With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, physician assistants are poised to help address the primary care provider shortage and deliver quality health care to the approximately 32 million new patients with access to health care services. Mercer University physician assistant students are raising awareness of their profession to highlight its impact as part of National PA Week, Oct. 6-12. The week is dedicated to helping recognize the contributions of PAs locally and nationally in providing quality patient care.
The Mercer group was on hand Sept. 28 as Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation announcing PA Week. During the actual PA Week, the group will also hold proclamation ceremonies with the mayors of Macon and Duluth.
According to projections by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the U.S. will face a shortfall of 40,000 family physicians in 2020, just as the number of older and underserved patients—and demand for care – is expected to be at its highest. This shortfall is sure to multiply with the passage of health care reform. While patients and their loved ones stand to gain from greater access to care, the reality is that physicians across America are already working beyond capacity, particularly in rural and inner city communities.
PA Week, in part, highlights a practical solution to the shortage of physicians, including the utilization of the entire medical work force, including physicians, nurses and PAs. Experts say highly trained and certified PAs are making it possible for more patients to get needed health care. Without PAs, hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, correctional institutions and many other health care settings would be unable to serve all patients.
“American Association of Physician Assistants is working to improve the utilization of PAs by collaborating with state and local leaders to support the expansion of PA programs in Georgia and develop strategies to overcome health care workforce challenges,” said Brad Schwarz, director of Mercer’s physician assistant program. “The right policies and support will allow qualified PAs to continue extending care – immediately – to those who need it most.”
PAs are licensed health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural, urban and suburban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs prescribe medication, conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care and assist in surgery.
The Mercer University PA Program, though the efforts of its student run charitable group, The Godsey Matthews Society, has a series of events planned for PA Week to bring awareness to the profession as well as take some time to give back to the community.
“PA Week is a special opportunity to highlight the work of PAs in the health care community,” said Tim Wombacher, student president of the Godsey-Matthews Society. “PAs throughout Georgia are doing a tremendous job. This week, in particular, we want to spread the word that PAs are integral to transforming patient care in America, as well as take some time from our busy schedules to give back to the community.”