Physician Assistants. Who are we?

 

It is of significance to clarify that the title ‘Physician Assistant’ (PA) does not incorporate an apostrophe into its spelling. It is imperative to adhere to this norm in all formal and academic communication. Furthermore, it is essential to understand that being a PA does not imply working in a subservient capacity. On the contrary, PAs are licensed healthcare professionals who operate collaboratively in a team-based model. They are equal partners in providing accessible and high-quality healthcare services. PAs work alongside physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare providers to deliver comprehensive patient care.

American Association of Physician Assistants describes PAs as licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting. Trusted, rigorously educated, and trained healthcare professionals, PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice.

PAs are qualified to diagnose and treat medical conditions, order, and interpret diagnostic tests, perform a wide range of complex medical procedures, and first assist in surgeries. They work in various medical specialties, including primary care, surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, and more.

The education and training of PAs are rigorous and comprehensive. To become a PA one must complete a master’s degree program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). These programs typically last around 27 months and include both didactic and hands-on clinical training. The curriculum covers a wide range of medical subjects, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, clinical medicine, and patient assessment of adults and pediatrics.

After completing their education, PAs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Successful completion of the PANCE allows them to become certified and use the “PA-C” (Physician Assistant-Certified) designation. Continuing medical education (CME), renewing NCCPA certification every two years, and passing the Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam (PANRE) every 10 years are required to maintain their credentials and stay up to date with advancements in healthcare.

PAs play a fundamental role in patient advocacy and continuity of care by establishing robust patient-provider relationships, offering personalized care, and addressing a comprehensive range of medical concerns. Their extensive training enables them to address a wide array of medical concerns, making them valuable members of the healthcare team.

Furthermore, PAs make significant contributions to the healthcare system. They enhance patient access to care, especially in underserved and rural areas where physician shortages are prevalent. PAs improve healthcare efficiency and their ability to work in various specialties and subspecialties, and changing healthcare needs make them versatile assets to healthcare organizations, and indispensable in medicine.

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