On the Job
Physician assistants (PAs) provide health care services under the supervision of doctors.
While the history of medicine dates back thousands of years, the official profession of physician assistant goes back to the 1960s. This is when the first PA program graduated four students. However, many people have served in the capacity of physician assistant, often during wars, including the Civil War, the Vietnam War, and World War II. Medics were trained and put to service, but were not trained medical doctors. Medical leaders realized that this model could be used outside the military, and programs were organized. Today, the field of physician assisting is expected to grow quite rapidly.Physician assistants perform a range of medical duties. They do basic care, such as interview patients, perform physical exams, and order lab tests. PAs make basic diagnoses and give shots. They also do more complex tasks, such as set simple fractures and run electrocardiograms (EKG). PAs may sew up wounds, provide treatment for common illnesses, and prescribe medicine. They are trained to deal with many medical emergencies.
Physician assistants set up goals and overall health plans for patients. They record patients' health history, progress, and test results. They counsel patients about medications and teach them healthy living techniques. They also explain test results to patients.
Many PAs work in primary care areas, such as family medicine, general practice, or pediatrics. Others work in specialty areas, such as surgery, emergency medicine, and geriatrics. Duties vary with the specialty. For example, some PAs may work as a first or second assistant to doctors in surgery.
Some PAs manage doctors' offices and order supplies and equipment. PAs also may supervise technicians and other assistants. In areas where doctors are in short supply, PAs may be the only providers of health care. They are required to consult with physicians.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Examine patients.
- Diagnose patients and determine treatment plans.
- Interpret test results for patients.
- Record exam results and health histories in patients' files. Make notes on patients' progress.
- Order or run diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, blood tests, and heart function (EKG) tests.
- Prescribe medications.
- Perform therapeutic procedures, such as injections, stitches and wound care, and infection management.
- Supervise other staff.
- Visit patients and update charts, order therapy, and report findings to physician in charge.
- Counsel patients about topics such as medication, family planning, emotional problems, or health maintenance.
- Assist physicians during surgery and other medical procedures.
- Order medical and laboratory supplies and equipment.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Assist and care for others.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Work with the public.
- Document and record information.
- Analyze data or information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Process information.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Use computers.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Teach others
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social contact. They spend a lot of time talking to patients and doctors.
- Deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous patients on a weekly basis. Patients who are not feeling well may be upset.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Are often placed in conflict situations.
- Are responsible for work outcomes. They must determine the correct treatment for a patient.
- Communicate with coworkers and patients daily by telephone, face-to-face conversations, letters, and e-mails.
- Communicate with coworkers by e-mail on a weekly basis.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Always work indoors.
- Are exposed to infections or disease on a daily basis.
- Work very near patients. They often work within inches of other people.
- Always wear gloves or other safety attire.
- Nearly always wear a lab coat or uniform.
- Must be exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger patients' health.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact patients. They consult doctors for some decisions, but make most without talking to a supervisor.
- Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with a supervisor.
- Work in a moderately competitive atmosphere. Their days are structured around patient appointments.
- Repeat the same mental and physical activities.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- May work full time or part time. Most work more than 40 hours a week.
- May work weekends, nights, or early mornings. The hours depend on the practice and the setting.
- May be on-call.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.