Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ’s about Physician Assistants
What is a Physician Assistant?
A physician assistant, or PA, is a licensed and highly skilled health care professional, trained to provide patient evaluation, education, and health care services. A PA works with a physician to provide medical care and guidance needed by a patient.
What are the training requirements to become a PA?
A PA must attend a specialized medical training program associated with a medical school that includes classroom studies and clinical experience. An academic degree and/or certificate is awarded upon graduation. Many PAs already have two- or four-year academic degrees before entering a PA training program. Most PA training programs require prior health care experience.
Is a PA licensed by the State of California?
Yes. To practice in California, each PA must pass a rigorous national examination before being licensed by the Physician Assistant Board, which is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
What additional duties does the Physician Assistant Board perform?
The Physician Assistant Board is responsible for consumer protection, making recommendations about the scope of practice of PAs, and providing information about PAs to the health care community and others.
What types of services are provided by a PA?
A Physician Assistant performs many of the same diagnostic, preventative, and health maintenance services as a physician. These services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Taking health histories
- Performing physical examinations
- Ordering X-rays and laboratory tests
- Ordering respiratory, occupational, or physical therapy treatments.
- Performing routine diagnostic tests
- Establishing diagnoses
- Treating and managing patient health problems
- Administering immunizations and injections
- Instructing and counseling patients
- Providing continuing care to patients in the home, hospital, or extended care facility
- Providing referrals within the health care system
- Performing minor surgery
- Providing preventative health care services
- Acting as first or second assistants during surgery
- Responding to life-threatening emergencies
How does a PA work with their supervising physicians?
Each PA must be supervised by at least one physician. The physician supervises the PA either when both are at the same location or by telephone or other electronic means. The supervising physician must always be available to the PA when the PA is examining a patient and is responsible for the care provided by the PA. A PA may only practice pursuant to a practice agreement between the PA and their supervising physician.
Is there any difference in fees charged by a PA and a physician for the same service?
In many medical offices, the charges are the same regardless of which health care provider is seen.