In the U.S., as chronic diseases increase and old age gets the best of the population, there's a growing need for many Americans to make frequent visits to their primary care doctor, but there's a problem: There's a shortage of physicians practicing general medicine. Physician assistants fill that need, at least to some degree. The role varies depending on which state we're talking about, but the primary focus is often to provide preventive care, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, and perform a lot of the same care as their supervising physician.
That's right: Despite doing all the heavy lifting in the way of patient care and getting to know each case, physician assistants don't have the authority to have the final say when it comes to their decisions. They evaluate, diagnose and treat patients, and they can prescribe medications, but they do all of that under the supervision of a physician or surgeon. That means that even after they do their workup, their superior may or may not agree with their diagnosis and treatment plan, and could toss all that work out the window. Combine that with the fact that some patients may not trust a physician assistant the way they would a doctor, and you can see how the stress would add up.