Wayne State University

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What is a physician assistant?

  • Physician assistants (PAs) are nationally certified and state licensed health care professionals who are trained to provide high-quality health care services to patients. PAs practice medicine on heath care teams and share the responsibility of care of the patient with a physician.
  • PAs practice in every medical and surgical specialty and setting. PAs manage patients at all levels, often handling patients with multiple comorbidities. PAs conduct physical exams, assist in surgery, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, participate in clinical research and more. 
  • The PAs’ scope of practice is is determined by their education and experience. Scope of practice is also subject to state law and facility policy. 
  • PAs are educated at the graduate level, with most PAs receiving a master’s degree or higher. In order to maintain national certification, PAs are required to recertify as medical generalists every 10 years and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years.

Where do PAs practice?

  • More than 100,000 certified PAs work in every medical and surgical specialty across the US. Greater than 1/3 of PAs practice in hospital settings and 40% work in a group practice or solo physician practice. Other areas of practice include community health centers, free standing surgical facilities, nursing homes, school or college-based practices, industrial facilities and correctional institutions.

What is the job outlook for the PA profession?