National Physician Assistants Week

October 6 to 12

For more than 50 years, physician assistants have played an integral role in American healthcare. Every year, the contributions of these highly-trained medical professionals are celebrated during the week of October 6 to 12.

The role of a physician assistant is a very important one as the profession was born out of a need to fill a shortage of qualified medical doctors in the wartime 1960’s. Since then, the profession has grown exponentially, as physician assistants can be found practicing in all areas of medicine, working in doctors’ offices, hospitals, primary medical care centers, and urgent care clinics.

As more primary medical care centers and urgent care clinics increase accessibility to healthcare, there is a critical need for more of these healthcare professionals. In any primary medical care center or urgent care clinic, physician assistants can be seen diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries. Physician assistants are not only licensed to diagnose and to treat illnesses, but also to prescribe medication, read and interpret lab results, as well as to perform certain surgical procedures.

A physician assistant working in a primary medical care center or an urgent care clinic plays a very similar role to that of a medical doctor. While most primary medical care centers or urgent care clinics will have at least one supervising medical doctor on staff, most of the hands-on medical assessments and care are done by physician assistants. They are able to make that assessment as to whether or not the patient would need to be referred to an emergency department in a hospital or a specialist for more serious conditions.

Patients should feel confident when being treated by a physician assistant at a primary medical care center or urgent care clinic, as physician assistants  must submit to intense educational requirements and national and state licensing. Their training is quite similar to that of medical doctors minus residency requirements in a particular field and years of training and prerequisites are less. Physician assistants have a broader range of specialties which gives them more flexibility whereas medical doctors who choose to practice in a particular field must remain in that specialty unless they complete more education and licensing in another field.