New law allows physician assistants more freedom

“This is going to give us the opportunity to have someone in there who can take care of a high number of patients without having to have a physician there” two-thirds of the time, said Tallon, who also serves as the clinic’s board chairman. Physician assistants can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, prescribe most medications, perform procedures, assist in surgery, and provide patient education and counseling. The supervising doctor outlines their duties based on experience and skills. They are nationally certified and state-licensed. Physician assistants have a bachelor’s degree and complete a physician assistant training program, which averages 27 months and includes 2,000 hours of clinical work in different specialties such as pediatrics and psychiatry. Primary care doctors have more than 15,000 hours of clinical training. The Missouri State Medical Association , along with other state doctors’ groups, supported easing supervision on physician assistants. “We need to be able to get high quality medical care to these remote areas with a low volume of patients and no doctors,” said Dr. Stevan Whitt , chief medical officer for the University of Missouri Health System , who testified in favor of the law. Physician assistants can staff satellite clinics, make house calls, visit nursing homes or make hospital rounds. By 2015, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a national shortage of 33,100 primary care physicians because medical students are choosing other specialties with better pay and hours, and older primary care physicians are retiring. These much-needed providers, however, leave Missouri in droves. The state has two physician assistants training programs: at St.

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