Although they aren't officially doctors and they can't work legally unless supervised by a licensed doctor, physician assistants share many responsibilities with their colleagues who hold a medical degree. As a result, they must first do several things before they can practice medicine: earn a college-level degree through a relevant academic program, complete at least two years of hands-on medical training, and acquire and then maintain PA certification.
Physician assistants often conduct patient examinations and select, order and evaluate appropriate tests. They can then diagnose medical problems in order to develop and deliver proper treatment plans.
When a supervising doctor gives authorization, a physician assistant can assist during surgery, in addition to performing certain surgical procedures independently. In the second case, states have different requirements regarding specific procedures and whether a doctor must be present.
With the supervisor's approval, physician assistants can administer drugs to patients and issue drug orders. Controlled substances are closely regulated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but authorized physician assistants can order them and even register with the agency to obtain their own DEA number for that purpose.
As of 2008, all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, allow physician assistants to legally write prescriptions for patients.
Despite their freedom when working under the guidance of a doctor, physician assistants cannot practice medicine independently or provide certain services, such as prescribing contact lenses or performing dental procedures.
How Long Does a Physician Have to Go to School?
The amount of time a physician needs to go to school varies based on specialty. Typically, a minimum of 11 years of...
How Much Do Physician's Assistants Make Per Year?
Physician assistants can practice medicine when supervised by doctors and surgeons. Formal training typically takes at least two years, though most assistants...
What Does an Internal Medicine Doctor Treat?
Internal medicine is devoted to internal diseases that occur in adults and, in some cases, adolescents. A doctor who specializes in internal...
How to: Become a Physician Assistant
In an increasingly complex health-care environment, physicians often need help to provide quality service. Many hire physician assistants to improve their ability...
How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make in Florida?
A medical assistant works in a health care setting, scheduling appointments, escorting patients to exam and treatment rooms, taking their vital signs,...
Places That a Physician Assistant Can Work In
The scope of care a physician assistant (PA) can provide becomes greater over time due in large part because a physician assistant...