When you visit a primary care facility, you’re likely to see your primary physician. It’s how the entire setup works. But on occasion, you’ll note someone joining your trusted physician. This person, usually hanging around in the background, is taking notes and assisting in various ways – handing tools and cleanup materials to the doctor, for instance. But what is the true role of a physician assistant?
What is a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant is a health care professional who is fully licensed to practice medicine while under the supervision of a physician. A physician assistant typically conducts physical exams, diagnoses and treats illnesses, orders tests, interprets test results, provides counsel on preventative health care, assists with surgery, and writes prescriptions. Essentially, a physician assistant does everything the primary care physician would, just with added supervision.
Furthermore, a physician assistant is required to complete 100 hours of continuing medical education classes every two years. They must also complete a recertification examine once every six years. As such, their breadth of knowledge on medical topics and treatments is vast and ever-growing.
Physician Assistant or Nurse?
The two are similar, as both have the same type of responsibilities in helping the primary care physician. However, a physician assistant is more likely to pursue a specialized practice area after their role as an assistant. Over 25% of physician assistants tend to opt for a surgical specialty. Before then, there are numerous duties for pre-operative and post-operative stages for an assistant to handle.
In a primary care office, most physician assistants and nurses are used interchangeably. They provide vaccinations, perform examinations, and so much more.
As you can see, the role of a physician assistant is straightforward. They are in the office to help patients, just like any doctor or nurse you see walking around the facility. The biggest difference, however, is that they require supervision from a physician to work.