- Do you capitalize the word physician assistant?
- How do you write the plural of physician assistant?
- What is the proper name of the PA profession?
- Should I write physician assistant or physician associate on my personal statement?
All these questions are real — We know because we see the mistakes in capitalization, grammar, and worse, the name of the profession just about every day as essays roll in.
If you want to get it right, read on!
How to Correctly Write Physician Assistant
1. First things first - What is the correct title of the profession? Is it physician assistant, physician associate, or just PA?
According to the AAPA website:
The official title of the PA profession is “physician associate.” As the organization representing the PA profession, AAPA has transitioned to the American Academy of Physician Associates and is transitioning to the use of “physician associate” when possible and when it does not present a legal or regulatory conflict.
"PAs should continue to use “physician assistant” or “PA” as their official legal title in a professional capacity, particularly in clinical settings and with patients, until the jurisdiction governing their licensure and practice has formally adopted the title of “physician associate.” AAPA’s legal counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP, recommends that PAs refrain from representing themselves as “physician associates” at this time."
For the latest information on the physician associate name change, click here.
And, if you may be wondering, I also suggest you continue to write “physician assistant (PA)” on your CASPA personal statement.
2. Do you capitalize the word physician assistant?
The general rule is no; physician assistant is not capitalized.
If you doubt my word, check (other:-D ) reliable sources — medical dictionaries, for one, like the U.S. Library of Medicine.
Many medical schools, PA studies programs, and universities have writing guides with the correct way to spell or cite various professions. They’re usually on the school’s website.
Of course, there are exceptions.
The main one relates to formal titles. Anytime you’re citing a specific program name or degree title, you’ll capitalize the words. For example, it’s “Rutgers University Physician Assistant Program,” and “Master of Physician Assistant Studies.”
It’s also possible that a specific school will have a different opinion about the subject. Always check the school website to see if physician assistant is capitalized and, if so, in what context. Follow the school’s lead!
Examples of correct usage:
- “I will be the best physician assistant the world has ever seen.”
- “In order to be the best physician assistant the world has ever seen I need to complete the Brown School of Physician Assistant Studies.”
Examples of incorrect usage:
- “I will never get into Physician Assistant school because I don’t know the rules.”
- “My interest in becoming a Physician Assistant started when my parents said they wouldn’t pay for medical school.”
A mistake in capitalization doesn’t mean your application will necessarily land in the reject pile. However, there is one mistake that pretty much guarantees your application will go out with the recycle.
That’s getting the name of the profession wrong.
3. It is not physician’s assistant. Ever!
When I interviewed Admissions Directors and faculty across the country about writing these essays for our book, “How To Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement,” all said getting the name of the profession wrong is a big red flag. It tells them that people likely just looked at a website to learn about the profession and have no clue what it’s really about.
Examples of correct usage: We repeat, there is never a time when you will write physician’s assistant.
Examples of incorrect usage:
- “I want to be a physician’s assistant because it sounded like fun when I read about it on the Internet.”
- “I want to be a Physician’s Assistant because it sounded like fun when I read about it on the Internet.”
4. The possessive and the plural of PA
Just to be clear, the possessive of physician assistant is physician assistant’s or if using the acronym, PA’s. The plural is physician assistants or, if using the acronym, PAs.
Examples of correct usage:
- “The physician assistant’s demeanor was warm and welcoming.” (possessive)
- “The PA’s demeanor was warm and welcoming.” (possessive)
- “The physician assistants I shadowed were warm and welcoming.” (plural)
- “The PAs I shadowed were warm and welcoming.” (plural)
Examples of incorrect usage:
- “The physician assistants demeanor was warm and welcoming.”
- “The PAs demeanor was warm and welcoming.”
- “The physician assistant’s I shadowed were warm and welcoming.”
- “The PA’s I shadowed were warm and welcoming.”
We’ve spelled it out for you. Now it’s up to you to spell it right!
You can download a FREE PDF version of this guide: How to Write Physician Assistant the Definitive Guide
Are you looking for some more inspiration?
Lookok at these 31 sample PA school personal statements shared through members of our community. Use it as a guide to see what works and what doesn't as you sit down to write your 5,000-character CASPA essay.
View all posts in this series
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- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
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