The Role of the Physician Assistant in the Management of Rheumatic Disease

physician assistant

The role of the Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C) is to medically manage individuals in collaboration with a supervising Physician.

What does the Physician Assistant do?

  • Assesses patients by performing a comprehensive history and physical examination
  • Performs or orders diagnostic tests, interprets results, and develops a diagnosis. These diagnostic tests may include laboratory and radiographic studies (including X-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI, Bone Density (DXA), or other test when indicated)
  • Formulates a treatment plan to manage the patient’s acute or chronic conditions with the goal of optimizing treatment
  • Performs interventions such as aspiration and injection of joints
  • May order physical or occupational therapy depending upon the patient’s needs
  • Prescribes, orders, and implements interventions and treatments in accordance with state law
  • Can prescribe medications in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam
  • Collaborates with other health care providers to assess patient’s needs and uses community resources to plan appropriate care
  • Provides therapeutic intervention commensurate with their level of education, specialization, and experience and in accordance with state law
  • May be involved in medical research
  • Serves as a health information resource for patients and families providing education about disease management and treatment including medication administration
  • Serves as an advocate for the patient and family within the health care facility, community, and the legislative arena

Where does a Physician Assistant work?

The Physician Assistant provides care in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, managed care practices, rehabilitation units, and long-term care facilities. Practice varies according to the needs of the work setting.

What kind of training does a Certified Physician Assistant have?

  • The majority of Physician Assistants complete a graduate level program leading to a master’s degree. Master’s degree programs usually include approximately 12 months of didactic courses, and an average of 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice to prepare PAs to be effective providers of patient care.
  • A smaller number of Physician Assistants complete a formal entry-level program leading to a bachelor’s degree.
  • Physician Assistants maintain state licensure, and are certified on a national basis by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). In order to maintain their certification, the Physician Assistant must complete 100 of continuing medical education every two years, with at least 20 of those hours earned through Performance-Improvement (PI-CME) and/or Self Assessment CME. Beyond that, the certified physician assistant must pass a re-certification examination every 10 years.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.