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30 Things You Didn’t Know About Physician Assistants (PAs)

National PA Week is held every year from Oct. 6–12. OrthoCarolina employs more than 90 PAs, nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who serve an important role in our clinics and help to keep you healthy. We hope you will join us in celebrating our PAs this week.

Straight from our own Physician Assistants, here are 30 things you didn’t know about PAs:

  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 "done with school" and will never "be a doctor".
  5. PAs are not “physician’s assistants” -- they are Physician Assistants.
  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 6 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 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, regulates Physician Assistants.
  21. We 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 6 years (soon to be every 10 years) called the PANRE. 
  24. Physicians in other specialities 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 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 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

Emily Anderson, George Collins, Tony Connot, Kristina Donovan, Aaron Hewitt, Andy Hylton, Todd Massey, Tim Pysell and Scot Rheinecker contributed to this list.

For more on National PA Week, visit AAPA.


On a recent visit, PA Eddie Davis diagnosed my hip pain me and gave me a cortisone injection. I would highly recommend him. He has a delightful personality in addition to being great as a PA.
- L. Jenco
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