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Physician assistants, frequently called PAs, have a broad scope of duties and responsibilities, largely governed by the medical setting in which they work. PAs are regulated by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and work under the supervision of physicians. Texas requires that the PA's supervising physician register with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and that the PAs be licensed.
Six civilian physician assistant educational programs presently exist in Texas. On average, the physician assistant programs are approximately two years in length. Baylor College of Medicine, Southwestern in Dallas and University of Texas require a baccalaureate degree to be eligible to apply to their programs. Texas Tech and the University of North Texas require varying undergraduate hours prior to entering. At these five institutions, a master's degree is awarded to the student after the successful completion of all course work. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio requires a minimum of 65 hours before matriculation into the professional curriculum and is currently the only program in Texas from which the candidate will graduate with a bachelor's degree. Upon graduation from all of the aforementioned schools, the physician assistant is eligible to take the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants examination.
Duties of PAs working under a primary care physician include: performing appropriate interviews and physical examinations; ordering and screening results of laboratory diagnostic studies; organizing and integrating information derived from the interview, examination and laboratory; assisting with the performance of clinical procedures; instructing and counseling patients regarding preventive health care behaviors; monitoring responses to physician-directed programs of therapy; responding independently to life-threatening situations; facilitating patient access to appropriate health care services; making tentative assessments; making tentative diagnostic and therapeutic plans in such a way that the physician can perceive the medical problems and determine appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic steps; assisting the physician by performing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures; managing various common medical problems; treating minor cuts and wounds; removing casts; and changing dressings. In addition, PAs are employed as first and second assistants in surgery, particularly in cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants has developed a unified application for programs around the country.