The Physician Assistant (PA) profession is growing faster than ever at a time when Americans need quality medical providers in every community. The profession will honor PAs’ invaluable role in transforming healthcare during National PA Week. Held every year from October 6 – 12, PA Week is a time when PAs and PA students celebrate their profession through local and national events designed to increase awareness of the value PAs bring to today’s healthcare team.
PAs are vital members of the healthcare team who provide quality medical care, improve patient access to care and are valued by the healthcare providers they work with and the patients and families they treat. This week, National PA Week, we are celebrating all that PAs do to deliver the best of care in this evolving healthcare system
There are 104,000 PAs in America, who are nationally certified and licensed at the state level to practice medicine, and are authorized to prescribe medication in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
PAs are practicing medicine in every medical and surgical specialty from neurosurgery to oncology to primary care. The profession grew 36.4% between 2009 and 2014 and demand for PAs has increased more than 300 percent in the last three years.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the PA profession as one of the top 10 best jobs of 2015.
For 48 years, the Physician Assistant profession has provided quality medical care in this country and has made an important impact on patient access to care. The profession has grown from the first handful of graduates from Duke University in 1967. They were former Navy corpsmen returning from Vietnam. Dr. Eugene Stead created the profession to maximize utilization of their existing skills and experience as civilian healthcare providers during a shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.
Among many medical services, PAs can obtain medical histories, conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, establish and carry out treatment plans, perform medical procedures like joint injections and suture wounds, counsel patients on preventive healthcare, assist in surgery, write prescriptions and make rounds in nursing homes and hospitals.
PAs are educated through intense graduate-level accredited programs that require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. As part of their education, PAs complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. To maintain their certification and licenses, PAs earn 100 hours of CME every two years and recertify through a national exam as medical generalists every 6 years.
Studies identify high-quality care with physician-PA teams, the quality of care provided by PAs is comparable to that of physicians, PAs enhance care coordination and that practices and institutions relying on PAs are more cost- effective than those without PAs.