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SDPA President Jennifer Winter to the AAPA: How PAs in Dermatology Provide Care

On January 10th, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) reached out to the media in an effort to educate the public about the benefits of physician assistants (PA) in specialty medicine. The AAPA hosted a virtual briefing conference call with leading specialty PAs. Our own Jennifer Winter, MSPAS, PA-C, was included in the call, and below you will find a summary of what transpired.

AAPA president, Lawrence Herman, PA-C, MPA began the call by stating that over 93,000 PAs practice medicine and surgery in medical specialties today, including emergency medicine, oncology, psychiatry, radiology, dermatology, and more. A typical PA will treat over 3,500 patients in a year, and write as many as 5,200 prescriptions as part of that care, as well as perform examinations, order and interpret lab tests and imagine studies, perform medical procedures, assist in surgery, and provide patient education. PAs increase access to quality care and decrease wait times by providing care in offices and clinics and also make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. Herman continued, “An experienced PA has the surgical acumen to watch out for procedures that need special care…which gives that physician another set of hands and eyes that have the skill and ability to perform those types of procedures,”

Jennifer Winter began by saying “I absolutely love what I do,” and shared, “I never stop looking at skin, wherever I am. I found melanoma in at least two people who were not my patients but were accompanying patients that I was seeing. We never really close our eyes.” She also pointed out that PAs bring broad-based medical knowledge to the exam room because they have to recertify as medical generalists every 10 years.

Winter explained that a team-based approach to care that makes full use of PAs ensures quick access to quality care for patients, stating “We think that the team is more about everybody in the practice–not just physicians, or physician assistants, but medical assistant and other staff. None of us can do this alone.”  Winter described what it is like to be a PA in her practice: “I have my own patient schedule, my own medical assistant, my own rooms, I see new patients, I do my own surgeries, and see my own return patients.” She noted that her practice is supported by her team, and by her supervising physician, with whom she can request a consultation if needed at any point. “More patients can be seen this way,” she stated, “because we’re not overlapping with two different providers seeing the same patient in the same day.” This not only allows providers to become more familiar with their own patients, but it also benefits patients, who appreciate the continuity of care.

Winter noted that the biggest difficulty PAs in dermatology face is similar to their patients: access to care. While the use of PAs can help alleviate that issue, there first has to be an increase in dermatologists to train and collaborate with these PAs. She explained that though “there are not enough trained dermatologists to go around,” and that “most places are underserved”, members and physicians in the AAD and members and physician assistants in the SDPA frequently collaborate in order to find new ways to take care of patients. Winter explained that currently “50% of dermatologists work with non-physician providers, and we hope to increase the percentage in the future to allow more opportunities for PAs to work in dermatology, because the specialty provides a high quality of life.”

You can listen to the full interview here

Sources 1, 2, 3