Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the health care team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x rays, and make diagnoses. They also treat minor injuries, by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.
While PAs work under the supervision of a physician, they may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics where a physician is present for only one or two days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing care facilities to check on patients, after which they report back to the physician.
Curriculum and Career Planning
- Timeline - Students should refer to Alfred University's Pre-health Timeline and Checklist to assist them in career planning.
- Course Work - Required college-level courses are determined by individual programs and often include basic sciences, math, English/writing, some specialized science courses, such as anatomy/physiology, microbiology, physics, computer science, and medical terminology. Students should complete the Physician Assistant Worksheet to assist them in developing their program of study.
- Entrance Exams - Many PA programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
- Most programs require significant health care experience prior to admission.
- Credential File/Dossier - Alfred University's Career Development Center provides detailed instructions on preparing your credential file/dossier. In addition, there is a pre-health dossier checklist to make sure your credential file/dossier is complete.
Applications are made online through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).