About the Physician Assistant Profession
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the uniformed services.
Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery and psychiatry. The work of physician assistants depends in large part on their specialty and what their supervising physician needs them to do. Their specific duties and the extent to which they must be supervised by physicians and surgeons differ from state to state.
According to the United States Department of Labor:
- Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.
- Physician assistants typically do the following:
- Take or review patients’ medical histories
- Examine patients
- Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
- Diagnose a patient’s injury or illness
- Give treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
- Educate and counsel patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
- Prescribe medicine
- Assess and record a patient’s progress
- Research the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care
- Conduct or participate in outreach programs, talking to groups about managing diseases and promoting wellness
The job outlook according to the United States Department of Labor is very bright. As demand for healthcare services grows, physician assistants will be needed to provide care to patients. Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 37 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The average median salary for PAs in 2016 was $101,480 per year.