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Professional Role- Certified Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants are formally educated to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative health care services with the direction of a physician. The physician assistant profession was developed to increase access to healthcare in areas that are medically underserved, such as rural and inner city areas. They are cost-effective, productive members of the healthcare team.

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants nationally certifies physician assistants after passing an examination developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners.  In South Carolina, students may take the certification examination after graduation from an accredited physician assistant program.

PA’s maintain this certification by earning 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years.  Re-certification by examination is required every six years by many states, including South Carolina.  Current certification holders use the designation PA-C (Physician Assistant-Certified).  The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners also certifies physician assistants.  In January 1994, South Carolina instituted prescriptive privileges for physician assistants, provisions for off-site supervision, and temporary certification procedures.

The role of the professional PA varies, but general responsibilities may include any of the following:

  1. Eliciting a detailed and accurate medical history, performing a complete physical examination and recording all pertinent data.
  2. Performing and/or interpreting routine diagnostic studies, including routine laboratory procedures, common radiological studies, electrocardiograph tracings, and Pap smears.
  3. Performing therapeutic procedures, including injections, immunizations, wound care, suturing, incision and drainage of superficial infections, insertion of nasogastric and bladder catheters, cast application and follow-up of simple fractures.
  4. Counseling patients regarding physical and mental health, including diet, disease prevention, normal growth and development, and family planning.
  5. Assisting the physician in inpatient settings by performing patient rounds, recording patient's progress notes, and determining and implementing therapeutic plans.
  6. Assisting in the delivery of services to patients requiring continuing care, i.e., at home, skilled nursing homes, and extended care facilities.
  7. Facilitating the appropriate referral of patients and maintaining awareness of existing health delivery systems and social welfare resources.

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