The average PA will practice in two to three specialties over the course of his or her career, and the typical PA currently treats 3,500 patients per year and writes up to 5,200 prescriptions in the process.
Like their physician colleagues, specialty practice enables PAs to increase patient access to quality care and decrease wait times between visits.
“PAs are educated side-by-side with physicians,” Lawrence Herman PA-C, MPA, DFAAPA, said in press conference.
“This broad education makes PAs the most nimble professionals in medicine today.”
In a conference call organized by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), practitioners representing dermatology, orthopedics, and pediatrics related their experiences to illustrate many of the ways PAs in specialties increase access to care.
Jennifer Winter, PA-C, is the President of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants. When asked how PAs improve access to dermatologic care, she stressed autonomy and patient satisfaction.
“I consult with my supervising physician when necessary, but I am an autonomous provider,” she said. “My patients greatly appreciate the continuity of care that I provide.”
As the president of the organization Physician Assistants in Orthopaedic Surgery, Thomas Gocke, III, MS, PA-C, ATC, knows firsthand the benefits of PAs in specialty practice.
“My practice has satellite clinics in more remote areas of the state,” he explained. “Adding PAs in those locations increases access to care and improves the quality of life for the people living nearby, because now they don’t have to drive to the hospital for treatment.”
In his capacity as president of the Society for Physician Assistants in Pediatrics Darren Young, MPAS, PA-C, is often asked how pediatric PAs differ from family practice PAs.
“Specialty training makes PAs highly cost-effective, because it frees up the supervising physician to see more patients,” said Young. “In addition, our generalist training allows us to educate families on a wide range of topics.”
In an illustration of the versatility of PAs, the Veterans Health Administration recently issued a new policy directive that authorizes PAs to practice medicine within defined levels of autonomy and to exercise autonomous medical decision-making throughout the VA health-care system.
“We applaud the VA for empowering PAs to fully deliver high-quality medicine to our veterans,” said Herman.