Physician assistants (PAs) are important members of the healthcare team at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. A physician assistant is a healthcare professional licensed to practice medicine under a physician’s general supervision.
At Froedtert & the Medical College, more than 60 PAs are credentialed to see patients in many specialty areas, including:
- Cardiothoracic surgery
- Cardiovascular medicine
- Emergency medicine
- General internal medicine
- General surgery
- Neoplastic diseases
- Orthopaedic surgery
- Pulmonary/critical care medicine
- Transplant surgery
As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs may:
- Conduct patient histories and physical exams
- Diagnose and treat illnesses
- Order and interpret tests
- Initiate and manage therapies for acute or chronic health problems
- Perform minor surgical procedures
- Counsel patients on preventive health care, educate patients and conduct health screenings
- Assist in surgery
- Coordinate patient referral and follow-up care with physician specialists
- Coordinate hospital care and home care
- Write prescriptions for drugs and medical devices (All 50 states and the District of Columbia permit PAs to write prescriptions.)
A PA’s practice may also include educational, research and administrative duties.
The PA profession was created in the 1960s to complement the work of physicians and to fill voids in healthcare delivery in underserved areas of the country. In Wisconsin, Marquette University (Milwaukee), the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the University of Wisconsin-Madison offer accredited PA programs. A PA student must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass a national certifying exam before he or she can obtain a state license to practice.
Working under the general supervision of a physician, PAs provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services for patients. The scope of a PA’s practice corresponds to the supervising physician’s practice. In general, a PA will see many of the same types of patients as the physician.
PAs are educated in medical programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Education consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in basic medical and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, clinical medicine, pharmacology, pathophysiology and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery and geriatric medicine. The average PA curriculum runs about 26 months.
Upon graduation, PAs take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. To maintain their certification, a PA must receive 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and undergo recertification every six years. Today, many PAs also pursue post-graduate education programs.