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Physician Assistants and Their Areas of Medicine

Physician assistants are found in all areas of medicine such as internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, surgery, psychiatry, orthopedics, anesthesiology, surgical sub-specialties, and more. These healthcare professionals are highly in demand and can find employment in healthcare, education, research, administration and government facilities. Here are the duties and responsibilities of physician assistants involved in different medicine areas:

Physician assistants in family medicine typically work under the supervision of a family physician. These PAs do not specialize in an area of medicine. Rather, they help treat regular, everyday diseases and illnesses. They also focus on diagnosis, preventive health care and health maintenance. They administer treatments, write prescription requests, and provide follow-up healthcare.

Internal medicine physician assistants treat patients suffering from diseases that impact their internal organs. Patients under the supervision of internal medicine PAs may be affected by chronically illnesses and require ongoing care. Such PAs also advise patients on diet and lifestyle. Internal medicine PAs can also specialize in different subcategories – heart, intestines, liver, blood, etc.

Physician assistants specializing in surgeries have special skills. They are skilled at surgical procedures and assist doctors perform surgeries. Such PAs must complete a surgical residency program and attend programs at the graduate level. PAs specializing in surgical assistance are trained to care for patients starting from the consultation process right through to the surgery. They know how to prepare for surgery and many surgeons even allow their PAs to perform some surgical procedures.

Preoperative care PAs work in hospitals and help patients prior to their surgery. They also reassure and comfort patients and answer all their surgery-related questions. Typical duties include recording preoperative medical history, physically examining patients, ordering diagnostic tests and creating reports for the surgeon. They also know how to write postoperative reports and in some cases may even be required to help the surgeon perform an operation.

PAs specializing in pediatrics are trained to treat children. They study the same subjects that a non-specialized family medicine PA does. They can provide inpatient and outpatient care and can find employment in hospitals or in other medical facilities. Such PAs can even assist in surgeries and provide neonatal care. Pediatric PAs help treat minor and routine cases – the serious cases are left to the doctor.

Cardiology physician assistants know how to work on echocardiogram equipment, EKGs, ABIs (Ankle/Brachial Index) Ultrasounds, and Holters, and interpret reports. Cardiology is a medical, and not a surgical, specialty. The physician (not the assistant) performs the cardiac catheterization and inserts pacemakers. Such PAs know all about the cardiovascular system.

Orthopedic PAs, aside from listening to patient histories and prescribing tests and treatment, can administer regional anesthesia, and perform minor surgical procedures like tendon repair, incision, drainage, needle biopsy and hardware removal. They are adept at performing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures like joint aspirations, dislocation reduction, and splint applications. They assist orthopedic surgeons, help in postoperative care and perform other usual duties like evaluating patients, caring for them and providing counsel.

Anesthesiology physician assistants assist anesthesiologists and administer the prescribed anesthetics. They perform the usual PA duties and are adept at operating specialized equipment and processes like intra-aortic balloon pump machines, auto rapid machines, cell savers, starting IVs, and other anesthesia machines.  Anesthesiology PAs can also become proficient in sub-specialty areas like heart & liver, neuro, and other specialized anesthesiology sub-specialties.

Physician assistants are found in every area of medicine. Aside from the areas mentioned above, PAs can find gainful employment in the following specialties:

  1. Cardiovascular surgery
  2. Dermatology
  3. Emergency medicine
  4. Neurosurgery
  5. Neurology
  6. Cosmetic/Plastic surgery
  7. Trauma surgery
  8. Psychiatry
  9. Critical care medicine
  10. Oncology
  11. Gastroenterology
  12. Radiology
  13. Urology
  14. Allergies
  15. Nephrology
  16. Pain management
  17. Endocrinology
  18. Obstetrics
  19. Occupational medicine
  20. Hospital medicine
  21. Geriatrics
  22. Public health
  23. Rheumatology
  24. Otorhinolaryngology


So, as you would have observed, there is a need for physician assistants in all areas of medicine. Different states have different physician assistant laws and evey PA must be thorough with state laws governing the profession. They must also buy adequate malpractice insurance because employer insurance is not enough.

PAs train very hard and work under the supervision of a licensed doctor. It’s a rewarding, fulfilling and noble career that keeps the community in good health and promotes national productivity.

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