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What Is a Physician Assistant (PA-C)?

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Physician assistants (PAs) are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care and assist in surgery. In most states, they can write prescriptions.
Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants work independently on medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.
PAs are educated in much the same manner as physicians. They are required, upon graduation, to take a national certification exam. To maintain their certification, they must have 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and sit for another recertification exam every six years. In order to obtain state licensure, they are required to graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the national certification exam.