Why am I Seeing a Physician Assistant and Not the Doctor?

You’ve called to make your appointment with a Dermatologist, and when you arrive for your appointment, it turns out you are seeing a Physician Assistant. Don’t fret! You are in good hands. What follows is a list of common misconceptions about Physician Assistants that will help reassure you about the excellent care you can expect to receive.

Physician Assistants are "assistants" to doctors. False. Physician Assistants (PAs) in dermatology examine, diagnose, and treat a broad variety of conditions both medically and surgically. They also perform screening exams, counsel on preventive care, and provide patient education. Most PAs work independently within a dermatology office, but always have the support of a Board-Certified Dermatologist when needed.

Physician Assistants don't go to medical school like physicians. True, however, PAs complete graduate level education and their curriculum was developed based on the same medical school curriculum that physicians receive. They are educated at the Masters Degree level and must pass a national certification exam to become licensed in their respective state. PAs are often taught by the same professors as medical students, attend clinical rotations with medical students and are held to the same academic standards. By the end of their program, they have completed 2000+ hours of clinical training.

Physician Assistants work under the doctor's license. False. A PA applies for a medical license through the State Medical Board just as all healthcare providers do. To maintain this license, they must complete Continuing Medical Education (CME) as determined by the state for which they practice.

Physician Assistants don't prescribe. False. PAs prescribe medications just as any doctor would!

Did my PA specialize in dermatology? It's complicated. Unlike a physician who goes to a residency after medical school to further specialize, a physician assistant chooses dermatology and learns "on the job" for their first years in practice. During this time, they rely more on the physician until they eventually progress to a more autonomous relationship.

Physician Assistants all wish they could be doctors. No, sorry but it's not so. Of course, there are a few that go on to become physicians, but the majority chose to be PAs because that's what they wanted to be.

Need an appointment to address your skin concerns?  Call (610) 288-2908 or schedule online at www.padermpartners.com

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Hannah Rodriguez, P.A.-C.
May 14, 2018