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Flower Mound Dermatology
- About Physician Assistants:
- What is a physician assistant? What
can a P.A. do?
A physician assistant (P.A.) is a licensed health
professional who practices medicine under the supervision
of a physician. A physician assistant provides
a broad range of health care services that are traditionally
performed by a doctor. As part of the physician/P.A.
team, a physician assistant exercises considerable
autonomy in diagnosing and treating illnesses.
What a physician assistant does varies with training,
experience, and state laws. In general, P.A.'s
can provide approximately 80 to 90 percent of the
services typically provided by a physician.
They perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses,
develop and carry out treatment plans, order and
interpret lab tests, perform minor surgery, provide
preventive health care counseling, and write prescriptions.
A P.A. can do whatever is delegated to him/her
by the supervising physician and allowed by law.
The scope of the P.A.'s practice corresponds to
the supervising physician's practice.
- What is the primary advantage of having P.A.s
Across much of the United States, there is a much
greater demand for dermatologic care than there
are dermatologists to provide this care. It
is not uncommon for patients to call in to schedule
and appointment, only to wait 3 to 6 months to be
seen. The primary advantage to having P.As
within a practice is providing much quicker access
- What is the difference between a P.A. and
Physician assistants are trained in the medical
model. In many schools they attend the same
classes as medical students. One of the main
differences between P.A. education and physician
education is not the core content of the curriculum
but the amount of time spent in school. The
length of a P.A. program is about two-thirds
that of medical school. After graduation,
the PA continues to learn while treating patients
by continuing self-study and appropriate interaction
with the supervising physician. Doctors are
independent practitioners; P.A.'s practice medicine
under the supervision of a physician.
- How did the physician assistant profession
In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized
a shortage and an uneven distribution of primary
care physicians. To expand the delivery of
quality medical care, Dr. Eugene Stead of
the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina
put together the first class of P.A.'s in 1965.
He selected Navy corpsmen who had received considerable
medical training during their military service and
during the war in Vietnam but who had no comparable
civilian employment. He based the curriculum
of the P.A. program in part on his knowledge
of the fast-track training of doctors during World
- What areas of medicine can P.A.'s work in?
Do P.A.'s specialize?
Physician assistants are found in all areas
of medicine. Today, approximately 50 percent
of all physician assistants practice what is known
as primary care medicine, that is, family medicine,
internal medicine, and pediatrics. About 23
percent are in surgery or the surgical subspecialties.
Physician assistants receive a broad education in
primary care medicine. Their education is
ongoing after graduation through continuing medical
education programs that are required and through
continual interaction with physicians and other
health care providers.
- How much education and training does a P.A.
Most P.A. education programs require applicants
to have previous health care experience and some
college education. The typical applicant already
has a bachelor's degree and more than four years
of health care experience. Nurses, EMTs, and
paramedics often apply to P.A. programs.
P.A. programs look for students who have a
desire to study and work hard. On average,
an accredited P.A. program lasts 25 months.
P.A. programs are accredited by an independent
organization sponsored in part by the American Medical
Association. All PA programs must meet the
same standard curriculum essentials. P.A.
students typically study anatomy and physiology,
pharmacology, microbiology, internal medicine, pediatrics,
emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, geriatrics,
surgery, and psychology. These classes are
taught as both lectures and lab sessions.
P.A. students also spend at least one year
in clinical rotations. During this period,
they treat patients in each of the major disciplines
of medicine and perform additional course work on
campus. A P.A.'s education doesn't stop after
graduation. P.A.'s are required to take ongoing
continuing medical education classes and to be retested
on their clinical skills on a regular basis.
- What does P.A.-C. stand for? What does
the C mean?
Physician assistant-certified. It means
that the person who holds the title has met the
defined course of study and has undergone testing
by the National Commission on Certification of Physician
Assistants (NCCPA). The NCCPA is an independent
organization, and the commissioners represent a
number of different medical professions. It
is not a part of the P.A. professional organization,
the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).
To maintain the C after P.A., a physician assistant
must log 100 hours of continuing medical education
every two years and take the recertification exam
every six years.
- When are you going to be a doctor?
P.A. training is demanding in its own right.
This route to a medical career is neither a short
cut, nor an easy way out. P.A.'s are not people
who didn't get into or who flunked out of medical
school. They decided to become a P.A.
for a number of personal reasons. They enjoy
what they are doing and get great satisfaction from
providing quality, affordable, and accessible health