Q&A About Physician Assistants

What is a physician assistant?

A physician assistant is a health professional licensed by the state or credentialed by a federal employer to practice medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a physician. PAs provide a broad range of medical and surgical services that traditionally have been performed by the physician. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, physicians assistants perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, develop and carry out treatment plans, order and interpret lab tests, suture lacerations, apply casts, assist in surgery, provide patient education and preventative health care counseling, and prescribe medications. PAs work as a member of a team with his or her supervising physician as the leader of the team. PAs can meet the needs of patients in a variety of clinical settings. PAs have long been recognized as quality health care providers.

What does the "C" in PA-C mean?

Physician assistant-certified. It means that the person who holds the title has passed the certification exam developed jointly by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistant (NCCPA) and is currently certified by the commission.