What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

If you are looking into healthcare careers, you may be wondering what does a physician assistant do?

They practice medicine under a physician’s supervision, and their training allows them to diagnose a range of illnesses and injuries.

What Does a Physician Assistant DoJob Duties

Some of the daily duties of physician assistants are the same no matter what their specialty, while others are more specific to their area of expertise. Here are some of the specialties and the job duties:

Emergency – When working in the emergency room, physician assistants usually treat patients who are more stable. They may suture wounds, diagnose infections and rashes, wrap sprained ankles, and refill medications. In some hospitals, physician assistants may be responsible for performing more advanced procedures such as starting central IV lines and inserting breathing tubes or surgical drainage tubes.

Hospital Care – Known as “hospitalists,” these physician assistants work in all areas of a hospital and are responsible for evaluating and treating patients who have been admitted.

Orthopedics – Physician assistants who work in orthopedics assist doctors with surgeries, make and remove casts, reduce dislocated bones, set fractures, and perform imaging procedures such as fluoroscopy.

Primary Care – This is the most common area for physician assistants, and it means working as the first contact for people who need treatment for health problems as well as preventive care. Duties include patient examinations and diagnosing a wide array of conditions including high blood pressure and shingles.

Surgery – Those who work in operating rooms are first assistants to the surgeon. They may place chest tubes, cut and drain abscesses, and much more. Physician assistants are also responsible for pre-admission assessments, and post-operative care.

Psychiatry – When working in psychiatry, physician assistants treat a variety of patients who may have problems such as suicidal thoughts, depression, or dementia.  They usually prescribe long-term medication to those who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness.


Now that you know what physician assistants do, let’s talk about the education that’s required. You’ll start by earning a bachelor’s degree in any major, followed by landing a job in the healthcare field. You’ll need three years’ experience with hands-on patient care, and acceptable positions include medical assistant, surgical technician, and certified nursing assistant. Then, you’ll be able to apply to physician assistant programs. All offer master’s degrees, and upon completion, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to work in the field.


All states require certification, and it’s achieved by passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Continuing education is required every two years and re-certification is necessary every ten years.

State License

Physician assistants also need a state license, and must complete an application, pay the fee, and have their college transcripts sent to the state’s licensing body as well as the score report from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Required Skills

There are several skills that physician assistants should have in order to be successful in their career:

  • Good English knowledge, including proper grammar, in order to properly note medical histories, progress notes, and write various forms of correspondence
  • Good listening skills
  • Good critical thinking skills
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Attention to detail

Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the job growth will be around 38 percent until 2022, and the average median salary in 2013 was $92,970. The best paying states are Rhode Island, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Washington.

Physician assistants have rewarding careers and are said to have one of the best jobs in healthcare. If you would like to learn more, please contact us as we can provide you with additional information.