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AAPA Physicial Assistant Profiles


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What is a PA?
A physician assistant (PA) is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program. PAs are authorized by the state to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician.

What tasks can a PA legally perform?
Physicians may delegate to a PA those medical duties that are within the physicians’ scope of practice and within the PA’s training/experience and allowed by law. For example, PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician. More specifically, they may take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x-rays, and make diagnoses. Virtually all licensing jurisdictions in the United States authorize physicians to delegate prescriptive privileges to the PAs they supervise.

When was the first PA educational program started?
The first PA program was started in 1965.

When was the AAPA Physician Assistant Masterfile started?
The AAPA began collecting primary source data about PAs in 1968.

How does a person become a PA?
There are more than 130 accredited PA educational programs in the United States. All PA educational programs are accredited by one body, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Prior to admission, the typical PA student has a bachelor’s degree and 45 months of health care experience. PA educational programs run approximately 26 months.

What qualifies a PA graduate to practice?
PAs are required to pass a national certifying examination jointly developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the NCCPA. In addition to passing the exam, PAs are licensed or registered by the state in which they practice.

To maintain certification, PAs must log 100 continuing medical education credits over a two-year cycle, re-register every two years and sit for a recertification exam every six years.


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