What do you think about Physician Assistants?


excuse me if i posted this in the wrong area-but i was just curious as to what you all thought of p.a's from a nurse's point of view?

my sister, who is 10 years younger than i am, told me that she is going for that. i heard of it before and just finished researching it, but i can't say that i have ever come across one in the hospitals or offices.

i am happy for her because she had been having such a time deciding what she wanted to do. when i suggested that she go to nursing school with me, she kinda scoffed and said that she wanted to feel like she was doing more o_o i mean no offense to p.a's but from what i read the only real difference i see between them and nurses is that they can write prescriptions. please correct me if i'm wrong. please pardon my ignorance-not trying to be funny or offend-really.

just wanted to hear from some nurses who knew more about them first hand.



1 Article; 465 Posts

Specializes in PICU/NICU. Has 14 years experience.

I've worked with a FEW surgical PAs in the hospital setting. I don't mean to offend any one by this comment at all, but the best way I can think to describe their role is that of a resident... they seem to be the ones who do the "grunt work" for the surgeon- round on the pt, order labs, get consents signed, check wounds, ect. I cannot say what their role in the actual OR is.

Seems to me like long hours and hard work for the pay in the hospital setting.

However, my PCP has a couple in the office. I like them just fine for my common cold or whatever sends me in to the doc a few times a year. They seem like they spend a little more time with me and I feel like I get good care. I think with healthcare costs rising, we will be seeing alot more PAs. Your sis will probably have job security!


31 Posts

Their education is more involved. They can diagnose and prescribe. PA's also can move around in specialty's b/c they have rotations in each, whereas an NP chooses which specialty to go into. Surgical PA's def do the grunt work, but it's still a great job. My best friend is a surgical PA and I am an RN, she makes a considerable amount more than me. AND, if there is no work to be done, she can go home/sleep in the on-call room. As an RN, this is obviously not an option. While, they are both health care jobs, each plays a very different role. I don't think they are similar. PA's are not typically at the bedside providing hands-on care. They evaluate, assess, give the orders, collaborate with the RN's, prescribe, etc, but the actual hands-on care is provided by the nurse. They basically function as an MD but if needed they can fall back on a real MD for advice, and ultimately the MD has the last and final say about everything.

Hope it helps. There is a real difference btwn an RN and a PA.

Daytonite, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 14,603 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, telemetry, IV therapy, mgmt. Has 40 years experience.

i have a cousin who is a pa--she works in an er. two of my doctors have pas and when i go in for my appointments it is generally the pas that i see because these two docs are so busy they don't have time to see patients! can you believe that? the one pa who works for the surgeon is the one who sewed me up after fileting me open 2 years ago in surgery. although the surgeon was there, it was the pa i saw for all the post op follow up, gastric tube removal and suture removal. i only saw the great surgeon on the day i was discharged and one year later. i hardly ever see my neurologist unless something has really gone wrong with me that the pa can't handle.

these pas really seem to know what they are doing. they work very closely with the docs who employ them and they are specialized. they have prescribed medications for me and done complete physical exams. they listened to problems i tell them. i recently told the pa of my neurologist about a problem i was having with dizziness and he did go to the doctor and talk with him about it first before advising me what they decided i should do. the surgeon's pa assists him in the or.

a lot of pas work in ers. they do a lot of preliminary assessment of patients and ordering of tests. they suture, do a lot of minor procedures and can give some prescriptions. they are licensed in some states by the medical board.

the pa was something that the medical community came up with in response to advanced practice nurses. if you look into pa training programs you will see that they are accredited by medical boards or the ama.


41 Posts

worked beside two PA's--I thought they where great.

I have also been treated by PA's and I have no complalints as a matter of fact-they seem to give you the time you need and show more understanding.

Just my thoughts.

Specializes in LTC, Med/Surg, Peds, ICU, Tele. Has 15 years experience.

I think the wave of the future is the mid-level practitioner, both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners.

I've noticed that several PAs act like they walk on water, however, and are rude and condescending to nurses. I figure they must be feeling a little insecure about their place on the medical team, and don't want to be associated with lowly nurses? I don't get that attitude from the doctors with whom I work.

pagandeva2000, LPN

7,984 Posts

Specializes in Community Health, Med-Surg, Home Health.

To be honest, I think that many of the PAs are more up to date on things because their program is shorter than the physicians. I have not been treated by one, but I am impressed with the PAs that I know. They are more energetic and engaging, from my eye. I assume that the difference is that they are trained on the medical model in contrast to the nursing one. In addition, I believe that they take deeper science courses, etc. There is a wonderful PA that posts here every now and then, I can't remember his name, but, I love his insights. He is so informative and is a wonderful addition to our site.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.
i mean no offense to p.a's but from what i read the only real difference i see between them and nurses is that they can write prescriptions.

i've worked with many pas, and my experiences have been rather impressive. the pa's role is very similar to the np because they are both midlevel practitioners with a great deal of autonomy and abstract thought. there's certainly a difference between nurses and pas regarding working conditions, income, educational attainment, prestige, and other factors.


1,927 Posts

I've never been to a PA, but one routinely makes rounds for ortho patients when the dr is busy in surgery, office, etc. He is very very nice, more so than the dr and doesn't come with 'that' ego that some dr's have. He even makes it a point to know our names (aides!). That says a lot when someone with a higher degree makes it a point to know the names of the people who wipe butts. He even busy baby presents for nurses and aides when they are expecting.


467 Posts

I think they are great. Any time I go to my PCP office I usually see his assistant, who is a PA. He spends much more time with me and sits down and listens to me, talks with me, etc. The PCP is so damn busy and rushes all of the time. I saw the PCP the other day and he was so busy he didn't even bother closing the door and everyone in the hall could hear. I'm glad I didn't have anything embarassing to share with him like a butt infection or something like that.


143 Posts

thanks for all your replies and clearing this up for me. i wasn't trying to say in the least that they weren't needed (i have this compex about being misunderstood:) ) it sounds like we need more of them.

the career sounds very interesting and i am very happy for my sister. when she just couldn't decide what she wanted to do, i had suggested she go with me to nursing school-well i'm glad she waited and has now found something she wants to do.

thanks so much again!:D

Has 26 years experience.

One aspect you might want to consider is the ability to transfer a PA license to other states. Several years ago a friend of mine was a great PA in Arizona for years. After the kids grew up and flew the coup, they moved to Florida. She was told she was ineligible to apply for PA as their requirements were different and they wanted her to complete 2 more years of school!!! So they moved to another state. You might want to check the reciprocity of licenses as a PA.

I don't think this is such of a problem if you are a Nurse Practitioner.

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