700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

What is a Physician Assistant and Why Are They Treating My Child?

Mar 12, 2019
Physician Assistant

When your child has to spend time at the hospital, whether it is for a well-child check, a clinic visit for an injury or illness, or an extended hospital stay, you will meet many health care professionals. You may hear many titles or acronyms including MD, DO, APRN, APP, RN, PA, PT, RT and PCA. Physician assistants (PAs) are one of the many medical providers that may care for your child during their time at the hospital.

What is a physician assistant?

A PA is a medical provider who works in collaboration with a physician as part of a medical team. PAs study for 2-3 years in a graduate program that is modeled after physician programs. Most PA programs include 1-2 years of intensive classroom training followed by approximately one year of clinical rotations.  

PAs are not “physicians in training.” They are licensed to practice medicine by a state after passing a national board examination. PAs often practice as a team member with a supervising physician and can prescribe medications. 

PAs can work with any medical specialty, care for patients of any age and are also trained to assist with surgeries. Some PAs also go through a fellowship in a specific specialty to receive advanced training in that field. 

PAs are sometimes also called Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) which is a blanket term to include PAs and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

Will my child see a PA?

PAs work in many departments, both in the clinic and hospital settings, so it is definitely possible your child will receive medical care from a PA. Departments can include neonatology, orthopedics, neurology, endocrinology, behavioral health and more. 

In the hospital, PAs work in teams within their department that often include physicians, residents, APRNs and other medical staff to care for your child. While the teams often round together, a PA caring for your child may independently evaluate your child and discuss care plans including instructions and plan at the time of discharge.

In the clinic setting, appointments may be scheduled with a PA who will evaluate and treat your child. While your child may not see a physician during their visit, the PAs work closely with physicians as a team and will discuss and review patients together as needed. 

There are many excellent providers caring for your child, including PAs, APRNs, and physicians who work together as a team with other caregivers to ensure your child receives the best care possible. 

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Courtney Bishop. PA-C

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.