What Makes a Good Physician Assistant?

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 7 minutes

Physician assistant briefing a patient's condition while the attending doctor looks on

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Many healthcare professionals are often troubled by the doubt of not being good enough for their job, mainly because of their involvement with the patient. Over the years of operating in the field, I got hit by the same question. However, I was able to answer it by directly gathering opinions from the patients and perfecting my practices.

If you, too, are interested in what makes a good physician assistant, continue to read as we will share our first-hand experience.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What Makes a Good Physician Assistant?

An exceptional physician assistant is more than a medical practitioner; they are a caring advisor through the complexities of health care. A competent PA combines clinical knowledge, empathy, and skillful communication.

Physician assistant listening while a doctor briefs him about a patient

Clinical Competence

To begin with, clinical competence is crucial. A strong foundation in procedural skills and medical knowledge enables a PA to handle various patient situations. The best care is ensured by being thoroughly aware of the constantly changing area, from diagnosis to treatment approaches.

Effective Communication

It becomes clear that effective communication is essential. A proficient PA effectively communicates intricate medical details in a way that patients may comprehend. This promotes open communication between the patient and the healthcare professional and helps them make well-informed decisions.

Well-Rounded Personality

Ultimately, the smooth combination of these attributes sets an outstanding PA apart. It’s the skill of fusing medical knowledge with a humane touch to provide patients with treatment that goes beyond the hospital walls and becomes a genuine ally in the quest for health.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

Dedication and a passion for healthcare are hallmarks of becoming a physician assistant (PA). Medical knowledge and patient-centered care are combined in this line of work. 

Now, let’s explore the steps that pave the way to donning the white coat and making a difference in medicine.

Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

Obtaining an undergraduate degree is a fundamental step toward becoming a physician assistant. Prospective PAs can develop a solid scientific and academic base during this foundational phase. Most PA masters have anatomy, physiology, biology, and chemistry program requirements.

Additionally, as PA programs may have strict admissions standards, keeping a competitive GPA is essential. Aspiring PAs should investigate many aspects of healthcare to make the best decision about pursuing a PA career. They should envision creating a significant impact on people’s health and well-being. 

Woman with blue headphones on studying with a laptop

The undergraduate experience prepares students for the demanding academic and clinical training that comes next in their quest to become competent physician assistants.

Gather Valuable Experience

Aspiring PAs learn the fundamentals of science during their college years. However, they also polish their communication and critical thinking abilities, which are crucial for providing high-quality patient care. Their devotion to a future as a PA can be strengthened by volunteer work or internships in healthcare environments, which can deepen their understanding of the industry.

This experiential journey unveils the intricacies of patient care and honest communication skills and fortifies the foundation laid in academic pursuits. The dynamic interplay of theory and practice molds a prospective PA into a well-rounded healthcare professional. 

So, seize every opportunity to gather real-world experience—it’s the crucible where passion meets proficiency, setting the stage for a fulfilling medical career.

Enroll in a Physician Assistant Program

These courses are the first steps towards developing the skills necessary for this influential position in healthcare. Physician Assistant master’s, which often have a demanding curriculum, combines clinical experiences with classroom learning to mold aspiring PAs into well-rounded professionals.

Comprehensive medical knowledge, practical training, and a deep comprehension of patient care are all included in the journey. Selecting the appropriate program becomes essential because it establishes the framework for future work. 

Enrollment alone is not enough; one must immerse oneself in an educational crucible that forges the competence and compassion necessary to succeed in physician assistant studies.

Pass the PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE)

The pinnacle of the Physician Assistant (PA) path is passing the PA National Certifying Examination (PANCE). This demanding exam evaluates clinical judgment and extensive medical knowledge. Organ systems and job areas are its two main sections, which detail the nuances of patient care, encompassing anything from pharmacology programs to cardiology. 

Students busy studying with their books and laptops in a classroom

The scenario-based questions on the test require you to apply your theoretical knowledge to actual scenarios and just remember information from the textbook. 

To ensure that PAs pass this intellectual terrain and become competent practitioners equipped to handle the intricacies of healthcare, it is necessary to combine academic rigor with practical knowledge.

Apply for a PA State Licence 

The first step in practicing is obtaining a PA State license. The process entails challenging assessments that evaluate clinical and medical expertise. Reaching this milestone successfully guarantees that you are prepared to help and heal within the accepted legal parameters of healthcare.

Pros and Cons of Being a Physician Assistant

However, like almost every other profession, the role of a physician assistant has pros and cons that should be considered before starting this career. Let’s dive into the specifics of this extremely gratifying yet arduous profession.



Physician assistant briefing a patient's condition while the attending doctor looks on

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes a Physician Assistant Unique?

Physician assistants (PAs), who dynamically combine medical knowledge and empathy, are essential middlemen between patients and healthcare professionals. Their complex responsibilities go beyond traditional medicine, including a patient-centered philosophy emphasizing overall health. 

In addition to using their in-depth medical expertise to diagnose and treat patients, PAs are excellent at developing deep relationships with them. They can effectively bridge the communication gap between medical personnel and patients by using a caring approach to negotiate complex medical issues.

Why Do People Choose PA Over NP?

There are two main benefits for which a healthcare professional might choose PA over RN: broader medical education and salaries. First, PAs often possess a broader medical education, allowing them to switch between specializations and healthcare environments.

Secondly, PAs must undergo a more complex educational journey before becoming licensed PAs, resulting in more incredible experience, knowledge, and salaries.

Which Physician Assistant’s Quality Is the Most Important?

The most important attribute of a physician assistant is empathy. Beyond just being a medicine specialist, being able to relate to and understand patients builds trust, improves communication, and supports a more holistic approach to treatment, all of which significantly impact the patient experience as a whole.

What Makes a Good Physician Assistant - fact


A rewarding path of healing and connection is extended to those who decide to pursue a career as physician assistants. By combining their knowledge and compassion, PAs can significantly influence the lives of a wide range of patients.

Accept the route that unites medical expertise with compassionate care; it is a trip that offers a meaningful career in the field of health and wellbeing in addition to a job.

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