The Role of a Physician Assistant

What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PA) are certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and state-licensed. They are health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications. PAs promote quality, cost effective medical care to all members of society.

The physician assistant functions under the supervision and responsibility of a licensed physician and is competent to:

  • elicit a comprehensive health history
  • perform physical examinations
  • interpret and evaluate diagnostic data
  • establish basic treatment plans
  • counsel and educate patients
  • respond to commonly encountered emergency care situations. 

Physician assistants serve in a variety of clinical settings, such as primary care practices, geriatric long-term care facilities, hospitals, correctional institutions and community-based clinics. Program graduates also are competitive for positions in clinical research, health care administration and higher education.