In the past few years, there has been an increasing popularity of physician assistant in the United States. The growing recognition of this profession is also one of the most promising careers through the next couple of years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in their most recent report. The demand of physician assistants through 2018 is expected to grow by as high as 39% but not many are familiar about their roles and responsibilities in the field of health and patient care. In fact, many confuse physician assistants with medical assistants, although their roles greatly differ.
A physician assistant is a formally trained and licensed healthcare professional who practices medicine under the supervision or direction of a medical doctor or surgeon. In contrast to medical assistants who are mainly tasked to perform administrative and clinical tasks, physician assistants are licensed to practice and assist physicians with a great range of health care services which were once exclusively practiced by licensed and experienced doctors of medicine. In general, a physician assistant may perform diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive healthcare actions except those that are considered complicated or sensitive by nature. These actions performed by a physician assistant are delegated by a supervising physician.
A physician assistant is involved in many roles and responsibilities. The duties are mainly determined by the supervising physician and by the State law. General responsibilities include obtaining of accurate and complete history of patients, performing physical assessment or examination, treating patients, ordering of diagnostic imaging and laboratory tests, interpretation of test results and making diagnoses based on the manifestations and on results of the tests. It is also their responsibility to treat minor trauma and injuries by splinting, casting and suturing incisions. Physician assistants may also have the authority to prescribe certain medications. In addition, these healthcare professionals are also involved with documentation, recording of progress reports and patient and family education.
In rural or smaller cities where physicians are not permanently present or seen every day, it is the job of physician assistants to become the primary care providers in these areas. The quality of care is still maintained because it is also one of their responsibilities to work and constantly communicate with supervising physicians and other members of the healthcare team. In certain cases, physician assistants may also go to medical or nursing facilities to check on their patients or respond to house calls. An increasing number of physician assistants are being employed in primary care specialties, such as family medicine, and in other areas of specialty, such as emergency medicine and geriatrics.
Because physician assistants play a crucial role in the delivery of health and in the improvement of patient care, it is only essential that aspiring professionals in this field should obtain formal education and training from physicians assistant schools accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Physicians assistant programs are offered by different institutions like community colleges, medical schools, hospitals and the military. Each physicians assistant school has its own set of requirements before admission, so it is best to contact physicians assistant colleges being considered for more information. Moreover, each physicians assistant school may have different types of physician assistant degree programs.