Q&A with James Barrett
Skilled physician assistants help fill up growing health care gap
Q: With a booming aging population and many physicians reaching retirement age, the demand for physicians is growing. How are physician assistants (PAs) helping doctors fill the health care gap in Oklahoma?
A: PAs are an integral part of today's health care team, working in virtually every medical setting. They serve patients in emergency rooms, critical care units, private practices and nursing homes. They are specialists and generalists. PAs write prescriptions, treat minor illnesses and perform surgeries.
Q: How do patients benefit from going to doctors who utilize PAs in their practices?
A: A PA can help alleviate the health care bottleneck that only continues to grow and provide more quality, patient-centered care. More than 1,200 PAs are providing quality care in the state and it is the second fastest-growing health care profession in the country.
Q: What kind of knowledge do PAs have?
A: Each PA goes through more than 3,000 hours of rigorous training. Their level of education is higher than most allied health professions. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows primary care physicians are more likely to work with physician assistants or nurse practitioners than physicians in other specialties.
Q: How has the PA movement changed the face of health care?
A: As baby boomers age and the health care system changes, there is a higher demand for PAs. They serve in urban and rural areas across Oklahoma. Sometimes, they are the only health care provider for hundreds of miles. PAs have enhanced access of health care and patient education. They are an extension of a doctor, making the physician's and patients' lives easier.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER