Between the influx of newly insured patients, technology-related issues, and regulatory demands, physicians have their hands full these days. Since the goal of most physicians is more time with patients, many are turning to mid-level providers like physician assistants (PAs) to help shift the balance.
Although the PA role was created by physicians and the certification has been around for almost 50 years, some myths about PAs persist. For those considering expanding the role of PAs in their practice, we’d like to set the record straight.
Myth 1: PAs require a significant amount of hands-on supervision. Although PAs must have a physician supervisor and often work closely with him/her, on-site supervision is not required in many states. In some practices, PAs work autonomously to see patients, entering encounter information into an EHR to be reviewed later by a physician from the practice. Indeed, the US Veterans Health Administration recently suggested changing “supervising” physician to “collaborating” physician in the regulatory language.
Myth 2: PAs are not highly trained. True, they don’t have an MD degree, but PAs receive about 52 weeks of classroom education and spend about the same amount of time in clinical rotation. Also, they are specifically trained in the medical model, making them a better fit for some physicians than other mid-level providers (e.g., nurse practitioners).
Myth 3: PAs are PAs because they couldn’t get into med school. In fact, many PAs are looking for a way to work in healthcare while maintaining a better work/life balance than they observe in physicians. A far cry from physician wannabes, PAs chose their profession carefully and worked hard to be admitted to a PA program, which can be highly competitive. Many cite the absence of business-related tasks as the reason they chose PA over MD.
As the healthcare industry moves from a reactionary focus (taking care of the ill) to a proactive one (keeping people healthy), mid-level practitioners are becoming an important part of care teams charged with a variety of wellness activities and frequent, comprehensive follow ups of every chronically ill patient in the practice. PAs are not only an important part of those teams, they are also a way for physicians to become even more efficient as they work to accommodate the growing number of patients seeking care.
Last Updated on March 16, 2014