It was in the 1960s that physician assistants were first appointed in the United States, as a body of people who worked semi-independently with doctors. Soon, they were beginning to be appointed in hospitals too, and were taking on a variety of roles that were assigned to them. The physician assistant model has begun to be extended to other countries and their workforces too, with the United Kingdom being the latest to show interest in the position of physician assistant.
In the United States today, as in many other countries across the globe, the physician assistant carries out many tasks that were previously done only by the physicians themselves, such as examinations, diagnosis, investigations, and even sometimes prescribing and treatments. The relationship with physician assistants allows physicians to maintain and run secondary clinics especially such establishments as rural clinics and other long distance facilities. As more and more physician assistants are seen to deliver a high degree of care to patients, the demand for more physician assistants continues to rise.
More and more physician assistants are able to treat primary care illnesses without any support from physicians themselves. They are able to deal independently with issues like sprains and strains and illnesses such as allergies, asthma, hypertension and trauma. Studies have shown that physician assistants are working comfortably and with a high degree of expertise in areas such as cardiothoracic, forensic medicine, dermatology and occupational health.
Physicians are able to utilize the help of physician assistants and work fewer hours, whether in the office or at call, and can devote more time to the more complex jobs as the physician assistants take the primary care jobs out of their hand. Also, physician assistants support the physician closely. This fosters a strong relationship between the physician and the physician assistant that works well for the patients as well.
How is the physician assistant trained to deliver this highly specialized care, then? Generally, physician assistants have to devote a minimum of two years studying a basic curriculum. This curriculum is nothing but an abbreviated medical curriculum, with special emphasis on primary care. A lot of students have had some amount of hands on medical experience before they started out. All physician assistants need to pass an accreditation exam and must appear for recertification once every six years.
Physician assistants are likely to be in demand and in fact, increase in importance as the aging population increases and as more and more techniques and new forms of treatment are developed. In the United States alone, the number of physician assistants has already shown an increase and is likely to go up further. What is likely to happen in the future in the field of physician assistantship, however, is the maturing and specialization of the profession.
The role of the physician assistant is likely to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future with assistants taking on more responsibilities and tasks independently and in support with the physician.