Today you may be seeing
a physician assistant. Physician
assistants provide high quality health care services
to patients and to the community. We hope
this page will answer any questions you may
have. If you should have further questions,
ask the physician.
What is a Physician Assistant?
physician assistant, or PA, is a licensed and
highly skilled health care professional, trained
to provide patient evaluation, education, and
health care services. A PA works with
a physician to provide medical care and guidance
needed by a patient.
What are the
training requirements to become a PA?
A PA must
attend a specialized medical training program
associated with a medical school that includes
classroom studies and clinical experience. An academic degree and/or certificate
is awarded upon graduation. Many PA’s
have two or four-year academic degrees before
entering a PA training program. Prior health
care experience is required by most PA training
Is a PA licensed
by the State of California?
Yes. To practice in California,
each PA must pass a rigorous national examination
before being licensed by the Physician Assistant
Committee, which is a part of the California
Department of Consumer Affairs’ Medical
Board of California.
duties does the Physician Assistant Committee
The Physician Assistant Committee
is responsible for consumer protection, making
recommendations about the scope of practice of
providing information about PA’s to the
health care community and others.
What types of
services are provided by a PA?
A PA performs many
diagnostic, preventative, and health maintenance
services include, but are not limited to, the
-Taking health histories
-Ordering X-rays and laboratory
-Performing routine diagnostic tests
-Treating and managing patient health
-Administering immunizations and injections
and counseling patients
-Providing continuing care
to patients in the home, hospital, or extended
-Providing referrals within the health
-Performing minor surgery
health care services
-Acting as first or second
assistants during surgery
-Responding to life-threatening
How does a PA
work with their supervising physicians?
must be supervised by a physician. The
physician supervises the PA either when both
are at the same location or by telephone. The
supervising physician must always be available
to the PA should the need arise. The supervising
physician is responsible for following each patient’s
Is there any
difference in fees charged by a PA and a physician
for the same service?
In many medical offices
the charges are the same regardless of which
health care provider is seen. As a general rule, the
PA spends a great deal of time with patients. A
PA emphasizes primary care and patient education,
which may reduce the number of return visits.
Is a PA covered
by malpractice insurance?
Yes. Generally the PA works under
the insurance policy of the employing physician
or health facility. PA’s may also
carry their own malpractice insurance.
Do most insurance
policies cover care provided by a PA?
do. Some carriers bill
for the PA directly, while others bill through
the supervising physician. All reimbursements
for Medi-Cal usually are made through the supervising
physician or the employing institution. Medi-Care
reimburses for services provided by the PA in
hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, in
addition to primary care services.