Physician assistants help to battle hospital backlogs: Here’s how

A medical profession that is relatively new and not as known in Canada is quickly growing.

There are roughly just 800 physician assistants (PAs) in the country who play a vital role in the health care system.

“We’re not a replacement for doctors. We’re just physician extenders, so we just help to get more patients seen and through the health care system quicker and get access to care,” explained Ryan Runciman, Royal Victoria Regional Health Center ( RVH) physician’s assistant.

“We can do procedures, so for me, whether that’s wound care or drain care helping to insert or remove chest tubes, I’m kind of involved in those things,” said Runciman.

PAs also take diagnostic imaging and bloodwork, prescribe medications, and assist in surgeries.

RVH’s surgery division lead, Cindy Sklar, said the additional help makes a significant impact at the Barrie hospital.

“It’s definitely new to us here at RVH within the last several years. Since the addition of physician assistants to our surgical team, the change in quality of care, patient safety, communication on the ward has been really impressive,” Sklar said.

The addition of the PA role has helped to decrease hospital wait times in several units.

“Although we have physician assistants in the surgical program, they are also in many other places in the hospital, such as the intensive care unit, the medical unit, as well as Nephrology,” Sklar added.

There are currently nine physician assistants at RVH, with two more set to be hired.

November 27 is National Physician Assistant Day.

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