The PainWeek 2014 conference roared through Las Vegas last week, and from what I saw, it was a three-ring circus of the highest order for clinicians working in the pain field.

I gave two talks as part of the “PA-C Track” — a new feature at this year’s conference. There was also a nurse practitioner (NP) track. Both physician assistants (PAs) and NPs were buzzing about how important it was to be acknowledged as providers worthy of this outreach.

I always try to make CME sessions interactive, and this year’s PainWeek group was very responsive. I spoke with a nice crowd, and it was an enjoyable exchange with the audience. They had much to share about their challenges with addiction and pain patients. There were several PAs and NPs there, and they noted how much they appreciated having PA and NP tracks at PainWeek.

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My second session was about medical errors. The PAs and NPs present were vocal about how much it means to have PA and NP tracks. They noted that they would love to see this expanded in the future, and how validating it was for PainWeek to acknowledge PAs and NPs in this way. There was almost an emotional component in this session, and it was great.

The medical errors session was very intense, which is consistent with my experience talking about the difficult topic. People had lots to say about how the sadness of patients being harmed by medical errors, about what they have seen in their own practices, and about how often medical culture hides them.

A large portion of the exchange was about the hidden impact on providers who make mistakes, and how they lack any safety net that supports them as they work through having participated in the harm of a patient.

I didn’t have much chance to see Las Vegas, other walking around the strip near the host hotel and enjoying the high-level people watching that only Las Vegas can provide.

Bravo, PainWeek for reaching out to PAs and NPs, and here’s to more of the same in the future!

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is the founder of Physician Assistants for Health Equity and is a clinician and manager at Evergreen Treatment Services in Seattle.