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Physician Assistants' Role in Neurosurgery Care

Physician Assistants Play Key Role Helping Provide Neurosurgery Care

It is common for Virginia Mason neurosurgery patients to be seen by physician assistants. They are key members of the multidisciplinary team that care for people with brain- and spine-related conditions.

Physician assistants (PAs) are academically and clinically trained. They are nationally-certified and state-licensed medical professionals, who practice medicine on health care teams with physicians and other providers.

PAs practice and foster a team-based, coordinated approach to health care that has been shown to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

Physician assistants have been part of the Virginia Mason care team since 1980. Currently, there are more than 60 PAs who practice within the Seattle-based, nonprofit health system.

What can a physician assistant do for me?

Often educated side by side with physicians, PAs provide a broad range of medical services, including:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Provide counsel about preventive care
  • Assist in surgery
  • Write prescriptions
  • Make rounds in the hospital

Highly Trained Clinicians Who Work as Extensions of the Neurosurgeons

Physician assistants’ education includes a medical school model of training without a residency.

PAs work under the license of a surgeon, who validates their work level and allows them to practice as independent providers within the practice.

You will find that PAs are patient-focused and often have more time to spend with you during visits. They practice as an extension of a surgeon. However, if a patient needs surgery, a neurosurgeon will always be involved in that patient’s care.

“My PA colleagues are an essential part of our multidisciplinary team. As the intensity and complexity of neurosurgical care increases, it’s impossible for surgeons to take great care of patients without assistance from specially trained, dedicated physician assistants,” said Farrokh Farrokhi, MD, section head of Neurosurgery and deputy director of quality at Virginia Mason. “The rapid expansion of the PA profession is testament to the need for expert care and exceptional caring that can only be provided by these talented practitioners. I respect their skill and trust that my patients are well cared for in their very capable hands.”

Physician Assistants are Highly Trained, Certified Clinicians

Before they can practice, PAs who graduate from an accredited program must:

In order to maintain certification, PAs must:

  • Complete a recertification exam every 10 years
  • Complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years

The “PA-C” after a PA’s name means they are currently certified.

Will my insurance cover an appointment with a physician assistant?

Yes. PA medical and surgical services are covered by:

  • Nearly all private insurance plans
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid