What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Physician assistants are qualified through graduation from an accredited physician assistant educational program and certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Within the physician/PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision-making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. The clinical role of physician assistants includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings in rural and urban areas. Physician assistant practice is centered on patient care but may also include educational, research and administrative activities.

A commitment to quality patient care is the foundation of the PA profession. By assuming some of the duties traditionally performed by a physician, the PA enables the supervising physician to spend more time with patients who have serious or more complicated problems.

For over 40 years, PAs have been integral members of the health care team. In New Mexico, PAs have been providing patient care since the early 1970's and have had prescriptive authority since 1989. Responding to the rural health care needs of the state, the legislature in 1994 funded the development of a Physician Assistant Program at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Infographic: PA 101 by AAPA