A physician assistant (PA) is a person that is trained to examine patients and make the determination on appropriate medical care that may be needed for a variety of illnesses, injuries, and diseases. They work under the immediate supervision of a licensed physician. However, depending on the medical establishment with which they are employed, it is vital that they have the ability to solely determine medical care in emergency situations, as the physician is not always present.
What does a physician assistant do?
The job duties of a physician assistant can vary greatly and are determined by the particular setting they are working in. Under the delegation of a physician, they have the ability to supply a wide range of health care needs and required tests as it applies to each patient. Some common job duties include but are not limited to the following:
- Obtaining the patient's medical history
- Provide necessary exams and treatment for minor and serious injuries
- Order lab tests and X-rays and interpret findings to determine a diagnosis
- Apply sutures, casts, and splints
- Recommend diagnostic and therapeutic services
After reviewing a patient's medical history, a physician assistant will then perform a thorough exam. This will provide them with detailed information that is needed to order specific tests and to provide necessary treatment. They will also inform the patient of any preventative measures that can be taken to avoid further illness or injury.
In some cases, prescription medications will be needed. A physician assistant has the authority to order certain medications, instruct patients of their use, and supply them with important counsel in regards to their illness or injury.
Depending on the setting, a physician assistant may also be responsible for completing various management duties. These can include such things as supervising assistants and medical technicians as well as ordering medical equipment and supplies.
When a physician assistant works in a setting such as an inner-city clinic or rural office, it is not uncommon for them to be responsible in supplying the principal care to patients. In situations such as this, they remain in constant counsel with a supervising licensed physician but effectively provide primary care directly to the patient. Other duties in areas like this may also include visits to nursing home facilities, hospitals, or even house calls.
As the regulations governing what a physician assistant may or may not be authorized to do can be quite different from one state to another, it is recommended that aspiring PAs take the time to investigate the laws of the state they plan to work. They will also want to research information in regards to duties that will be required by the supervising licensed physician, as they can vary as well.