Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who work under the supervision of a doctor, and perform medical duties that range from essential primary care to advanced specialty procedures. During major surgeries, they often function as primary or secondary assistants. In certain rural areas of the United States where the supply of doctors is limited, they also become the primary health care providers, and confer with other medical professionals on an as-needed basis in compliance with the law.
Physician assistants responsibilities are based on the related medical practice, their past experience, their working relationship with the medical staff, and the applicable state laws. Many of them work in primary care, which includes internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. Others specialize in internal medicine, emergency medicine, geriatrics, orthopedics, and general and thoracic surgery, where they are responsible for providing preoperative and postoperative care for their patients.
Becoming a Physician Assistant
In the United States, there are many colleges offering graduate programs for physician assistant training. These programs are connected to or affiliated with allied health, university schools of medicine, or two- and four-year colleges. The deadline for applying to physician assistant schools usually ranges from November to March, and classes generally start from May to September, though actual deadlines and start dates vary by school.
A physician assistant training program in the United States can vary in length, but most last approximately 26 months. During the first year in physician assistant schools , the candidates study medical science, which may include anatomy, physiology, and microbiology. This is followed by a series of clinical rotations in both private practice and an institutional setting.
After completing their training, physician assistants can sit for the national certification test, which the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants* administers, which is also required in order for them to be licensed by the state in which they will be practicing. These professionals stay current in the medical field by taking continuing medical education classes. To retain their national certification status, physician assistants must also complete 100 class hours every two years, and a re-certification examination is administered every six years as well.