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VBCR - June 2015, Volume 4, No 3 - Value Propositions

The general media and the medical press have reported on the growing shortage of physicians, especially in fields such as rheumatology that provide care to the aging US population. The number of midlevel providers, however, continues to increase. As reported recently in The Rheumatologist, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants estimates that the number of education programs for physician assistants (PAs) will grow from 180 to 250 within the next 3 years and the number of certified PAs will increase from 95,583 in 2013 to more than 125,000 by the end of 2018. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners describes dramatic growth in the number of nurse practitioners (NPs) from 97,000 in 1999 to 171,000 in 2013, with a predicted total of 224,000 by 2025.

The addition of a PA or NP may help current rheumatology practices cope with the combined problems of fewer rheumatologists and more patients. Among several advantages that Shariar Cohen-Gadol, MD, a rheumatologist in Thousand Oaks, California, finds in working with NPs and PAs are their ability, after some training in rheumatology, to fulfill specific needs in his practice as well as salary requirements lower than those of a full-time rheumatologist. According to Barbara Slusher, MSW, PA-C, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, University of Texas, Galveston, “Rheumatology is a specialty of chronic conditions, and PAs are well suited to manage and educate chronic patients.”

To achieve a successful collaboration when adding an NP or PA to your rheumatology practice, consider these suggestions: check state laws thoroughly, decide on the responsibilities the NP or PA will have, let a candidate shadow you for a day or two, and introduce a newly hired provider to your patients. Caceres V. The Rheumatologist. April 1, 2015.

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Last modified: June 29, 2015
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