What is a PA?

What is a physician assistant?

A physician assistant (PA) practices medicine under the direction of a physician. As members of healthcare teams, PAs:

  • take medical histories,
  • examine and treat patients,
  • make diagnoses,
  • prescribe medications,
  • assist in surgery,
  • counsel patients and
  • perform minor procedures.

A PA exercises considerable autonomy in diagnosing and treating patients, but the supervising physician and state law determine the scope of a PA’s practice. PAs practice in a wide variety of specialties and settings.

How are physician assistants trained?

PAs are trained in accredited programs that typically last about 25 months. The first year is generally devoted to rigorous, intensive classroom and laboratory training. The second year of training is spent in a series of closely supervised clinical rotations in a variety of medical and surgical specialties. MEDEX Northwest, like most PA programs, emphasizes primary care training. Finally, though details vary, the majority of PA programs (including MEDEX Northwest) require applicants to have previous health care experience and some college education before embarking on PA training. Graduates of accredited PA training programs must pass a national certification examination in order to practice.

How do I become a PA at MEDEX Northwest?

MEDEX Northwest, the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, is one of approximately 170 accredited PA programs in the United States. MEDEX is one of the very few with over 40 years providing training to successful graduates. MEDEX is committed to educating experienced health personnel from diverse backgrounds to practice medicine with physician supervision. The program provides a broad, competency-based curriculum that focuses on primary care with an emphasis on underserved populations.

Learn more about admissions.

Learn more about PAs


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