What exactly is a PA?
Updated: Mar 10, 2020
I've been a PA so long (13 years my friends!) that I sometimes forget that what we do is kind of a mystery to a lot of people! But over the last few months, I've been reminded that while most everyone knows that a PA is a medical professional, its often a pretty vague concept.
According to the American Academy of PAs, PAs are medical professionals who:
develop and manage treatment plans,
and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider.
PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.
"But Kathryn, that sounds an awful lot like a physician or a nurse practitioner" you say?
And you'd be exactly right! It IS an awful lot like being a physician or nurse practitioner...but not exactly.
So what's the difference?
PAs are master's level clinicians that work collaboratively with a physician or team of physicians. Our master's programs are 27 months (so 3 academic years) during which we are educated in a medical model and have at least 2,000 hours of structured clinical rotations.
After we graduate, we are able to be employed in any specialty of medicine and continue to learn that specialty through collaboration with other clinicians and lots of continuing medical education (we are required to do a minimum of 100 hours every 2 years to maintain our certification).
Practice laws vary by state, but we always have a formal relationship with a physician for support. Some PAs work as an extension of their provider, assisting in procedures and seeing the same patients (most common in surgical specialties). Other PAs function pretty independently day to day.
How does that affect me?
PAs are able to expand your access to care. Hopefully, by growing the numbers of qualified medical providers through PAs, you are able to be seen for your medical concerns more quickly and more conveniently.
93% of patients said that PAs are trusted members of the healthcare team, 92% said having a PA makes it easier to get an appointment, and 91% said PAs improve the quality of healthcare.
Not too shabby!
In short, PAs are pretty awesome ;-)
I love being a PA. I'm really proud of being part of the solution to our healthcare shortage, and its an honor to be among some amazingly brilliant clinicians. But more importantly, I really enjoy getting to know my patients and taking care of people I care about!