Physician assistants (PAs) work side-by-side with physicians on nearly every major service at Christiana Care. They are the physician’s “extra pair of hands,” helping to enhance quality and continuity of patient care, and teaching students and residents.
Close to 100 PAs are full-time Christiana Care employees, and many others assist physicians in private practice. Licensed by the state, PAs work under physician supervision in primary care and in high-tech specialties.
“PAs are involved in all aspects of cardiac surgery, acting as first and second assistants during procedures in the operating room and providing both pre- and post- operative patient care,” said Chief PA Mark Key, MPAS, PA-C, FAPACVS .
As president of the Delaware Academy of Physician Assistants, Key is assisting efforts to bring state regulations governing PAs in line with national trends.
“Our goal is to capitalize on the full potential of PAs to assist physicians as mid-level practitioners in controlling costs while increasing the quality and value of services to their patients,” he said.
At Christiana Care, PAs serve on Wilmington Hospital ICU’s specialized admission team for critically ill patients to facilitate transfers from the Emergency Department. According to Chief Critical Care PA Stew Constance, BS, PA-C, “PAs are widely accepted contributors in disaster and time critical situations. Our model of cooperation with physician partners broadens care delivery with limited resources.”
In the Emergency Department, where PAs once worked only in fast-track settings, today they cover the core area and treat sicker patients.
“Our role in the ED is expanding,” saidChief PA Ed Knox, PA-C. “More PAs are needed with the expansion at Wilmington and other sites. I spend a fair amount of time on recruitment.”
In July, the Department of Surgery began a PA First Responder service for ENT and urology physicians on call and added two flex-time positions to meet increased OR demands.
“A high number of the PAs on staff, as well as many working in the community, were trained at Christiana Care,” said Chief PA Joe Allison, PA-C, a 36-year veteran in his specialty. Certification requires graduation from an accredited program and passing the national exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), and they must retake the exam every six years to continue work.
During 50 weeks of clinical training, students from Hahnemann Hospital’s PA Program at Drexel University, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Arcadia University do their clinical rotations and preceptorships at Christiana Care.