If you’ve made a medical appointment recently, you’ve likely had the option to see a Physician’s Assistant, or PA. More doctors and medical facilities are relying on physicians assistants (PA) and nurse practitioners (NP) to help provide quality healthcare for their patients. But the lack of a doctor’s presence may be worrisome to patients expecting to see a physician. Many patients wonder about the differences between PAs and Physicians and when it is appropriate to see a PA.
What is a Physician’s Assistant?
According to the AAPA (American Academy of PAs), Physician’s Assistants (PAs) are highly trained medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans and can serve as the principal healthcare provider for a patient.
What Kind of Training Does a PA Have?
A simple way to compare physicians and PAs is that doctors have doctoral degrees and PAs have masters degrees. Doctors go through a notoriously rigorous process in order to practice medicine; four years of pre-med/undergraduate and four years of medical school, followed by 3-7 years of internships and residencies.
A PA, by contrast, goes through four years of undergraduate work, followed by two years in a physician’s assistant program. Many of these programs require that applicants have medical experience. PAs must then maintain their certification through continuing education courses.
What Can a Physician’s Assistant Do?
Based on state guidelines, PAs act under the supervision of a doctor, as part of the medical team to take on many of the same tasks of a physician. PAs can diagnose, treat and manage illness and conditions, perform certain procedures, order and interpret tests, assist in surgeries and write prescriptions.
PA Care or Doctor Care?
There is a common concern that a PA is not as qualified as a doctor. However, research shows if your ailment is not life-threatening, PAs and NPs can provide the same level of care you would receive from your doctor. While PAs my not have doctorates, they are highly educated and trained. It can also be easier to get an appointment with a PA.
How are PAs Different Than a Doctor?
PAs differ from physicians in a few key ways. Doctors may be more specialized in particular areas of medicine. However, PAs work in most every specialty area. A doctor is also qualified to perform surgery, while a PA is not licensed for more than stitches. A PA may assist with surgery, but they are not certified to perform it themselves. A doctor is licensed to practice independently and may have their own practice, while a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner must be under the supervision of a physician. Because of this, insurance is typically billed through a physician in the practice, not your PA.
Is It a Good Idea To See a PA?
In general, yes, it is perfectly fine to see a PA or NP. As long as your diagnosis is not complicated or dire, a PA can provide quality care at the same level as a doctor. For more information on what our doctors and PAs can do for you, contact us today.