Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine. The work of physician assistants depends in large part on their specialty and what their supervising physician needs them to do. Their specific duties and the extent to which they must be supervised by physicians and surgeons differ from state to state.

According to the United States Department of Labor:

Physician assistants, also known as PA’s, practice medicine under the direction and supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide treatment.

Physician assistants typically do the following:

  • Work under the supervision of a physician or surgeon
  • Review patients’ medical histories
  • Do physical exams to check patients’ health
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or blood tests
  • Make diagnoses concerning a patient’s injury or illness
  • Provide treatment, such as setting broken bones and giving immunizations
  • Provide couseling to patients and their families, such as answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma.
  • Prescribe medicine when needed
  • Record a patient’s progress

For example, a physician assistant working in surgery may close incisions and provide care before and after the operation. A physician assistant working in pediatrics may examine a child or give routine vaccinations.

In rural areas and inner cities, physician assistants may be the primary care providers at clinics where a physician is present only one or two days per week. In these locations, physician assistants confer with the physician and other healthcare workers as needed and as required by law. Some physician assistants make house calls or visit nursing homes to treat patients, reporting back to the physician afterward. Some physician assistants supervise medical technicians and medical assistants.

The job outlook according to the United States Department of Labor is very bright. Employment for Physician Assistants is expected to increase 37 percent by 2026. As more physicians enter specialty areas of medicine, there will be a greater need for primary healthcare providers such as physician assistants. Because physician assistants are more cost-effective than physicians, they are expected to have an increasing role in giving routine care. Physician assistants also will be needed because the population, in general, is growing. More people mean more need for healthcare specialists.