What Does a Physician Assistant do?

PA Coaching • May 26, 2023

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who provides care to patients under the supervision of a licensed physician. In this video I will be going over the specifics of what does a physician assistant do on a daily basis.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

Physician Assistants (PAs) have been an integral part of the healthcare profession since the late 1970s. While their role may not be as widely understood as that of nurses or doctors, it is essential to break down the responsibilities and capabilities of PAs. This article aims to shed light on what does a physician assistant do, taking into consideration state laws, scope of practice, practice settings, and collaborating positions.

Clinical Duties

a. Patient History and Physical Exams: PAs have the ability to independently or collaboratively see patients and gather their medical history, surgical information, and medication details to help establish a diagnosis.

b. Diagnostic Tests: PAs can order various diagnostic tests such as CT scans, x-rays, and laboratory evaluations to aid in the diagnosis process.

c. Test Interpretation: PAs are skilled at interpreting test results, enabling them to piece together the patient’s diagnosis.

d. Patient Education and Treatment Options: PAs explain the diagnosis to patients and offer them treatment options. They also provide patient education on different medications and have the authority to prescribe medications when necessary.

e. Referrals: PAs can refer patients to specialists or other physicians for further evaluation or treatment.

From Start to Finish

PAs provide comprehensive care to patients, from initial assessment to follow-up. They conduct patient interviews, physical examinations, order tests, interpret results, devise treatment plans, prescribe medications, and make referrals when needed. While experienced PAs can work more independently, early in their careers, they often work closely with supervising physicians.

Surgery Procedures

a. Surgical Assistance: PAs can assist physicians during surgeries and procedures, providing support in various surgical settings.

b. Procedural Skills: PAs are trained to perform a range of procedures, including suturing, lumbar punctures, thoracentesis, paracentesis, biopsies, and joint adjustments. These procedures require appropriate training and approval from collaborating physicians.

Patient Navigation

PAs assist patients in navigating the medical system, ensuring they receive appropriate care. They collaborate with nurses, administrative staff, and insurance companies to coordinate necessary tests and treatments. PAs also play a role in supporting physicians with billing and generating revenue for the practice.

Follow-Up Care

PAs are involved in providing follow-up care to patients, ensuring they understand their treatment plans, medications, and next steps. Patient education and care coordination are essential aspects of a PA’s role, contributing to positive patient outcomes.

Duties in Different Settings

The specific responsibilities of a PA can vary depending on their specialty and practice setting.

a. Outpatient Clinic: PAs in outpatient settings see multiple patients daily, conducting histories, physicals, scheduling follow-up care, writing prescriptions, and providing patient education.

b. Hospital Setting: PAs in hospitals participate in rounds, collaborate with specialty teams, coordinate care for patients, and perform procedures. Collaboration and care coordination are particularly vital in the hospital setting.

PA Laws

Prescriptive rights and scope of practice for PAs may differ between states. PAs are nationally certified but must obtain a state license, including prescriptive authority and DEA licensure. It is crucial for PAs to familiarize themselves with their state’s laws and regulations.


So what does a physician assistant do? Physician Assistants play a crucial role in healthcare, with a wide range of responsibilities and capabilities. From clinical duties to surgical assistance, patient navigation, follow-up care, and collaboration with other healthcare professionals, PAs make a significant impact on the patient journey. While specific duties may vary based on state laws, practice settings, and specialties, the ultimate goal remains the same—to provide quality care and positive outcomes for patients.

Also read: Can a Physician Assistant Become a Doctor?

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!