Guest Opinion: The physician assistant occupation

Caroline Woods advises on the myths and roles of physician assistants.

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Guest Opinion: The physician assistant occupation


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Earlier the DI reported on “State of Iowa Could Face Physician Assistant Shortage.” This was a good article. For some reason, though, it never used the “PA” abbreviation and instead awkwardly bracketed the term “[physician assistant].” Also, one commentary incorrectly used “physician’s assistant.” In reality there is no plurality or apostrophe. So, here are two examples of how the PA title is misunderstood. They feed into the myth (often propagated by others) that a PA is an assistant and that the physician needs to be peering over the PA’s shoulder constantly. This provides opportunity for other professions to one-up their own, which is disappointing.

RELATED: State of Iowa could face physician assistant shortage

Any health-care provider has a supervisor, regardless of their licensure and place of work. This supervisor may be a manager, a physician, and/or a state board. Also, any health-care professional can own a practice, including PAs. PAs care for clients using a whole-person approach, embrace health promotion and disease prevention, are trained in the medical model to diagnose and treat, and are proud to work in collaboration with physicians.

I went to PA school with the support of a nurse practitioner who was both a co-worker and role model. Both of us (supervised by the same physician) practiced cultural humility and supported our clients’ self-determination. Both of us also knew the importance of all professions working together. For that I am ever thankful.

Caroline Woods, MS, PA-C, MPH Student

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