Physician Versus PA… Is There a Difference?
When you call to make an appointment with a doctor, sometimes the receptionist may ask, “Is it all right if I schedule your appointment with the doctor’s PA?”
Many people probably say to themselves, “What is a PA?” “Is a PA a doctor?” “Will my treatment and care be comparable to that of my doctor?” These all being legitimate questions, it’s important to first understand what a PA is.
To begin, “PA” stands for Physician Assistant, and just as the name implies, a Physician Assistant typically collaborates with your physician to assist with your healthcare needs.
The extensive training and knowledge of a Physician Assistant allows them to evaluate you and initiate a plan of care that would be similar to your doctor’s plan.
In recent years, Physician Assistants have actually begun to specialize in certain areas of medicine. So for example, rather than seeing your family practice doctor, you may see a family practice PA. Or, if you are going for a neurology appointment and the doctor typically schedules his patients many weeks in advance, you may have the option to see the doctor’s Physician Assistant first.
Other areas you may see a Physician Assistant is in an emergency room.
Many hospitals staff their Emergency Departments with Physician Assistants to complement their entire ER physician staff. Physician Assistants are extremely beneficial as they help in the facilitating of patient care, which ultimately enhances patient flow.
Sometimes, a question will arise about whether or not the care you’re receiving is comparable to that of a doctor. But, because the PA and the doctor work extremely close together, your care is not compromised. Typically, the doctor and the PA will extensively collaborate with one another in order to provide you with the best possible care.
As for education, in all states it is required that Physician Assistants complete an accredited formal-education program. Then, the Physician Assistant must pass a nation-wide exam that grants he or she the license to practice. Typically, a PA candidate will receive be Bachelor or Master’s Degree prepared, plus two additional years of extensive, full-time medical education.
Their education also includes “rotation training” in which they closely observe physicians in areas such as family practice for an extended period of time. The chance for the Physician Assistants to spend many hours in a subspecialty only enhances your circle of care. And to stay certified as a PA, the Physician Assistant must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and pass a re-certification exam every 6 years.
So you see, a PA is a valuable resource in the medical field. In fact, you may have even seen a PA without realizing so. A Physician Assistant is a skilled, competent and valuable accompaniment to the team of healthcare physicians who strive to meet all of your healthcare needs.