Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The potential source of physician's assistants is enormous. In addition to the frequently cited Vietnam medic, many highly intelligent, motivated individuals could be attracted to these training programs. For example, in 1970, 24,987 people applied to medical schools although there was space for only 11,348. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, as many as one-half of the remaining 13,639 were "fully qualified" to become physicians, and many probably would be eager and able to deliver excellent primary health care as a physician's assistant if given the opportunity. Many of the 650,000 registered nurses "in retirement" might be induced back to work by programs offering increased opportunity and responsibility in primary patient care. Other health care professionals, such as pharmacists, inhalation therapists, and laboratory technologists, might see the physician's assistant role as a way out of dead-end career patterns and into more active patient care management.

This article will review the important recent developments in the law relating to the physician's assistant. Special emphasis will be placed on one of the most fundamental and yet complex issues surrounding the physician's assistant--the appropriate scope of his practice.