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About PAs
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Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals who are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medication in every medical and surgical specialty and setting.  PAs practice and prescribe in 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories with the exception of Puerto Rico.  PAs are educated at the graduate level, with most PAs receiving a Master's degree or higher.  In order to maintain national certification, PAs are required to recertify as medical generalists every 10 years and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years.  


PAs perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures. PAs often act as first or second assistants in major surgery and provide pre- and postoperative care.


PA education is modeled on physician education. PA program applicants must complete at least two years of college courses in basic science and behavioral science as prerequisites to PA training.


In some rural areas where physicians are in short supply, PAs serve as the primary providers of health care, conferring with their supervising physicians and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law.


Where can I find a PA? 

PAs can be found in every medical specialty and settings.

  • Hospitals
  • Physician offices
  • Rural and urban community health centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Retail clinics
  • Schools and university-based facilities
  • Industrial settings
  • Correctional institutions
  • The uniformed services and other federal government agencies

The PAs responsibilities depend on the type of practice, his or her experience, the working relationship with physicians and other health care providers, and state laws.


Minnesota PAs

As reported by the 2013 AAPA Survey, PAs in Minnesota work in the following specialties

  • 35.3% Primary Care
  • 11.0% Internal Medicine Specialties
  • 1.2  % Pediatric Subspecialties
  • 29.4% Surgical Subspecialties
  • 6.5  % Emergency Medicine
  • 16.3% Other Specialties

What can a PA do?

  • Take your medical history
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Counsel on preventive care
  • Assist in surgery
  • Write prescriptions
  • Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes 


Education & Training

Most programs are approximately 26 months (3 academic years) and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. Most programs also require students to have about three years of healthcare training and experience.

Students take courses in basic sciences, behavioral sciences and clinical medicine across subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology and more.

They then complete a total of more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in:


  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Pediatrics
  • General surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Psychiatry 


Credentialing and Licencing

PAs are credentialed in Minnesota through graduation from an accredited Physician Assistant educational program, certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), and licensed with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice (BMP). A few Minnesota PAs were credentialed in the past under other criteria.


The "PA-C" after a PA's name means they are currently certified.


In order to maintain certification, PAs must complete re certification every 10 years and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every 2 years.  


Common Lexicon/Myths/Misperceptions

  • PAs are mid-level providers, physician extenders, non-physician providers or advanced practice providers

With regard to PA education and experience, these terms are often misunderstood by consumers and do not accurately portray or describe how PAs practice medicine to other providers or patients. Nor do they reflect their license or legal title. If PAs need to
be referenced as part of a larger group, use “healthcare provider” or “healthcare practitioner,” but the preferred reference would include simply the name of each profession (e.g., “PAs and APNs”).


  • “PAs work on physician-led teams.” or “PAs are supervised by a physician.”

It is no longer the case that physicians have to be at the helm of the patient care team. Today’s PAs collaborate with physicians. In 2014, the AAPA House of Delegates adopted a policy on supervision that describes PAs as practicing medicine “in collaboration” with physicians. Supervision should only be referenced when required by legal and regulatory documentation. Patient-centered medical homes allow for various members of the healthcare team to coordinate care, including PAs. In practice, a PA’s scope grows over time with clinical experience. It is common for a PA to serve as the lead on care coordination teams and see patients in all settings without a physician present. In fact, in many rural and underserved areas, a PA may be the only provider, with PA-physician collaboration occurring via telecommunication.


reference AAPA

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