About the PA Profession
What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?
Physician Assistants are health care practitioners who practice medicine in collaboration with a physician. PAs act as autonomous providers and physician extenders who provide a variety of services to include:
- Take medical histories
- Conduct physical exams
- Diagnose and treat illness
- Order and interpret tests
- Develop treatment plans
- Prescribe medication
- Counsel on preventive care
- Perform procedures
- Assist in surgery
- Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
- Do clinical research
Physician Assistant Education
Physician Assistants must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited program. PA programs typically vary in length from 24 to 27 months. The first year consists of didactic education. The curriculum consists of rigorous, intensive classroom and laboratory educational experiences. The second year is designed for supervised clinical practice experiences. Students spend a pre-determined amount of time in required clinical rotations under the supervision of a licensed preceptor. Students complete more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in medical and surgical disciplines, including family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine and psychiatry.
Students who have graduated from an accredited PA program are eligible to sit for the National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. To maintain certification, Physician Assistants are required to complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and take a recertification exam (Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every 10 years.
Where do PAs Practice?
There are more than 140,000 PAs who practice in every medical setting in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They work in hospitals, medical offices, community health centers, nursing homes, retail clinics, educational facilities, workplace clinics and correctional institutions. PAs also serve in the nation’s uniformed services and work for other federal government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.
History of the PA Profession
The Physician Assistant Profession has a rich and diverse history. Please visit the Physician Assistant History Society for a full historical tour of the profession.
Physician Assistant Groups
- The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is the only national professional society representing all PAs in every area of medicine.
- The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) is the national organization representing PA educational programs and individual PA educators.
- The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is the only certifying organization for PAs in the nation. Certification is a requirement for state licensure.
- The nccPA Health Foundation is a charitable nonprofit organization that designs solutions for improving the capacity of certified PAs to impact quality and accessibility of health care delivery. It is affiliated with the NCCPA.
- The PA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the AAPA.
- The PA History Society preserves the history of the PA profession through archiving key materials.