What Does a Psychiatric Physician Assistant Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
In some clinical settings, a psychiatric physician assistant provides medication management services for outpatients.
In some clinical settings, a psychiatric physician assistant provides medication management services for outpatients.

A psychiatric physician assistant works as part of a medical team to provide treatment and support to mentally ill patients. They work closely with psychiatrists to offer evaluation and treatment of mental health issues in settings like community clinics, hospitals, and psychiatric practices. In addition to direct patient care, the job includes maintaining paperwork, filing with insurance companies, and participating in other administrative tasks. Some have specialized certifications in psychiatry, while others may not have advanced mental health training.

A psychiatric physician assistant may be responsible for making diagnoses and treatment recommendations to patients.
A psychiatric physician assistant may be responsible for making diagnoses and treatment recommendations to patients.

These medical professionals can perform many of the same tasks as a doctor, but must do so under supervision. They can write prescriptions and perform minor medical procedures, for example, with approval from a supervising doctor. A psychiatric physician assistant may be assigned to a patient to perform an intake assessment, meet with family members, and determine the patient’s needs. In regular meetings with a supervising doctor, the physician assistant discusses specific situations that have developed in the practice, and how they are being handled.

Some psychiatric physician assistants work with patients who have bipolar or another mood disorder.
Some psychiatric physician assistants work with patients who have bipolar or another mood disorder.

The job can include assigning diagnoses to patients and making treatment recommendations. Medication management can be a substantial part of the work for a psychiatric physician assistant, as this is where the bulk of medical training in this area tends to lie. Psychotherapy may be provided by another health care provider if it would be beneficial for the patient. As the patient goes on medication, the psychiatric physician assistant monitors doses and responses, determining when to increase the dosage and when the patient needs to try another medication.

A physician assistant may discuss situations that have developed in a practice in meetings with a supervising doctor.
A physician assistant may discuss situations that have developed in a practice in meetings with a supervising doctor.

Psychiatric medications can potentially come with severe side effects. Patients taking these drugs need to be monitored for signs of problems like liver damage, psychiatric disturbance, and neurological impairment. For example, a patient with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who is placed on an antidepressant might experience a manic episode because of the medication. An attentive psychiatric physician assistant can evaluate patients, consider risks, and monitor them as they adjust to medication to identify these issues early.

Most psychiatric physician assistants work at hospitals, community clinics, or psychiatric practices.
Most psychiatric physician assistants work at hospitals, community clinics, or psychiatric practices.

Crisis care can also be part of the job for a psychiatric physician assistant, who may work in a crisis or emergency unit to provide immediate treatment to people with acute mental health problems. When the crisis is resolved, a long-term care plan can be developed to prevent future episodes of a similar nature. As a primary point of contact with the mental health system, the psychiatric physician assistant may also help patients locate financial assistance and other services that could be beneficial.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PracticalAdultInsights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PracticalAdultInsights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • In some clinical settings, a psychiatric physician assistant provides medication management services for outpatients.
      By: Alliance
      In some clinical settings, a psychiatric physician assistant provides medication management services for outpatients.
    • A psychiatric physician assistant may be responsible for making diagnoses and treatment recommendations to patients.
      By: Monkey Business
      A psychiatric physician assistant may be responsible for making diagnoses and treatment recommendations to patients.
    • Some psychiatric physician assistants work with patients who have bipolar or another mood disorder.
      By: Antonioguillem
      Some psychiatric physician assistants work with patients who have bipolar or another mood disorder.
    • A physician assistant may discuss situations that have developed in a practice in meetings with a supervising doctor.
      By: Burlingham
      A physician assistant may discuss situations that have developed in a practice in meetings with a supervising doctor.
    • Most psychiatric physician assistants work at hospitals, community clinics, or psychiatric practices.
      By: s_l
      Most psychiatric physician assistants work at hospitals, community clinics, or psychiatric practices.
    • Patients taking psychiatric medications should be monitored for signs of liver damage.
      By: CLIPAREA.com
      Patients taking psychiatric medications should be monitored for signs of liver damage.