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Physician assistants may offer a solution to the national shortage of primary care physicians and help provide both primary and specialty care for many Americans who would otherwise lack access to ongoing health care services. Working side-by-side with a physician as an assistant-at- surgery or practicing with minimal supervision in a remote rural clinic, PAs continue to address the health care needs of millions of Americans each year.
A wide range of health care organizations have found that physician assistants contribute significantly toward their overall mission of providing high-quality, cost-effective health care services. Physician assistants are most commonly found in clinic settings where they conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications. Many hospitals utilize the expertise of PAs in emergency rooms and urgent care settings. Residents of long-term care facilities benefit from the collaborative effort among provider teams consisting of physicians and PAs. As an integral member of a surgical practice, the PA is often called upon to perform routine pre- and post-surgery follow-up care in addition to directly assisting in surgeries.
This broad range of practice settings can help to explain the strong demand for physician assistants and the tremendous growth in the number of practicing PAs from less than 1,500 in 1973 to more than 95,000 practicing PAs across the country today.
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