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Physician Assistants are essential to our mission to provide exceptional orthopedic care and make lives better. 

OrthoCarolina employs more than 111 Physician Assistants, nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who serve an important role in our clinics and help to keep you healthy. 

Every October, we celebrate National PA Week Oct. 6–12. We hope you will join us in recognizing our PAs, beginning with learning more about what exactly they do.

What is an orthocarolina PA?

Hear straight from our own Physician Assistants. Here are 30 things you didn’t know about Physician Assistants:

  1. In most states, PAs are also licensed by the same medical boards that confer physician licenses.
  2. PAs can order advanced imaging (MRI, CT, Ultrasound).
  3. PAs can prescribe medication.
  4. PAs are not doctors but they do hold an advanced practice medical certification.
  5. PAs are not “physician’s assistants” -- they are Physician Assistants -- part of your care team.
  6. Physician Assistants are not "want-to-be" doctors. We choose the PA profession because we want to be PAs
  7. The PA profession began at Duke University; the first class of PAs graduated from Duke on October 6, 1967.
  8. PAs practice and prescribe medications in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  9. A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional.
  10. There is only a 3-month difference between the classroom academic component of a physician’s training and that of a PA.
  11. PAs receive a Bachelor’s degree prior to attending PA school: Most PAs will have 2 Bachelor’s degrees and 1 Master’s degree upon completion of their program.
  12. We go through approximately 8 years of post-high school education.
  13. PAs must pass a challenging Physician Assistant Medical Certification Exam prior to practicing, and must recertify every 10 years by passing a recertification exam and logging continued medical education each year.
  14. We have DEA and state medical licenses.
  15. Many PAs have worked as nurses, paramedics, athletic trainers, etc. prior to going to PA school.
  16. PAs can work in all medical specialties.
  17. PAs can assist in surgery.
  18. PAs can switch between specialties as training is inclusive of all specialties.
  19. PAs go through residency-type rotations in most major specialties.
  20. The Board of Medicine, which also regulates doctors, also regulates Physician Assistants.
  21. PAs can perform procedures including injections, fracture reduction, radiologic and cardiac procedures, casting, and more.
  22. PAs can assess, diagnose and treat, so they must have as robust medical knowledge as a physician.
  23. PAs take a recertification exam every 10 years called the PANRE.
  24. Physicians in other specialties will often consult PAs to obtain medical advice.
  25. Some PAs in specialties are trusted to help train and educate residents and fellows.
  26. PAs are ranked as one of the fastest-growing professions in America.
  27. US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of PA jobs will increase by 38% between 2008 and 2018.
  28. Over 95,000 certified PAs work 3.8 million hours and see 7 million patients every week. (Source:
  29. There are PAs that work for the U.S. Army and they play an important role in improving the overall quality of life for Soldiers and their families, including:
  • Serve as a primary source of medical advice in the absence of a physician
  • Supervise combat medics and perform as a medical section/platoon leader
  • Advise on medically-related matters pertinent to unit readiness for missions
  • Function as a medical staff officer at various levels
  • Serve as commander of companies, battalions, brigades, and medical treatment facilities
  • Serve as commissioned officers in US military
  1. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (the body that certifies PAs) has 14 Participating organizations:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American College of Physicians
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Federation of State Medical Boards
  • Physician Assistant Education Association
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

George Collins, PA-C, Tony Connot, PA-C,  Kristina Donovan, PA-C,  Andy Hylton PA-C,  and Scot Rheinecker PA-C,  contributed to this list.

For more on National PA Week, visit AAPA.

This article was originally published on October 2, 2019, and has been updated on October 7, 2022.


March 28, 2022

You forgot "PAs must be supervised by Physicians and must work under the Supervising Physician's license"
- Jennifer Martin
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

April 01, 2022

Thank you for your attention to detail! You are absolutely correct and each of our Physician Assistants notate in their bios which Physician they work in conjunction with.

February 22, 2022

Thanks for sharing about 30 Things You Didn’t Know About Physician Assistants (PAs)
- growpractice

July 22, 2021

It's only been 5 days since it met the most understanding caring PA. Christy is just great. When my right hand/ arm heals I will be back to tell you why I love this PA her knowledge and experience has surpassed any PA ive ever met. Christy you are the best will tell you later when I can really text. Dr Garcia i love you to. Pain doing better. Thank you. Ìm blessed by God to have found you. Halalugha.
- Paula Gentry