(Frequently Asked Questions)
- What is a physician assistant (PA)?
- How do doctors and PAs work together?
- Which areas of medicine can PAs work in?
- What are differences between physicians and PAs?
- What are the pre-requisites for PA programs?
- What is the common application site for most PA programs?
- What is a CNA and where can I go to get CNA certification in this local area?
- What service/volunteer opportunities are available locally with a pre-health focus?
- How do I find out more information about various programs?
1. What is a physician assistant?
PAs are health care professionals who are licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and in virtually all states can write prescriptions. PAs are trained in intensive education programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Physician assistants receive a broad education in medicine.
2. How do doctors and PAs work together?
Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. The relationship between a PA and the supervising physician is one of mutual trust and respect. The physician assistant is a representative of the physician, treating the patient in the style and manner developed and directed by the supervising physician. The physician and PA practice as members of a medical team.
3. Which areas of medicine can PAs work in?
PAs work in all areas of medicine, not just primary care. General rotations in PA school include (family medicine, internal med, general surgery, pediatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and electives); PA’s can work in any area of medicine including: neurology, dermatology, etc. In fact, the distribution is as follows according to the 2010 APAA Census:
4. What are the differences between physicians and PAs?
The scope of the PA's practice corresponds to the supervising physician's practice. In general, a physician assistant will see many of the same types of patients as the physician. The cases handled by physicians are generally the more complicated medical cases or those cases, which require care that is not a routine part of the PA's scope of work.
Physician assistants are educated in the "medical model"; in some schools they attend many of the same classes as medical students. One of the main differences between PA education and a physician’s education is not the core content of the curriculum, but the amount of time spent in formal education. In addition to time in school, physicians are required to do an internship, and the majority of physician’s also complete a residency in a specialty following that. PAs do not have to undertake an internship or residency. A physician has complete responsibility for the care of the patient. PAs share that responsibility with the supervising physicians.
5. What are the prerequisites for PA school?
Most physician assistant programs require applicants to have previous health care experience and some college education. Many people work as a CNA or EMT to get health care experience. Different PA programs require different prerequisite courses so you need to be certain to identify early programs you plan to apply to and be sure that you are meeting the prerequisite required courses.
Some PA programs require you to take the GRE, while some others do not require any test. A few PA programs accept MCAT scores instead of GRE programs.
6. What is the common application site for most PA programs?
Most PA programs use the CASPA application site. About 93% of PA schools use CASPA. CASPA is free and online. You mail school transcripts and letters of recommendations to CASPA. CASPA will send an electronic copy of your application to each PA program you choose.
7. What is a CNA and where can I go to get CNA certification in this local area?
Click here for additional information
8. What service/volunteer opportunities are available locally with a pre-health focus?
Click here for additional information
9. How do I find out more information about various programs?
Attending an information session, preview day, or visiting campus is a great way to learn more. Here are links to various opportunities.
- St. Kate’s Program – http://www.stkate.edu/colleges/graduate/pages/info_sessions.php
- Bethel Program - http://gs.bethel.edu/admissions/events/physician-assistant/
- Augsburg Program - http://www.augsburg.edu/pa/info-sessions/
Updated 10/09/2013 JMV