Physician's assistant provide primary health care in rural areas where people have little access to doctors, in inner-city clinics where people have little money and in hospitals, private doctor's offices and clinics. Physician's assistants work under the supervision of a physician. However, they may work in a clinic where a physician is present only part-time to confer with them. Physician's assistants may also visit patients at home or in nursing homes. They perform many time-consuming and routine tasks normally done by doctors. They interview patients, take medical histories, give physical examinations, order lab tests, diagnose diseases and prescribe treatment. They give injections, clean and stitch minor wounds, apply splints and remove casts. They may draw blood, take cultures and perform and read skin tests. By doing these tasks for the doctor, physician's assistants allow doctors more time to treat seriously ill patients.
Physician's assistants must be licensed by the State after graduation from an accredited physician's assistant program.
Requirements for admission to physician's assistant programs vary, but 60 semester units or two years of college in a science or health program is usual. Training programs are generally two years in length and award a Bachelor's degree. Entry is competitive and many applicants already have a Bachelor's or Master's degree in another field of previous nursing experience. Some programs award Master's degrees and require a Bachelor's degree for entry. After completing the training program, a physician's assistant must take an examination to be licensed by the State before beginning to practice.
Links to Additional Career Information
California Physician Assistant Committee (800) 555-8038 www.physicianassistant.ca.gov
California Academy of Physician Assistants (714) 427-0321 www.capanet.org
American Academy of Physician Assistants Information Center (703) 836-2272 www.aapa.org
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