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What is a Physician Assistant?

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What Is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures. PAs often act as first or second assistants in major surgery and provide pre- and postoperative care.

In some rural areas where physicians are in short supply, PAs serve as the primary providers of health care, conferring with their supervising physicians and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law. PAs can be found in virtually every medical and surgical specialty.

The PA's responsibilities depend on the type of practice, his or her experience, the working relationship with physicians and other health care providers, and state laws. There are approximately 68,100 practicing PAs in the United States as of January 2009.