Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs employed by the federal government are credentialed to practice. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and in most states can write prescriptions.
Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model. Following this rigorous education, physician assistants take the PA National Certification Examination (PANCE) developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of this national certifying exam are required for state licensure.
A PA's education doesn't stop after graduation, though. PAs are required to take 100 hours of continuing medical education classes every 2 years and complete a recertification examination every 6 years. A number of postgraduate PA programs have also been established to provide practicing PAs with advanced education in many medical specialties.
PAs: Safe and Effective
PAs have a decades-long track record of providing excellent treatment. Studies have demonstrated that PAs provide safe, effective care for their patients. In fact, a PA working within their scope of practice generally provides care which is indistinguishable from that of other clinicians, including physicians. You trust your physician to use safe and effective instruments and medications in your care. You can also trust that your physician works with safe, effective PAs.