Physician Assistant (PA)
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a mid-level health care practitioner who works in a position of delegated authority under the supervision of a physician. By design, doctors and physician assistants work together as a team. Like doctors, “PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes” (AAPA, 2013). Current trends and changes in health care delivery indicate that PAs will play a critical role to ensure access to primary health care in the United States.
PA education programs are modeled after the curriculum experienced in medical school including a didactic coursework and clinical rotations. However, the average length of PA school is 27 months as opposed to four years of medical school. Further, unlike medical students, PAs do not have to complete a residency (graduate medical education), and are often able to create more flexible work schedules making it an ideal profession for those hoping to balance work and family life.
Program Quick Facts
Education Association: PAEA (Physician Assistant Education Association)
Application Service: CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants)
Entrance Exam: MCAT or GRE
Length of program: 27 months
Residency Required: Optional