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Six Tips for Hiring a Physician Assistant


From reviewing state laws to understanding reimbursement, the American Academy of Physician Assistants offers six tips to hiring a physician assistant.

Your practice or facility benefits from having a physician assistant on staff. PAs practice medicine in a team environment, providing a broad range of medical services that would otherwise be provided by physicians. PAs deliver high-quality care at great value, increase patient access, and reduce patient wait times. PAs are a valuable addition to a healthcare team.

Educated in the medical model, PAs share diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning with physicians. Their rigorous, generalist medical education allows PAs to provide medical and surgical services in all settings and specialties.

Here are six tips to help you hire that new team member now.

1. Recruit a certified PA.
The job market is hot for PAs. So you have to know how to find a one. Through the PA Job Link, provided by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), you can post jobs and review resumes for PAs who are nationally certified and designate as PA-C. These PAs have graduated from an accredited PA program and passed the national certifying examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Qualified PAs should also be state licensed or eligible to obtain a license in your state. Be prepared to make a compelling employment offer for the right PA, as NCCPA data shows that 78 percent of recent graduates receive multiple job offers and 52 percent entertain three or more.

2. Review state laws and regulations.
PAs practice medicine and prescribe medication in all states and the District of Columbia, but practice laws are not the same in every state. Understanding state laws and regulations related to PA practice is important. Knowing the PA-related state laws that impact your practice will help your team to quickly and efficiently provide the best patient care. The AAPA has access to state law summaries, the Six Key Elements of Modern PA Practice laws, and a PA prescribing authority chart on its website.

3. Establish a practice agreement.
One key to successful PA employment is an agreement on duties and responsibilities, created and agreed to by the team. This is a good opportunity to make sure your practice is utilizing PAs to the top of their education, experience, and licensure. The best practice agreements embrace the strengths of each clinician to maximize the care patients receive and clearly delineate roles and responsibilities. The agreement can also cover the term of employment, services to be provided, compensation, malpractice coverage, and benefits, among other things.

4. Know how PAs are reimbursed.
Does your office staff know the Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial payer billing and reimbursement policies for PAs? Do they know what is allowable by law? Does your business team understand the true value of PAs? To get you started, AAPA has detailed information about PA reimbursement and can help walk you through payment concerns.

5. Secure malpractice coverage.
Malpractice coverage for PAs is similar to that of physicians. Be sure that PAs under your employ have appropriate malpractice coverage. Look for A-rated companies and learn more at AAPA Insurance Services.

6. Incorporate your PA into the practice.
Making sure PAs are properly oriented and integrated into your practice environment is an important step to providing efficient patient care. If PAs are new to your practice, it would be helpful to train staff about PAs, how they practice medicine, care for patients, and their role. The good news is that most patients are familiar with PAs; for those who are not familiar, you can use this brochure in your waiting room.

Practices are seeing more patients every day, and many are looking for ways to ease the burden on overtaxed providers. PAs increase the number of patients a practice can see and are proven to provide quality patient care. To learn more about employing a PA, visit AAPA's website.

Rick Christiansen, MSHCM, is director of constituent organization outreach and advocacy for the American Academy of Physician Assistants. E-mail him here.

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