The physician assistant (PA) must have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care. Accordingly, the granting of a degree to a PA student signifies that the holder is an individual prepared for employment as a PA. In such a professional role the PA can provide medical services under the supervision of a doctor of medicine or osteopathy in accordance with the applicable laws of medical practice. The services must, for the safety and welfare of the patient, be of the same professional quality that would be rendered by the supervising physician.
Candidates for the PA profession must have the somatic sensation and functional use of the sense of vision and hearing. Candidates’ diagnostic skills will also be lessened without the functional use of the senses of equilibrium, smell and taste. Additionally, they must have sufficient exteroceptive sense (touch, pain and temperature), sufficient motor function to permit them to carry out the activities described in the sections that follow. They must be able to integrate all information received by whatever sense(s) employed, consistently, quickly, and accurately, and they must have the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze and synthesize data.
The candidate for the PA profession must have abilities and skills of five varieties including observation, communication, motor, intellectual, conceptual & integrative – quantitative, and behavioral & social. Technological compensation can be made for some handicaps in certain of these areas, but such a candidate should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner.
The candidate must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, including but not limited to physiologic and pharmacological demonstration in animals, microbiologic cultures, and microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation necessitates the functional use of the sense of vision and somatic sensation. It is enhanced by the functional use of the sense of smell.
A candidate should be able to speak, to hear, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive nonverbal communications. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. Communication includes not only speech but reading and writing. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written form with all members of health care team.
Candidates should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should be able to perform basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, CBC, etc.) and read EKGs and x-rays. A candidate should be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment of patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of physician assistants are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, the opening of obstruction airways, the suturing of simple wounds, and the performance of simple obstetrical maneuvers. Such actions required coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the sense of touch and vision.
Intellectual-Conceptual & Integrative – Quantitative Abilities
These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, and synthesis, problem solving, the critical skill demanded of physician assistants, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
Behavioral & Social Attributes
A candidate must possess the emotional health and stability required for full utilization of his intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admission and education processes.