What is a Physician Assistant?

April 19, 2018

Have you seen a physician assistant (PA) for care, but wondered exactly what their role is in relationship to healthcare?  Often people do not understand the role that physician assistants play in healthcare today.  Many PAs are the only provider available in small towns and rural areas, and are becoming more and more prevalent in healthcare today.  They are critical to providing access to healthcare to these areas and are providing more and more access for people who do not have a local hospital.

To become a physician assistant, you must graduate from an accredited PA program, pass the national certification exam, and obtain a license in the state where you wish to practice medicine.  PAs are educated at the master’s degree level.  Programs require a bachelor’s degree and completion of courses in basic and behavioral sciences as prerequisites.  Incoming PA students bring with them an average of more than 3,000 hours of direct patient contact experience, having worked as paramedics, athletic trainers, or medical assistants for example.  The programs are approximately 3 academic years and include classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.  Physician assistants are licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases, as well as prescribe medication for patients.  They work in medical facilities in collaboration with a licensed physician. 

At Orthopedic Specialists, we have 3 physician assistants:  Ben Becker, Kristina Johnson,  and Matt Moritz.  Our PAs see patients in the clinic and also assist the surgeons in the operating room.  They often are the provider you see upon your first visit to our office as they tend to have more clinic time than the physicians.  The PA is able to evaluate and diagnosis bone and joint conditions, and obtain necessary imaging or testing to help with diagnosis and treatment decisions.  Should the patient need to be evaluated further by the physician for possible surgical intervention, these images and tests are then ready for that examination.  

By emphasizing a team-oriented approach to healthcare that includes physician assistants, we increase access to care for our patients. So as you can see, our physician assistants are an integral part of your healthcare and our team overall.  
 

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