As a certified physician assistant (PA-C) who has practiced over 20 years, I am often surprised by the many fallacies that exist, even among physicians, about who physician assistants are, what we can do, where we practice and how we can improve practice operations and profitability.There are many myths about PAs - the most prevalent being that PAs are the same as nurse practitioners (NPs). Read on to understand fact versus fiction regarding this and other PA myths.
• For more on the Medical Economics article regarding malpractice suits, click here. James Cannon, PA-C, DHA, MBA, DFAAPA, is the past chair of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. He also holds a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in psychiatry. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Certified Physician Assistants: 10 Myths vs. Facts
1. Myth: PAs are educated like NPs.
Fact: PAs are educated in the medical model versus the nursing model.
2. Myth: PAs are held to lower standards than physicians.
Fact: In practice, PAs are held to the same standards of care as their physician partners. Just as importantly, PAs are certified and maintain certification in a manner similar to physicians.
3. Myth: PAs want to be independent from physicians.
Fact: PAs want significant autonomy but not independence.
4. Myth: It costs too much to employ PAs due to the supervision requirements.
Fact: PAs reduce the overall cost to the practice while increasing access to high quality care.
5. Myth: PAs see only patients that a physician delegates on any given day.
Fact: PAs often have their own patient panel.
6. Myth: Hiring a PA is a big legal risk.
Fact: PA-physician teams experience a lower rate of malpractice suits vs. physicians overall.
7. Myth: The physician has to be onsite or see every patient.
Fact: Physicians do not have to be onsite.
8. Myth: Each physician can only supervise one PA.
Fact: State laws vary on this, and in about a dozen states there is no ratio limit at all.
9. Myth: More PAs practice in specialties because that is how they are educated and trained.
Fact: PAs are educated in general medicine, and certified and recertified as generalists.
10. Myth: Patients only want to see physicians.
Fact: 94 percent of patients are willing to be seen by a PA.