What does a Physician Assistant do?

A physician assistant (PA) is authorized to practice medicine as part of a team with a physician. PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illness, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.

What might a Physician Assistant do in a workday?

Physician assistants:

  • take detailed medical histories and perform physical examinations.
  • order laboratory tests, X-rays, EKGs and other diagnostic studies.
  • diagnose patients and decide treatment plans.
  • prescribe medications.
  • initiate therapy or treatment.
  • suture wounds, assist in surgery, apply and remove casts, and perform other therapeutic procedures.
  • make hospital rounds to observe and record patients’ progress and order or carry out indicated therapy.
  • provide continuous medical care to patients at home, in nursing homes or other extended health care facilities.
  • coordinate and supervise other health care professionals.
  • counsel patients and their families on preventive care, medical problems, and prescribed treatments and drugs.

Developing a Career as a Physician Assistant

Physician assistants may have specialized training in geriatrics, surgery, neonatology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, or in almost any medical specialty or sub-specialty. The duties of physician assistants are determined by the physician/PA team, by the physician and by state and federal law. PAs practice with autonomy and may work alone or as part of a medical team.

How much salary do Physician Assistants make?

Annual Mean Wage

How do I become a Physician Assistant?

Students wishing to pursue a physician assistant career should take the most challenging high school courses available in science, math and English, including advanced placement courses.

Licensed physician assistants must complete approved and accredited courses of study. Applicants also must pass examinations given by the National Commission for Certification of Physician Assistants.

To enter a program for physician assistants, students often are required to have completed one or more years of direct patient care. The curriculum includes courses in the basic medical sciences along with clinical clerkships.

Where else can I learn about becoming a Physician Assistant?

Professional Associations:

Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants
250 W. Main Street
Suite 100
Charlottesville, VA 22902

(434) 977-3716

American Academy of Physician Assistants
2318 Mill Road
Suite 1300
Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 836-2272

State License Requirements for Internists

A license is required to practice as a Physician Assistant in the state of Virginia. For more information on licensure, applications and forms, visit www.dhp.virginia.gov/medicine.

Virginia Board of Medicine
Perimeter Center
9960 Mayland Drive
Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233

Phone: (804) 367-4600
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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