Physicians and PAs

What do physicians think about physician assistants?

Most physicians who have worked with physician assistants like having PAs on staff. The American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and other national medical organizations support the physician assistant profession by actively supporting the PA certifying commission and the PA program accrediting agency.

Studies done by the Federal Government have shown that PAs, working with the supervision of physicians, provide care that is comparable to physician care. The Eighth Report to the President and Congress on the Status of Health Personnel in the United States (released in 1992) states, "Physician assistants have demonstrated their clinical effectiveness both in terms of quality of care and patient acceptance."

What is the working relationship between a physician and a physician assistant?

The relationship between a PA and the supervising physician is one of mutual trust and respect. The physician assistant is a representative of the physician, treating the patient in the style and manner developed and directed by the supervising physician. The physician and PA practice as members of a medical team. In 1995, the American Medical Association developed suggested guidelines for how physicians and PAs should work as a team in the delivery of medical care.

Click here for a presentation entitled "What You Need to Know" that provides additional background on the physician - physician assistant relationship. 

What's the difference between a PA and a physician?

Physician assistants are educated in the "medical model"; in some schools they attend many of the same classes as medical students.

One of the main differences between PA education and physician education is not the core content of the curriculum, but the amount of time spent in formal education. In addition to time in school, physicians are required to do an internship, and the majority also complete a residency in a specialty following that. PAs do not have to undertake an internship or residency.

A physician has complete responsibility for the care of the patient. PAs share that responsibility with the supervising physicians.

Click here to read, "As Physicians Deal with Growing Demand, Physician-PA Teams Key to Meeting New Challenges."