What Is a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical provider licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PA-C is written after the name of those physician assistants who are also certified.


PAs are required to complete a rigorous, graduate-level medical training program (usually about 2 years long).  Because they work closely with physicians and with physician

supervision, PAs are trained to evaluate and manage problems in the same way physicians are taught (generally called the "medical model").  They are also required to get ongoing education (continuing medical education) to maintain their licenses.


What is the difference between a PA and a physician?  Mainly it is that physicians complete

more extensive formal training.  Physicians are required to complete medical school (usually 4 years) and to complete a one-year internship (some states require more).  The vast majority also complete a residency in their specialty.  In family medicine, for example,

the residency (including internship) is 3 years long.  Because of their training, physicians have nearly unlimited scope of practice (types of problems they can treat).


Though PAs can work in any specialty and can see patients of all ages, their scope of practice generally involves uncomplicated medical problems. State law also determines the scope of practice of physician assistants. In family medicine, some examples of what a PA might treat are (not a comprehensive list): 

  • acute illnesses (e.g. respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, skin infections)
  • acute injuries (e.g. lacerations, sprains, etc.)
  • uncomplicated chronic illness (e.g. hypothyroidism, hypertension, diabetes, asthma)
  • routine physicals


In general, PAs would not manage commplex medical issues, or medical issues requiring

extensive treatment or management.  In family medicine, some examples of what a PA would not generally treat are:

  • Patients with multiple medical problems
  • Problems requiring extensive or specialized evaluation and management (e.g.  premature babies, Down syndrome, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson Disease)
  • Complicated medical problems such as conditions that are or have been difficult to control or that are requiring multiple medications (e.g. patient on several medications for hypertension)

PAs prescribe controlled susbstances (narcotics and others) on a very limited basis and, in a clinic like ours, do not ever prescribe schedule II drugs (like Vicodin, Adderall, Concerta, Oxycontin, Methadone, etc.)


To help ensure the best medical care, physician assistants must work with physician

supervision.  The supervising physician must always be available for consultation and must conduct regular chart reviews. Always, PAs provide care in a way that is consistent with the direction of their supervising physicians.


What are the benefits of a PA?  A PA is often able to provide more follow-up and better

availability for patients, overall improving the level of care.

Simple Traditions

Family Health PLLC

827 S Magnolia Blvd Suite 6

Magnolia, TX 77355


Office of:

Paul Dibble MD

Pam Johnson MD

Alyson Van Tiem PA-C


Traffic in Magnolia can be surprisingly heavy, and there is construction on the major roads; plan plenty of time for travel when coming to our clinic. See  Driving Directions

We have moved!  Remember to come to our NEW clinic.


See driving directions

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