FAQ

Physician Assistant Profession

Please click on each question heading below to learn more about the Physician Assistant Profession.

The physician assistant is a state-licensed or federally-credentialed health care professional who practices medicine with physician supervision. In clinical practice, PAs perform an extensive range of medical services in virtually every medical and surgical specialty and health care setting. Offering many of the health services traditionally provided by physicians for the past four decades, more than 100,000 NCCPA-certified PAs play a major role in US health care delivery. It is estimated that a physician assistant performs about 80% of duties traditionally limited to physicians.  As part of their many roles in the clinical setting, physician assistants:

  • take patient histories and perform physical exams
  • order diagnostic evaluations and formulate differential diagnoses,
  • diagnose illness and develop treatment plans including prescribe medications
  • counsel and educate patients
  • in specialized settings, perform medical procedures such as assist in surgery

Even before the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics projected greater than a 20% increase in the number of PA jobs between 2008 and 2018, making it by their research, the seventh fastest-growing profession in the country in 2011. The impending addition of more than 45 million patients who do not have current medical insurance to our healthcare system is projected to further increase the need for physician assistants.  According to CNN Money the profession is expected to have a 52% increase in employment opportunities over the next few years,

Physician assistants have been identified as a potential solution to the impending primary care workforce shortages in rural and underserved communities. As of September 2011, the Health Resources Services Administration of the Bureau of Health Professions designated the homeless of Boston as a vulnerable population and listed 18 Boston community health centers as health professions shortage areas (HPSA). The New England Rural Workforce round table recommends examining new models of healthcare delivery to include providers such as physician assistants. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health workforce planning strategy proposes recruiting out-of-state health providers to bridge the increasing gap in primary care access.  A Physician Assistant Program at Boston University that educates providers to care for vulnerable populations in Boston and beyond will help address the dearth of primary care providers in Massachusetts.

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