Description of the Profession
Physician Assistants are licensed health practitioners qualified by academic and clinical experience to practice medicine or deliver medical services with the supervision and direction of a licensed physician who is responsible for the performance of that Physician Assistant (PA). The Physician Assistant may be involved in providing health care services in a wide variety of medical care settings with the supervision, but not necessarily in the presence of a physician. The role of the Physician Assistant and his/her functions vary with his/her own individual capabilities and the specific needs of the employing physician or institution. The practice setting in which the PA works also varies according to the community in that he/she lives and practices.
The Physician Assistant is generally responsible for the following duties:
- Eliciting a detailed and accurate medical history, performing a complete physical examination and recording all pertinent data.
- Performing, ordering and/or interpreting routine diagnostic studies, including routine laboratory procedures, common radiological studies, electrocardiograph tracings and Pap smears.
- Performing therapeutic procedures, including injections, immunizations, wound care, suturing, incision and drainage of superficial infections, insertion of nasogastric and bladder catheters, cast application and follow up of simple fractures.
- Counseling patients regarding physical and mental health, including diet, disease prevention, normal growth and development and family planning.
- Assisting the physician in inpatient settings by performing patient rounds, recording patient progress notes and determining and implementing therapeutic plans.
- Assisting in the delivery of services to patients requiring continuing care, i.e., at home, skilled nursing homes and extended care facilities.
- Facilitating the appropriate referral of patients and maintaining awareness of existing health delivery systems and social welfare resources.
For more information, please refer to the Competencies of the Physician Assistant Profession developed by the AAPA, PAEA, NCCPA, and ARC-PA available at http://www.nccpa.net/pdfs/Definition%20of%20PA%20Competencies%203.5%20for%20Publication.pdf