The PA Profession



The Physician Assistant profession is considered to be one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. The 2009 census reports that 72, 433 individuals are eligible to practice as PAs. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of PA jobs will increase by 27 percent between 2006 and 2016. The BLS predicts the total number of jobs in the country will grow by 10 percent over this 10-year period.
Money magazine ranked The PA profession #2 in the 2010 issue of “Best Jobs in America.”

How did the Profession begin

In effort to help the physician shortage of the 1960’s a program was created to fast-track those with a military medical background to become clinicians. Dr. Eugene Stead of Duke University gathered Navy corpsmen and developed a program that would build off of their medical skills gained in Vietnam and transform them into highly skilled physician extenders. The program was based on the medical model that was used to prepare physicians for World War II.

From those humble beginnings the Physician Assistant (PA) profession was born. Over the years the role of a PA has evolved.
Currently, PAs are skilled health care professionals who are licensed to practice medicine under the auspices of a supervising physician. The PA profession is considered a facet of the allied health care field. Physician Assistants are commonly referred to as mid-level practitioners. Originally developed to help serve those living in urban cities or rural parts of the United States. Today, PAs work in all disciplines and geographic areas. 

The scope of a PA is forever expanding. PAs are allowed to: conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA's practice may also include education, research, and administrative services.

To keep up with the demands of producing the highest quality PAs. Physician Assistants are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. To maintain their national certification, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and sit for a re-certification every six years. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.

The Physician Assistant profession is dynamic. Physician Assistants strive to improve not only as a profession but also by providing quality care to the patients they serve.