University of Nebraska Medical Center

What is a physician assistant?

The Profession

Physician assistant and patient

If you were a physician assistant, you would practice medicine together with physicians as part of an integrated medical team. PAs are medical providers licensed to diagnose and treat illness and disease.

PAs work collaboratively with physicians to provide care in a variety of settings, including physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. After completing an intensive training program modeled after physician education, PAs can treat patients with significant autonomy.

PAs provide almost all the clinical services that physicians provide, including making clinical decisions and providing a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services, including prescribing medications. The physician-PA team relationship is fundamental to the PA profession and enhances the delivery of high-quality health care.

PAs are qualified to practice by graduation from an accredited PA educational program and passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Only those passing the examination can use the title “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).” PAs keep up with medical advances through continuing medical education requirements.

Starting wage: $110,000
Middle-range wage: $120,000
Job after graduation from the UNMC PA program: 100%

Brief History of the PA Profession

The PA profession began in the 1960s during a period of primary care shortages. The profession’s roots are in the military. The first PA class, in 1965, was composed of Navy corpsmen who had served during the Vietnam War who wanted to use their medical knowledge and experience in civilian life.

Additional information about the profession may be found at:

PA Stories and Blogs

Since 1973, we have educated thousands of physician assistants (PAs) that now serve the state, country, and world. Enjoy the stories below that represent the devotion and joy of our graduates serving in patient care as PAs.

Stella Washington, PA-C, with patient

My Passion. My Commitment.

Stella Washington, PA-C, knew where she wanted to practice: South Omaha, where a good percentage of the population shares her Latina heritage.

Carey Pryal, PA-C, with patient

Real impact as a patient advocate

Carey Pryal, PA-C, doesn't just care for patients. She also advocates for them. She helps them navigate the health care system, connects them with specialists and makes sure they can afford their medications.

Dave Blauvelt, PA-C, with patient

With a PA's help, a small town keeps its clinic

Dave Blauvelt, PA-C, owns his own practice. He helped found First Care Medical in Kearney, Neb., a small but growing city and regional hub.

Dan Danaher, PA-C, with patient

Serving his country, serving the underserved

Dan Danaher, PA-C, has a good job at the Lincoln Department of Corrections, where he does rewarding work on a daily basis, serving the underserved.

What can I do next?

Review academic program & requirements

If you'd like to find out about our program to become a physician assistant, review the PA academics information and requirements.

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If you're still not sure which program is right for you, explore all the options!

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