Physician Assistants - Members of the Health Care Team

Physician assistants whose supervising physicians are Active or Associate members of the Oregon Medical Association are also eligible for OMA membership. Below, Pat Kenney-Moore MS, PA-C, Immediate Past President of the Oregon Society of Physician Assistants, provides information on the role of PAs.

What is a PA?

A physician assistant, or PA, is a graduate of an accredited PA program who is authorized by the state or credentialed by the federal government to practice medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a physician. PAs provide a broad and comprehensive range of diagnostic and therapeutic services including medical history taking, performing physical examinations, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, managing chronic conditions, writing prescriptions, assisting in surgery, and performing inpatient care in both acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities.

History

The physician assistant profession began as an outgrowth of the Vietnam War. Military corpsmen with extensive hands-on wartime medical experience returned from active duty during a significant physician shortage. Duke University developed the first PA educational program and graduated its first class of 4 former Navy corpsmen in 1965. Since that time, the profession has grown and physician assistants now provide care with their physician colleagues in all 50 states.

Education

Physician Assistants are educated in the medical model at nationally accredited programs located at medical colleges and universities, teaching hospitals and through the armed forces. Coursework includes classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine and physical diagnosis) followed by rotations that include supervised clinical instruction in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, emergency medicine, women’s health and orthopedics. In many cases, physician assistant students sit alongside medical students in the same classes, and may share rotations as well. After graduation, a PA must pass a national certifying examination that is jointly developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. Continued certification as a physician assistant requires the completion of 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and successful passage of a re-certifying examination every six years.

Role

Once employed, the relationship between the supervising physician and a PA is one of mutual trust and respect. The PA is a representative of the physician, treating the patient in a style and manner developed and directed by the supervising physician. The physician and PA practice as members of a team. In general, a PA will see many of the same types of patients as the physician, and PAs are taught to "know their limits" and consult with the supervising physician appropriately.

Studies show a high level of patient acceptance and satisfaction with PA care procedures. A PA also provides an economic advantage to a practice by providing greater access to care. Most private insurance companies and state Medicaid programs cover physician services performed by physician assistants. Medicare reimburses physician services provided by physician assistants at 85 percent of the physician rate and the reimbursement is made to the practice, not the individual PA.

Oregon’s physician assistants are proud to be members of the Oregon Medical Association and look forward to partnering with our physician colleagues to improve health care in Oregon.

OMA PA Section

In November 2001, a Physician Assistant Section was created in the OMA House of Delegates to represent PA members. The PA Section meets on a regular basis and its members have been appointed to OMA’s Health Care Finance and Community Health Committees. The Oregon Society of Physician Assistants and OMA leadership have met to discuss issues of interest and importantance to both groups. The Section hopes to continue to build the relationship between the OMA leadership and PAs.

For more information, contact: Pat Kenney-Moore.

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v2 2016