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PAs Do That!

“No man is an island.” Right?

That’s certainly the case with the medical team. I can’t effectively pull off my doctor gig without the team work and input from nurses, x-ray techs, medical assistants, and physician assistants.

Most people have a fairly good sense of what MAs and RNs do, but are less familiar with Physician Assistants (PAs). These professionals are playing an increasingly important role in healthcare and are a key part of the team.  Today I want to introduce you to one of my colleagues and friends who’s gonna tell her story and give you the scoop on her esteemed profession in her own words…


Meet Marisa Renna-Rodriguez, a skilled and experienced Physician Assistant, and one of my colleagues at PM Pediatrics

Marisa Rodriguez with 2 kids


What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are highly trainable members of a healthcare team, but what is a PA and what can a PA do?


A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional.  We can diagnose and treat medical illnesses and injuries, order lab and diagnostic tests including radiological tests such as x-rays and CT scans, and prescribe medications in all 50 states including narcotics in most states.  PAs undergo rigorous medical training during PA school where they obtain Master’s level education.  Most programs are 26 months in length (three academic years), and these programs require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools.  Most programs require students to have about three years of healthcare training and experience prior to applying.  Our didactic education is modeled on the medical school curriculum, and PAs learn to make life saving diagnostic and therapeutic decisions while working autonomously or in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team.  During our clinical rotations, we complete a total of 2,000 hours in various medical settings including (but not limited to) Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, General Surgery, Emergency Medicine and Psychiatry.  In order to obtain a state license to practice as a PA after PA school, one must pass the PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of PAs (NCCPA).  Every 10 years, we need to pass a re-certification exam and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years.  The “PA-C” after a PA’s name means they are currently certified.

Exhibiting at the American Academy of Physician Assistants Conference with my colleague, Dr. Sheryl Cohen, in 2016

Exhibiting at the American Academy of Physician Assistants Conference with my colleague, Dr. Sheryl Cohen, in 2016


The hashtag “PAs Do That” was developed by the NCCPA in 2016 to educate the community on what a PA can do.  From the NCCPA:  “Certified PAs are changing healthcare by enabling greater access to care, delivering quality outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction.  They practice medicine, managing acute and chronic care patients, performing complex procedures and assisting in surgery.”  PAs are experts in general medicine with a foundation in primary care.  Over the course of a PAs career, they may practice in 1 or 2 specialty areas giving them deep experience and the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their patients, employers and communities.  #PAsDoThat

PA Myth Busters:

Myth: PAs are the physician’s assistant.

Fact: Not at all.  PAs function as part of a health care team in caring for acute and chronically ill patients and are licensed to practice medicine, prescribe medication, and assist in surgery in all 50 states.

Myth: Patients won’t be happy unless they see a “real doctor”.

Fact: 93% of patients who recently saw a PA agreed that PAs are trusted healthcare professionals (According to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of AAPA).

Myth: The physician has to be on-site for a PA to see patients.

Fact: No state requires a physician to be on-site 100% of the time PAs are seeing patients.  Collaboration is key—PAs and physicians work together as members of a healthcare team.

Teaching a CME suturing workshop at our Pediatric Urgent Care Conference in 2016

Teaching a CME suturing workshop at our Pediatric Urgent Care Conference in 2016

What is a PA’s Role in the Pediatric Urgent Care Setting?

In the pediatric urgent care setting, PAs can function independently seeing a variety of medical illnesses and injuries including those of high acuity.   PAs have so many strengths, but I believe our medical knowledge base and our procedure skills shine in a pediatric urgent care setting.  The highlight of a recent shift of mine was reducing a finger dislocation, shoulder dislocation and repairing a laceration on a 3 year old’s chin all in an 8 hour shift!

At PM Pediatrics, PAs see their own patients and work with an attending physician who they can refer to if they have questions or need them to examine a patient they have seen.  PAs always have a supervising physician that they can call or ask to see a patient if needed.  In all 50 states, PAs can legally practice alone at an office under the jurisdiction and scope of practice of their supervising physician, but the physician always needs to be available for a phone call or an actual physical visit if advice is warranted.  The laws governing PAs vary slightly from state to state, but most PAs can function independently as described above.

One of the most exciting advancements in medicine at this time is the concept of telemedicine, which Dr. Christina recently blogged about.  PAs can play a vital role in caring for patients in an office where a physician can be available via telemedicine if needed.  Because PAs are trusted healthcare professionals and can diagnose, treat and prescribe for patients on their own, telemedicine provides quick and easy access to a physician if/when needed.

Pediatric urgent care holds an important place in the healthcare community and its future, and PAs are important members of the pediatric urgent care healthcare team!

Sources:  American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), National Commission on Certification of PAs (NCCPA)


Proudly wearing my Certificate of Added Qualifications in Pediatrics pin at work!

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