine, being highly skilled, efficient, and having the ability to work with a team are must have characteristics of a medical professional. So many of you may think, “I have what it takes to fulfill these characteristics but I don’t want the responsibility of a doctor yet,I still want to be able to diagnose and prescribe medication.” But what if there was something in between? What if there was a career path in which you could pursue the ability to diagnose and treat patients by working with a team of medical professionals? Well you are in luck. In recent years, the demand for Physician Assistant (PA’s) has increased tremendously. PA’s are trained in a similar setting to medical school, but PA school is completed in the course of two years instead of four. The first year is class-based, and the second year is clinically-based in which students make their rounds in the various fields of medicine to receive diverse exposures to the different fields within medicine. PA’s are not independent clinicians; instead they work under a physician’s supervision. Some PA’s may have the ability to make more decisions for a patient’s treatment than others depending on what the supervising doctor allows them to do. The self-autonomy of a PA can vary based on the supervising physician.

PA’s have a large variety of medical and surgical services they can perform. PA’S can now prescribe medicine in all 50 states.  They  are trained and exposed to an immense amount of specialties; because of this, they have the ability to change concentrations throughout their careers. PA’s are exposed to specialties like: family practice, orthopedics, general surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and oncology. Within these specialties they perform many tasks such as: medical history, accurately document medical records, provide patient with verbal and written instructions, prescribe medicine if needed, develop treatment plans using evidence-based medicine, perform complete and problem focused physical examinations, carry out management and research skills, and perform medical and surgical procedures consistent with their supervising doctor. The career path of a PA has so much to offer with its wide range of specialties to pursue and the increasing demand.

So now we get down to what exactly pin points the difference between a medical doctor and a PA, and what the difference between a PA and a Nurse Practitioner is. Stay tuned for more in the next edition!