We want to introduce you to a valuable member of your healthcare team, Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP). PAs and NPs, also known as Advanced Practice Clinicians (APC) are becoming more and more common in the clinic setting, and their value to patient care is growing as healthcare continues to change and expand.
APCs work in all parts of healthcare, from primary care to specialties and surgery. In a primary care setting an APC might have their own group of patients that they care for, or they might assist with overflow to support a clinic’s physicians. In specialty departments an APC will often support a physician by jointly seeing new patients when appropriate, seeing routine follow ups, rounding on hospital patients and assisting in surgery.
There are some important things APCs want you to know regarding how they fit into providing patient care (see side bar). One thing that should be understood is the value they bring patients, physicians and clinics.
What APC’s Want You to Know
- We are educated and qualified to care for your health. PAs and NPs receive three years of additional training after their undergraduate education. You could say we earn a Master’s Degree in medical training. We are required to take a certification exam and maintain this certification with ongoing education.
- We can provide for your healthcare needs. In some cases PAs and NPs can exclusively provide for your healthcare needs. We can prescribe medication, order blood work and imaging studies, admit to a hospital and perform procedures in the clinic.
- We know our limits. As APCs we understand the level of care we are able to provide and work in sync with physicians when more advanced or surgical care is needed. We won’t hesitate to seek additional support from physicians when the need arises.
- You can call us by our first name. Many patients want to be respectful, but don’t know how to address us. We are not doctors, so calling us “Doctor” isn’t appropriate. We are comfortable with being addressed by our first name, or “Mr. or Ms.”
- You can see the physician if you want. We hope to explain your condition and treatment and build a rapport so you feel comfortable with us providing your care. However, we understand if you have an expectation to see your physician when you visit our clinic. We won’t be offended if you ask to see your doctor for his or her opinion or to answer questions. We try to provide every opportunity to see the physician if you request it.
Improved Access to Care
As healthcare continues to evolve, there is a focused effort to provide quality medical care for the people in our communities. APCs, working with physicians as a team, help to create more access for patients to get the care they need when they need it.
Practices that employ APCs are able to run more efficiently and see more patients on a given day. APCs allow the physician to almost be in two places at once, providing more opportunity to care for patients in need. PAs and NPs have the knowledge and skills to treat many of the common conditions that come into the clinic, allowing the physician to spend more time on the complex cases that may require more expertise.
Improved Patient Education
APCs not only allow more patients to be seen in the clinic, they also make it possible to spend time educating patients during the appointment. With the extra time patients are able to ask questions and gain understanding of their diagnosis and treatment. APCs can address concerns and help patients feel comfortable about their treatment plan.
Each member of your healthcare team plays an important role in creating your treatment plan. Working together, physicians and APCs are able to make better decisions for patient care. Experienced APCs are trusted by physicians to provide input regarding diagnosis, treatment and patient concerns. This team approach improves the quality of care you receive.
Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are valuable members of your healthcare team. They are educated, experienced and skilled to manage patient care in a variety of settings. When you receive care from an APC, know that you are in qualified hands that care about your health and can help you achieve the healthiest life possible.