Physician Assistants are nationally certified, state-licensed medical professionals who practice on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers, including surgicalists. Although they are not licensed to perform surgery, PAs may assist surgeons in surgical procedures. They always work under the supervision of the surgeon. The core of a PA’s training is collaborative, team-based care*—which fits perfectly with the Surgical Affiliates model.
According to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the profession is growing; more than 35 percent in five years. Of the nearly 109,000 certified PAs in the U.S., three percent work in general surgery and a whopping almost 19% are in surgical subspecialties (including orthopaedic, cardiothoracic vascular and neurology).**
This rapid growth of PAs in surgical fields is typified by the experience of St. Luke’s Hospital, with campuses in Newburgh and Cornwall, New York. Thomas Robb, OD, Trauma Director and Chair of Surgery at St. Luke’s and Max Auerbach, PA-C, Lead PA, are part of the surgical care team from Surgical Affiliates Management Group, which contracts with St. Luke’s to provide acute care surgery, also referred to as surgical hospitalist care.
Over the 20 years of his surgical career, Dr. Robb has worked at hospitals that had and did not have PAs. He says that it is much more difficult for the surgeon without a PA.
Max believes his job is to help busy surgeons be two places at once. He says that “because our team knows what is happening with surgical patients at any given moment, we can keep surgeons better focused on patients that need their care.”
Although PAs are not in charge of quality measures, they are always in tune to them and as part of Surgical Affiliates’ collaborative team, our PAs not only help the surgeon, they help manage the patients and do follow-up to ensure continuity of patient care. Additionally, with our entire surgical team following American College of Surgeons (ACS) and physician practice management guidelines (PPMGs), variation in care is significantly reduced. This standardizing of care has repeatedly been proven to help prevent complications and improve the quality of patient care.
With the national growth of surgical PAs, Dr. Robb and Max have several tips for hospitals and surgery programs looking to build or expand involvement of PAs.
If you’re interested in learning more, please see https://www.samgi.com/for-providers/advanced-practitioners/