What Is a Physician Assistant?



What Is a Physician Assistant?
Physician assistants, or PAs as they are often called, are trained and licensed healthcare providers. They see patients for primary and specialty care. PAs expand access to care and transform health and wellness through a patient-centered team-based approach. They offer a wealth of expertise to patients and help alleviate long wait times for an appointment. We sat down with Nnenna Onyemauwa, PA, with Emerson Health Primary Care Bedford, to learn more about physician assistants and why they are integral to your care.

What Training do PAs Have?
Some people think of physician assistants as a newer healthcare profession. The first class of PAs graduated in 1967. Since then, the PA role has expanded to every major field of medicine, including primary care, gastroenterology, cardiology, orthopedic surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, and many more areas. PAs go through years of rigorous education and training. The first part of their education is in a graduate program class for six to eight hours a day. The next phase focuses on supervised work in clinical settings. PAs rotate through every major medical field during their clinical training. They take a comprehensive exam when their training is complete. When they pass the exam, they become a certified PA and can see patients.

How is a PA Different than a Doctor?
From a patient care perspective, PAs do similar work as doctors. They see their own patients, diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and assist in surgeries. PAs work under the supervision of a doctor, so it is a team-based approach to care.

Benefits Using a Physician Assistant for Your Health Care
PAs usually have a flexible schedule and more time to spend with patients. Patients value this extra time to ask all of their questions and receive thorough information. Another benefit is that PAs often have more availability in their schedules. Illnesses such as the flu and urinary tract infections (UTI) come on fast and need attention in a timely manner. Typically, it is easier to schedule a same-day-appointment with a PA than with a doctor. Also, many PAs are primary care providers (PCPs) and see new patients. If you are looking for a primary care provider, it may be easier to schedule one with a PA.

Is a PA Right for You?
Many primary care offices allow you to talk with a PA first, to decide if they are a good fit for your health care. At Nnenna’s practice, you can schedule a ‘meet-and-greet’ to get to know each other before you make an appointment. Visit our Emerson Health Primary Care Bedford website to learn more and schedule a meet-and-greet, or call the office at 339-215-5100.