Physician assistants help fill gaps in care

Friday, September 13, 2013
L. Miles Romney II (Contributed photo)

One of the challenges to delivering quality care in today's changing health care climate is the shortage of physicians, especially in rural settings. The high cost of training, paired with the ever-changing landscape of healthcare with rising insurance premiums and lower reimbursements threatens to decrease availability of physicians. Many are familiar with nurse practitioners who work under the supervision of a physician. However, another healthcare occupation, which is not as widely known, is a physician assistant.

L. Miles Romney II, physician assistant for Marshall Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic, said that the chance to treat people with varying injuries while not incurring a mountain of student loan debt attracted him to the physician assistant career path.

"As a PA I get to make a living doing something very worthwhile. After both working and going to school full time, the idea of going to medical school for four years and then doing a three-to-five year residency all while going into massive debt was not appealing," said Romney. "I opted for the PA route, as I would be taking care of patients and providing for my family just two years after graduating from college with much less debt."

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, a physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. A PA is a graduate of an accredited physician assistant educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician .

Physician assistants offer care very similar in scope to nurse practitioners (NP). Both work under the supervision of physicians, can prescribe medications, can provide treatment and diagnosis, and are licensed and certified to deliver care. The primary difference between a PA and a nurse practitioner is that NPs are usually trained nurses who have already worked in the nursing field. They then decide to further their education to become a Nurse Practitioner.

In addition to providing medical care in an office setting, PAs can also assist surgeons in the operating room, something Romney says he enjoys.

"My favorite procedures are fracture fixations, where we line up the fragments of a broken bone and use screws, plates, or pins to hold them in place so they can heal well," said Romney. "I also enjoy procedures like setting broken bones, tapping swollen knees, and sewing up lacerations."

Individuals today often migrate to professions that have a positive impact on others while also maintaining a high demand. When considering a career that helps people and provides a greater sense of pride and accomplishment, one should certainly put Physician Assistant on the list, said Romney.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of making people feel better. It can be challenging to put all the puzzle pieces together and figure out why someone is hurting and what needs to be done about it," said Romney.