During the week of October 6-12, physician assistants (PA) from around the United States, including the members of the New Mexico Academy of Physician Assistants and the University of New Mexico Physician Assistant Student Society, will celebrate National Physician Assistant Week. It was on October 6, 1967, that the first class of PAs graduated from Duke University in North Carolina

The physician assistant profession - named one of the fastest growing professions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics - continues to show tremendous growth, with many PAs reporting high job satisfaction. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently lists the PA profession as the third-fastest growing profession, projecting that the number of PA jobs will increase by 49 percent between 2002 and 2012. The BLS predicts the total number of jobs in the country will grow by 15 percent over this 10-year period. The profession has grown from the first handful of graduates in 1967 to more than 50,000 clinically practicing PAs in 2004.

In a survey taken at the American Academy of Physician Assistants annual conference in May 2003, 86 percent of physician assistants surveyed said they would become a PA if they had to choose their career over again, and 95 percent would recommend the PA profession to a promising student.  

PAs are licensed  professionals who practice medicine as delegated by supervising physicians. They provide patient care services that would otherwise be performed by physicians. As part of their comprehensive services, PAs take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order and interpret lab tests, diagnose and treat illnesses, suture lacerations, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.  

PAs are employed by solo physician practices, health maintenance organizations, group practices, nursing homes, and hospitals. PAs also serve as commissioned officers in all branches of the military and practice as members of the White House medical team caring for the President and Vice President.

A national report on physician assistants, working with physicians as a team, showed that solo physicians who utilize PAs can increase the number of patients seen. Studies conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research found patient satisfaction levels with physician assistants high, ranging between 89 and 96 percent.

To learn more about the physician assistants in New Mexico, contact New Mexico Academy of Physician Assistants at www.nmapa.com or visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants Web site at www.aapa.org.


Contact: Angela Heisel, 272-3322