A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. A PA is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PA’s are certified by The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). NCCPA is the only certifying organization for physician assistants in the United States. Established as a not-for-profit organization in 1974, NCCPA is dedicated to assuring the public that certified PAs meet established standards of clinical knowledge and cognitive skills upon entry into practice and throughout their careers. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories have decided to rely on NCCPA certification as one of the criteria for licensure or regulation of PAs.
PA’s perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PA’s to practice and prescribe medications.
By design, physicians and PA’s work together as a team, and all PA’s practice medicine with physician supervision. Supervision does not mean, though, that a supervising physician must always be present with the PA or direct every aspect of PA-provided care.