FAQs by Physicians
Physicians who have not worked with PAs before often have many questions about PAs. We try to address some of the most common questions we receive below. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. What will a PA Add to my practice?
A. Hiring a physician assistant will decrease your workload. PAs are well trained to manage essentially all of the routine tasks you do every day - perform examinations and make diagnoses, process insurance claims, return patient phone calls, etc. Wouldn't you like to have more time free to work with your patients who have complex healthcare issues?
Hiring a PA will increase patient satisfaction. Another practitioner will ensure that your patient can be seen in a more timely fashion. Their phone calls are returned more quickly. Patients have expressed a high degree of satisfaction in the care rendered by PAs - in most cases, equivalent with that provided by a physician. And if you aren't rushed all day, won't you have more quality time with the patients that you see?
Hiring a PA will increase your revenue. A PA is not just another salaried employee for your office - the services provided by a PA should be submitted to your insurance carriers for reimbursement. In general, services provided by a PA are reimbursed at a slightly lower level that those provided by a physician, but the revenue more than covers the overhead costs associated with hiring a PA.
Q. Won't it be a nuisance to supervise a PA? If I have to see all their patients anyway, it's faster for me to do everything myself.
A. Many physicians have a misconception of what "direct supervision" means, as defined by NJ law. A physician does not have to be physically present when a PA is providing medical care. In fact, some PAs work in satellite clinics where the physician is very rarely present.
"Direct supervision" requires that your PA is able to immediately contact you if the need arises. Pagers and cell phones make this very convenient. And if you still want to see all of your patients to at least say hello, won't it be nice to have the H&P recorded, instructions finished, and the prescriptions already written?
Q. What kinds of things can a PA do?
A. For the most part, that is up to your PA and you to decide. You and your PA need to have a conversation to decide what you wish to delegate to them. In general, you can delegate any task to your PA that it within your scope of practice.
Common tasks PAs perform include:
- Performing and recording a history and physical examination
- Ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies
- Ordering medications and writing prescriptions
- Suturing and other wound management
- Casting and splinting
- Other procedures such as lumbar puncture and thoracentesis
- Assisting in surgery
PAs provide a wide variety of other services, depending on their specialty - for example, cardiology PAs assist with stress testing. You ability to delegate is limited only by your comfort level, and the comfort level of your PA.
Q. Where do PAs "draw the line" as far as what they can treat and what a physician can treat?
A. What a physician assistant does varies with training, experience, and state law. In addition, the scope of the PA's practice corresponds to the supervising physician's practice. In general, a physician assistant will see many of the same types of patients as the physician. The cases handled by physicians are generally the more complicated medical cases or those cases which require care that is not a routine part of the PA's scope of work. Referral to the physician, or close consultation between the patient-PA-physician, is done for unusual or hard to manage cases. Physician assistants are taught to "know our limits" and refer to physicians appropriately. It is an important part of PA training.
Q. Can PAs prescribe medications?
A. In New Jersey, PAs may write inpatient medication orders and outpatient prescriptions. PAs may apply for a DEA number to prescribe controlled substances (just like physicians do.)
Q. What environments can a PA work in?
A. Basically anyplace a physician can work - and maybe places a physician would not want to work. Imagine having a clinician in your office able to make house calls...
PAs work in all medical settings including outpatient offices, inpatient facilities, critical care units and surgery. PAs provide some of the most advanced trauma care in the world in our forward military units and work on staff in the White House.
Q. Who can supervise a Physician Assistant?
A. In New Jersey, you must be a plenary licensed physician - a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) - to supervise a PA. A PA may not be supervised by a chiropractor, a dentist or a podiatrist.
Q. Isn't PA education somewhat spotty?
A. The educational curriculum used by the PA profession should seem familiar to you - anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, etc. Our curriculum was designed by a physician and based upon a medical school curriculum.
Following intensive classroom training, PA rotate through clinical experiences that should also be familiar to you - medicine, surgery, pediatrics, emergency medicine, etc. PAs generally rotate alongside medical students and residents. We understand how to develop a differential diagnosis. We practice medicine. We are trained to think the way you think.
Q. What is the downside to having a PA?
A. We hope that after reading the above you will agree with us - there really aren't any!
At present, New Jersey statutes require that a supervising physician countersign PA documentation. This was a common requirement in many states, but most have come to see it as a nuisance which hampers patient care. While NJSSPA is working to alter this requirement, electronic medical record keeping has made countersignature much less of a burden.
Q. I'm sold. Where do I find a PA?
A. There are around 2000 of us in New Jersey, so it shouldn't be too hard. A great place to start is by advertising with NJSSPA: