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What are the Prerequisites for Physician Assistants?

February 28th, 2012

A Physician assistant’s job is rewarding, fulfilling and recession-proof. The profession requires hard work, dedication, and high levels of motivation. The course is long and demands 100% focus. Most schools limit the number of seats and set up very strict selection rules. Here’s what it takes to become a PA:

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Schooling

  1. You need a high school education or great scores in General Education Development (GED).
  2. Some schools require applicants to complete 2 years of college or minimum 60 credits. However, all accredited physician assistant programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s (science) degree and all the top schools need a college degree.
  3. Students who have opted for science subjects (biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics), psychology, English and social science, stand a better chance than others.
  4. All schools prefer students who have obtained rich experience in a medical facility. Such experience can be up to 1 year – the higher the better.
  5. Students who have taken drugs in the past will most likely be rejected.
  6. Every PA school routinely conducts background verification on all its applicants.
  7. The school will check your GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores. It will also check to see how recently you have taken the GRE exams – if more than 5 years have passed since you took your GRE exams, your application may be rejected.
  8. You will have to apply using CASPA’s (Central Application Services for Physician Assistants) online application service.
  9. You must submit letters of reference as required, and at least one reference must be from a practicing physician.
  10. You will also need a BLS certification. BLS, (Basic Life Support) is a short course that prepares students in reviving a patient and helping him withstand a medical condition like cardiac arrest, respiration problems, etc.
  11. Your thinking, communication, logic, social and motor skills will be tested.


Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Certification

You need to pass the exam conducted by the (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) (NCCPA) to get your certificate. The exam is rather lengthy – it goes on for 6 hours and the student has to answer 360 questions. 1 minute per question is allotted to students to answer the questions.

To become eligible for the exam, you must prove that you have completed an accredited PA program successfully. A PA program lasts for 2-3 years and includes classroom and in-clinic training.

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Practice

Once you obtain your PA certification, the next step is to get a license from the state you intend to practice in. Every state has different licensing rules and therefore you must check rules that apply to you.

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Staying Certified

You need continuing education to keep your certification current and active. All PAs are required to complete 100 hours of education every 2 years. In addition, all PAs must take a recertification exam (PANRE, or Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam) every 6 years to keep their certification alive. PANRE is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

These are the different prerequisites of a physician assistant that he must fulfill at different stages of his career.

Salary of Physician Assistant

February 27th, 2012

Before we can talk about the salary of physician assistant, we must briefly look at what a physician assistant really is. While some people may have heard of a physician assistant before, a good number of people still likely have not heard of this profession, and with good reason. After all, as a medical professional, the physician assistant has been around only since the 60s when the first courses for this medical profession were offered.

Basically, a physician assistant is a medical professional who is both licensed as well as trained to practice medicine under the supervision of a medical professional. The concern of a physician assistant is the prevention, the maintenance and the treatment of medical illnesses as well as injuries via the provision of a wide array of healthcare services that are usually provided only by a doctor. In example, a physician assistant can be licensed to do physical examinations, diagnose as well as treat sicknesses, order tests and analyze test results, give advice with regard to preventative healthcare, help out with surgery, offer medical orders and even write some prescriptions in certain states.

We all know that a regular doctor makes a lot of money every year, especially if said regular doctor has a lot of years of experience and/or works in a very specialized field of healthcare. It might surprise and interest some people to know that a physician assistant makes a decent amount of money, too, although still not as much as a traditional doctor. The mean salary for a physician assistant is approximately $80,000 per year, which is quite good by the standards of a lot of people! Now, to provide just a little bit more context to that figure, remember that $80,000 a year is only an average, so there are going to be physician assistants who make a little bit less than that amount per year, while other physician assistants can pull in an amount in excess of $80,000.

To wit, some physician assistants earned only $68,000 per year, but there were other physician assistants who earned as much as $97,000 per year. Further, any physician assistant who has finished school and is just starting out is only going to make about $50,000 per year. Clearly, there is a correlation in the scope of physician assistant salaries with regard to more experience and a greater income per year. There is also a good projection with regard to the amount of the salary that a physician assistant can make every year. Based on numbers from the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a physician assistant is slated to expand by around 10 percent in future years, mainly because of the increase in demand for people who work as this kind of medical professional.

There is a clear link between how much money a physician assistant makes per year and how much of a demand his or her profession will experience. According to some estimates, between 2011 and 2016 alone, the profession of a physician assistant will expand by up to 40 percent, easily making this career choice superior to a lot of other occupations.

As you can see, the average salary of physician assistant is quite high, making it a solid career choice for somebody who wishes to be able to make a good living. With an average yearly salary of about $80,000, a physician assistant is going to be able to make a good living to support his or her family. When you couple that with the fact that a physician assistant does not have to go to school for nearly as long as a regular doctor, you can understand how desirable this career choice is.

Physician Assistant Job Description

February 27th, 2012

Are you a young and dynamic physician assistant fresh out of school and keen to serve humanity? Well, you will be happy to know that there’s a huge demand for physician assistants and every state is offloading more duties and responsibilities on their able shoulders. So, welcome to the real world and here’s a job description that will help you understand what you will go through right from your first day at work:

Job Essentials

All physician’s assistants must meet the following strict requirements. If you don’t, your job will be impacted. Here’s what you need to be:

  1. You must be highly motivated. Ever imagined a demotivated healthcare professional attending on to sick, glum patients? It would be disaster – so, no matter what, you must keep your morale and motivation levels high.
  2. You are on mission critical while on the job. A simple or silly mistake can change the patient’s life and land you in a legal soup. So, get ready to assume 100% responsibility.
  3. You will work under the supervision of a doctor or a surgeon and must ensure that all treatments administered, tests ordered, and medicines prescribed by you are with the written approval of your supervising doctor.
  4. Your work ethic must be strong and you must have a caring attitude.
  5. If you find work in a sensitive government agency, you must not disclose your employer’s ID. Likewise, other employers may also require you not to disclose their name.


Physician Assistant Responsibilities

Your responsibilities will depend on your specialty, sub-specialty and experience, and therefore the duties of physicians assistant will differ. A family physician assistant does lesser than an general surgery assistant, and so on. However, you will be required to do about 75% of what your doctor can do and here is a general list of duties and responsibilities:

  1. Collecting, reading and understanding every patient’s medical history.
  2. Physically examining patients and assessing their health.
  3. Ordering tests, recording test results, analyzing results and helping the patient understand the results.
  4. Diagnosing medical conditions.
  5. Caring for a wide variety of wounds, stabilizing trauma, etc.
  6. Administering injections and immunizations.
  7. Prescribing medicines (ensure that you follow the state laws – some states do not allow PAs to prescribe medicines)
  8. Checking on and recording patients’ progress.
  9. Counseling patients and their family members on treatments and therapies, including alternative therapies.
  10. Supervising medical assistants and technicians.
  11. Ordering healthcare supplies.
  12. Referring patients to other doctors/surgeons.
  13. Stepping into the doctor’s shoes (with his written permission) when the need arises.
  14. Traveling, if required.


Qualifications and Experience

  1. You must possess a bachelor’s degree from an American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA)-approved program.
  2. Your NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) certification must be current.
  3. Most employers are discerning and look for minimum 3.5 GPA. So, getting a job will depend on your academic records as well.
  4. Your experience counts as well. The employer will check if you have had any experience in a similar setting. An urban hospital will check for your work experience in urban metropolitan areas, a rural facility will check for your familiarity and experience in rural settings, and so on.
  5. Government agency jobs will involve travel and may require fluency in a foreign language.
  6. Every employer wants his physician assistant to be in top mental and physical shape. You may be required to complete a very thorough physical and psychological exam. Jobs with agencies like the CBI will require you to “lie” down and take a polygraph test.
  7. Your substance abuse record will be checked as well. If you have used illegal drugs in the past, it may weigh against your getting the job.
  8. The employer will also run a background check, which is a routine procedure.



The physician assistant salary is based on a number of factors:

  1. Your experience and skill-level will make the biggest difference. Sharper skills and rich experience will naturally result in higher pay.
  2. Your specialization will count too. A HIV/AIDS PA gets a higher salary then a family practice PA. The pay can go really high for specialties facing a shortage of PAs.
  3. Geography counts as well. Urban healthcare centers pay higher salaries than rural facilities.
  4. The type of healthcare facility also counts. A practicing physician pays lesser than a hospital and a government agency and education institutions pay lesser than what physicians and hospitals pay.


Depending on your area of specialization, you can expect to start anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000 (rough estimates).


The job outlook for a physician assistant is robust and is expected to grow at a healthy clip till 2018. It’s a noble, soul-satisfying and rewarding profession that requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

Typical Demographic Characteristics of Physician Assistants

February 21st, 2012

Before you discover just what the typical demographic is for a physician assistant, it would be best to first briefly revisit what a physician assistant is in the first place. A physician assistant, abbreviated PA, is a medical professional who is both licensed as well as trained to practice medicine while being supervised by a real doctor. A physician assistant in possession of his or her appropriate license is permitted to carry out any surgical or medical instructions that were delegated upon him or her via through the doctor. In normal situations, a physician assistant is going to be working as a component of a team in a big city hospital or even as just the sole provider of healthcare in a remote, tinier or inner-city clinic.

Based upon information straight out of the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ most current census of the country’s physician assistant data (2009 census), the average physician assistant can be described in the following ways.

First of all, the typical physician assistant is actually a woman, and 65 percent of all physician assistants are women. For further perspective, consider the following. Around half of all doctors are woman, and greater than 95 percent of nurse practitioners are women.

The average physician assistant graduated at the age of 30 from physician assistant school. Approximately half of all physician assistants are between 25 and 33 years of age.

The average physician assistant has a bachelor’s degree or even further education beyond that level. This should be taken to mean that it is getting harder and harder—if not already downright impossible—to get into physician assistant school with less than a bachelor’s degree.

Caucasian is the typical racial demographic of the average physician assistant. The majority of physician assistant schools claim that there are a low number of minority applicants to physician assistant schools, yet there is apparently a huge effort underway to improve this number so that more minorities start applying to physician assistant schools.

The average physician assistant is in his or her middle age at about 41 years of age. He or she will have also been out of physician assistant school for around 11 years. The fact that the average physician assistant is this old already is potentially an indicator of how long it takes to accumulate medical experience.

The average physician assistant works inside of a group practice 29.5 percent of the time. This is due to the fact that working within a group is more productive, as proven by the fact that things such as billing, filing, making appointments and even medical tasks are divided between everyone in the group, therefore lowering the overhead.

The usual physician assistant works in the field of primary care, with 25 percent of all physician assistants fitting this description. The next nearest specialty of physician assistants was emergency medicine at around 10 percent.

The usual physician assistant practices medicine in a metropolitan region that features a population bigger than 1 million. Still, there is an effort to motivate a greater quantity of physician assistants to operate in more rural areas, yet it looks like this is difficult to achieve. There is a greater quantity of jobs in any city, and they also pay more money, to boot.

The normal physician assistant who works about 32 hours a week gets to see about 70 patients a week, which is an average of 14 every day if he or she works 5 days of the week. Real doctors could see even twice this quantity of patients a week. Physician assistants report they enjoy taking more time with their patients, while regular doctors report feeling rushed with their patients.

Why You Should Become a Physician Assistant?

February 17th, 2012

If you are asking yourself just why you should study to become a physician assistant, there is a good chance that you are considering a career in the medical field, but are not committed to investing all of that time and energy into becoming a full-fledged doctor. In one sense, you should become a physician assistant because you will not have to spend nearly as much time in school as a doctor would going through med school. However, in another sense, you could want to become a physician assistant primarily because you enjoy providing primary care services to people who would otherwise not be able to access them as easily.

To understand why you would want to become a physician assistant, you should first understand what a physician assistant is all about. A physician assistant is a medical professional just like a doctor is. However, the big difference between a physician and a regular doctor lies in the fact that a physician assistant is subordinate to a regular doctor. This means that a physician assistant cannot really operate without being under the supervision of a doctor, although there are exceptions. For example, a physician assistant may be allowed to do a lot of the things that a doctor does, such as writing prescriptions (at least in some states only, though), evaluating patients, ordering tests for said patients, giving patients advice on a specific course of treatment and diagnosing ailments.

Now, it is easy to see that a physician assistant is basically a medical professional who does not have as much education as a doctor—which is why he still has to work under the supervision of a doctor—but can do a lot of the same things that a doctor performs. This profession was meant to increase the number of medical professionals who could provide primary care services to patients, and the statistics bear that out when you consider that a lot of physician assistants working today actually work in the primary care field of medicine.

You should want to become a physician assistant for more than just a love of medicine, though. As a physician assistant—as with anyone who works as a medical professional—you are clearly going to be dealing with a good number of people. Thus, you should have a decent amount of people skills, and you should also genuinely enjoy working with people since you are going to be seeing a lot of patients as a physician assistant. Further, you should also want to sincerely help people, as the patients you will be seeing will be people with all sorts of medical ills and ailments, eager to have a medical professional with a sympathetic attitude. Having good people skills means that you ought to have attributes such as good listening qualities, a good bedside manner, a good helping of patience, a willingness to strive to do your best to help patients and a good work ethic that puts patients ahead of anything else.

The above should have answered a great deal of why you should want to become a physician assistant. As you can see, this medical profession is something that will put you in touch with a lot of people, thereby necessitating good people skills and attributes like empathy. A physician assistant career is a good compromise between wanting a career in the medical field, though not wanting to invest quite as much time studying to be a doctor in med school. Of course, the compensation for a physician assistant, which can get into the six-figure range in some cases, is another good reason for why you would want to become one.

The Origin of the Physician Assistant Profession

February 12th, 2012

Before we can get into a discussion on just how the physician assistant profession began, it will be useful to precisely define just what a physician assistant is. In a nutshell, a physician assistant is a medical professional just like a regular doctor, but unlike said regular doctor, a physician assistant does not have all the autonomy to practice medicine in the same way that a regular doctor would. For example, a physician assistant oftentimes works under the direct supervision of a doctor. Still, though, a physician assistant can carry out a lot of the same things that a doctor does, and this includes writing prescriptions in some states, diagnosing sicknesses, advising patients on healthcare choices, helping out with surgical procedures and evaluating patients. The advantage to being a physician assistant is that a person does not have to go to school anywhere near as long as a regular doctor does, though. In some cases, the pay for a physician assistant can even reach close to the six-figure range, too!

The roots of this medical professional can be traced back a few decades, all the way back to the 1960s. Basically, at the mid-decade point of the 1960s, both regular doctors as well as educators in university settings actually began to realize that there was a pitiful dearth as well as an unequal distribution of primary care doctors. They decided that it was of utmost importance to make plans to successfully broaden the provision of high-quality medical care.

This effort culminated in 1965 when, one Dr. Eugene Stead out of the Duke University Medical Center, which is found in North Carolina, established the very 1st class for physician assistants. His choice of inclusion in this very 1st class of physician assistants was a group of Navy corpsmen who had gotten significant medical training while in service to the military and also during the war in Vietnam. However, what made this group of Navy Corpsmen such great candidates for the very 1st physician assistant program was the fact that they had no benefit of any comparable, civilian work. Interestingly, though, the basis of the curriculum for the very 1st class of physician assistants established by Dr. Stead was the faster-than-normal training of physicians that was quite common in World War II.

By the later part of the 1960s, two other doctors had also taken after Dr. Stead by establishing their own physician assistant programs. The two doctors were Dr. Hu Myers from Alderson-Broaddus College and Dr. Richard Smith from the University of Washington, respectively. These two doctors started up their very own physician assistant programs by the close of the 1960s. By 1970, the American Medical Association finally passed a resolution for the purpose of creating education-based guidelines as well as certification processes for physician assistants. Finally, the Duke University Medical Center Archives, appropriately so, has founded the Physician Assistant History Center, which is committed to the study, the presentation and the preservation of the physician assistant profession’s history.

So how did the physician assistant profession begin? It essentially started as a way to bridge the gap between doctors and patients, with an eye toward expanding the provision of primary care services. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Stead from the Duke University Medical Center, the physician assistant profession grew out of his initial class into the ever-expanding medical profession that it is today. Physician assistants are professionals who provide a very vital service to patients, especially in situations when doctors can’t be everywhere at the same time. More and more people are choosing to become physician assistants in the present day.

What’s the Difference Between a Physician Assistant and a Physician?

February 8th, 2012

Many people have heard of a physician, obviously, but fewer people probably have heard of a physician assistant, and with good reason. We all know that a physician is a doctor, a medical professional who invested a lot of years in medical school in order to be able to diagnose patients and treat their ills. However, just what is a physician assistant? Is it really just a person who helps the doctor out, almost like a sidekick or a nurse, maybe even? To find the answer, read on.

Basically, the core difference between a physician assistant and a physician has to do with the education of each professional. We all know that doctors can go to medical school for a really long time, something like 6 to 10 years! This is where the professional calling of a physician assistant comes into the picture: It is for people who want to do much of the same things that physicians can do, but do not want to sacrifice up to a decade of their lives in medical school. At the end of the day, a physician assistant does not differ all that much from a physician.

Since a physician assistant is still just an “assistant,” he operates under the watchful supervision of a doctor. Basically, a physician assistant and a physician share in the accountability of patient care. Just the same, sometimes, physician assistants are allowed to see a patient without their supervising doctor watching over them. The duties of a physician assistant even closely mirror what you can expect from a doctor. Physician assistants develop and execute treatment plans, diagnose sicknesses, suture patient wounds, help out with surgical operations, perform physical examinations and advise patients on healthcare options. As a bonus, physician assistants are legally permitted to even write prescriptions in 39 states.

Although one is a medical professional when one becomes a physician assistant, the amount of schooling is far less for a physician assistant than a real doctor. In sharp contrast to a real doctor who attends medical school for up to 10 years, a physician assistant just gets a 4-year bachelor’s degree, gets some medical experience and goes into a physician assistant program that is accredited (such programs normally take 25 months). In addition, a physician assistant also has to perform a 1-year, clinical rotation to obtain hands-on medical knowhow. Continuing education classes as well as constant retesting of their medical skills are both obligations of a physician assistant, too. A lot of people who train to become physician assistants are actually already nurses, paramedics and EMTs. Now, compare the above education requirements of a physician assistant with the education requirements of a doctor. A doctor usually completes a 4-year bachelor’s degree, a 2-year medical degree and a residency that can last up to 7 years! Obviously, the education requirements for a doctor are a lot heavier.

These days, about half of all physician assistants operate in the area of primary care, which means fields like family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine.

As you can see, a physician assistant is a legitimate medical professional who is still inferior to a real doctor, though. A physician assistant works under the supervision of his doctor, and he goes to school for far fewer years to become a physician assistant than a doctor does to become a doctor. However, that aside, at the end of the day, a physician assistant still performs a whole lot of the duties that one usually expects a doctor to do. In a nutshell, a physician assistant comes with some of the perks of being a doctor, but without all of that heavy schooling.

Pathologist Assistant Salary and Career Path

February 3rd, 2012

The pathologist assistant salary can be anywhere between $70,000 and $100,000 per year. Over time, proficiency and experience help a pathologist assistant earn more than $100,000 per year. It’s a steady, well-paying and fulfilling career in an industry that’s booming despite the recession.

Pathology involves the studying and diagnosing of diseases by examining organs, cells, body fluids and tissues.  Pathologist assistants work under the direct supervision of a licensed pathologist. Duties and responsibilities include:

  1. What they have learnt in the pathology PA course
  2. What the pathologist authorizes them (in writing) to do (based on their experience)
  3. What the state allows them to do, or prohibits or limits them from doing


A pathologist assistant, just like all physician assistants, is subject to checks and balances. If they order tests then the testing institute must have a mechanism in place to ensure that the PA’s recommendation is in the best interests of the patient. Conditions and limitations like these vary from state to state.

 Why is the Pathologist Assistant Salary High?

It’s because of the nature and importance of the job. Pathology helps discover the root cause of a disease and everything else (treatment, therapeutics, etc.) is based on the pathology and other diagnostic reports. Pathology discovers and enables healthcare professionals in eliminating medical conditions that impact the community.

What does a Pathologist Assistant do?

A pathologist assistant provides anatomical and pathological services under the direct supervision of a licensed pathologist. There are three types of anatomic pathology assistants – cytopathology assistants (involves examination of cells), surgical pathology assistants (examination of tissues), and autopsy assistants (examination of body).

A pathologist assistant can prepare and dissect specimens, obtain and examine medical histories, prepare tissues for procedures like histology, photograph specimens, perform postmortems, and even be involved in administrative functions.

Most pathologist assistants opt for surgical pathology as the pathologist assistant salary is high in this area of medicine.

How to Become a Pathology Assistant?

You should ideally hold a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or medical technology. People with such degrees are encouraged to apply to an accredited Pathologists’ Assistant Program. A bachelor’s degree in another science area can also work.

The training program is typically broken down into 2 parts. The first part involves training and lasts for about 12 months. It is followed by 10-12 months of clinical work. Many students join the program after gaining experience in clinical laboratory science and cytotechnology.

After the program is complete, students must pass the national certification exam and obtain a license from the state. After completing the program, the graduate is conferred a Master’s degree.

American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) is the official pathologists’ association. It also imparts continuing education. Every practicing pathologist assistant must keep their license current and active at all times.

Job Outlook

The demand for pathology assistants is on the rise. American states also have started specifying more duties and responsibilities for physician assistants. The doctors too look up to their PAs and allot them duties based on their training, experience and limitations specified by the state. The pathologist assistant salary typically starts at $70,000 per year and the demand for such assistants outstrips their supply and all graduates can expect to receive employment letters before leaving their program. These PAs find work in hospitals, pathology labs, research centers, academic institutes, and medical examiner facilities.

Before applying…

Before you apply for the course, ensure that you have completed the following training:

  1. English Composition (1 semester)
  2. General Biology, General Chemistry (1 year)
  3. Microbiology, Bio Chemistry, Organic Chemistry (1 semester)
  4. Aptitude testing
  5. GRE/MCAT and TOEFL, if English is not your first language


Some programs may also require anatomy, histology, cell biology statistics, immunology, genetics, or more. Requirements vary from institute to institute and therefore you must check and compare programs of different institutes to ensure that you apply right. You must make a decision well in advance because institutes admit only a few students. You need to plan carefully for this course.

Before you consider the career, talk to a practicing pathologist assistant and find out what’s involved in real life.


This was about the career and the reasons why a pathologist assistant salary is so high. It’s a noble profession that helps the nation know what’s wrong with it and maintain its health, and thereby contribute positively to national growth.

The Limitations of a Physician Assistant

February 1st, 2012

A physician assistant’s duties and responsibilities depend on his training, experience, and state laws. A physician assistant assists his/her physician, so it can be said that the physician performs complicated procedures while the PA performs simple and routine procedures. However, the PA practice is growing rapidly and many doctors allow their PAs to treat patients independently. States are loading more responsibilities on PAs. PAs specializing in surgical procedures are also allowed to perform some procedures independently. As the physician assistant gains experience, the doctor starts relying more on him/her and then the line between what the physician assistant can do and what he/she is allowed to do starts to blur. So, how can we define what a physician assistant can or cannot do?

Here are the answers:

Physician Assistant – Scope of Services

A physician assistant is a dependent healthcare practitioner. This means that he/she has to always work under the supervision of a licensed doctor. The licensed doctor is responsible for the actions of his/her physician assistant and therefore allots his/her normal work based on his/her training and experience. A physician assistant performs many healthcare functions, including the following:

  1. Evaluating patients: A physician assistant can go through a patient’s medical history, ask him questions, conduct a physical examination, create a report and present it to the doctor.
  2. Monitoring patients: He/She can implement patient health management plans, provide care to patients in hospitals or other facilities, help the doctor in his/her hospital rounds, and record the patient’s progress.
  3. Diagnosing patients: He/She can perform and interpret the results of lab, radiology, cardio, and other procedures.
  4. Performing therapeutics: PAs can administer injections and immunizations. They can suture and care for wounds and manage medical conditions brought about by trauma or infections. They can assist while the doctor manages complex and life-threatening conditions. They can supervise and direct blood withdrawal in a DUI/DWI case.
  5. Counseling patients: PAs can direct patients to stick to their prescribed treatment plans. They can also advise patients on general health, emotional issues, and health maintenance.
  6. Referring patients: PAs can refer patients to other medical professionals and social service agencies as required.


What a Physician Assistant is Prohibited from doing?

PAs cannot perform specified tasks for other allied professions like radiologic technology and optometry practice. They cannot sign a death certificate, but can make a death pronouncement.

How the law limits the Physician Assistant’s Scope of Practice

The scope of practice outlined above is in theory and even the theory is vague because it says that these services are “included” within the PA’s scope of practice. Let us take North Carolina’s law that places limitations on a PA’s scope of practice as an example – other states too would have laid down similar rules. Before we get into what a PA can or cannot do, you must know that no PA can perform any healthcare duty if his license is inactive or not current. Now, here’re the limitations:

  1. Drug prescriptions written by a PA must contain his/her identification number issued by the state. The PA’s doctor must give him/her written instructions about indications and contraindications about prescribing drugs – if the PA does not have these in writing, he/she cannot prescribe drugs. The PA’s doctor must also give the PA a written policy for prescribing drugs – if no such document exists, the PA cannot prescribe drugs, and if he/she does, he/she will be in violation of law. The state may also issue more limitations on the PA’s drug prescription powers and therefore every PA must check the state laws before writing a prescription.
  2. A PA can compound and dispense drugs if the action is performed under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and as per the regulations laid down by the state’s Board of Pharmacy.
  3. A PA can order tests, treatments and medications in hospitals and other healthcare facilities only if his/her supervising doctor has given him/her specific instructions in writing about ordering such procedures. If the case is complex then the order written by the PA must be reviewed by the physician within a reasonable time frame as specified by the state. The healthcare facility that is ordered to conduct the tests or the treatment must have written policy and procedures in force that authorize the verification of any orders written by a physician assistant and ensure that these orders are in the interest of patient safety. The state too may prescribe specific restrictions on what kind of tests or treatments a PA can order.


All PAs are required to maintain a current and active license, an active registration with the state board, and have a current Intent of Practice filed with the state board.

Now, as you can see, a PA can perform all the duties that lie within his/her scope of practice so long he/she is authorized by his/her supervising physician and such authorization does not contradict the state’s regulations. What a physician can do and what he/she cannot do therefore boils down to:

  1. The state laws
  2. The scope of a PA’s work as defined in general and by the state
  3. Written authorization from his/her supervising doctor, so long as the written instructions are in conformity with state rules.


The PA is also subjected to checks and balances because his/she orders are double-checked by other healthcare facilities. This is what a PA can, and cannot, do.

Physician Assistants and Their Areas of Medicine

January 31st, 2012

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.