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The Physician Assistant Profession

According to U.S. News & World Report, physician assistant is one of the 50 best careers for 2013. See www.usnews.com/careers.

The physician assistant (PA) field is a challenging, rewarding career choice for those who are genuinely interested in medicine, sensitive to the needs of patients and committed to the delivery of quality medical care. The profession evolved in response to an appeal to extend the delivery of primary care medicine and, since its inception in 1965, has had an impact on improving the quality of health care.

The PA may be delegated a wide range of medical tasks and skills. This sets the PA apart from most other allied health personnel, who normally function within a specified range and with well-defined responsibilities to the patient. The scope of responsibilities for a PA include interviews and examinations, synthesis of laboratory and care record data, treatment, and follow-up care. The PA works directly under the supervision of the physician. The physician, therefore, remains medically, legally and administratively responsible for the patient; the PA is directly and administratively responsible to the physician.

In addition to earning a Master's of Physician Assistant Studies degree, the graduate may join professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and take the national certifying examination. National certification is required to practice in most states.

The program is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Programs in collaboration with the Joint Review Committee on Educational Program for Physician Assistants.

Qualities Needed
Since the PA contributes directly to the patient's well-being, one should have a genuine interest in people and medicine. The PA must be capable of complex independent thought, judgment and action within the boundaries established by the employing physician. To be successful, the PA must think like a physician, be educated in the same general way as the physician, have a genuine interest in the patient, possess medical curiosity, be aware of medical and legal limitations, and be willing to treat any disease entity, in which the clinician is competent, regardless of age, sex, religion, race, physical disadvantage, or sexual orientation of the patient.