About the Profession

What is a Physician Assistant?

PAs practice medicine. 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 work together with physicians as part of an integrated medical team. 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 (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). 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.

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 obtained from:

PA Focus: http://pafocus.org/what-is-a-pa/

AAPA - American Academy of Physician Assistants: https://www.aapa.org/