Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners in Specialty Care: Six Practices Make It Work


Sharon Christian, Catherine Dower

Jun 2009

Physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are increasingly being incorporated into outpatient specialty practices to improve access to care and reduce wait times. PAs and NPs also bolster the quality and financial profitability of specialty practices by allowing physicians to focus more on complex duties. Increasing workforce data and literature on PAs and NPs in specialty practices confirm the growth of these new models of care. This study examined the emerging models for the purpose of identifying replicable strategies and current challenges with focus on areas of particularly high demand: orthopedics, gastroenterology and dermatology. For example, the researchers found widespread utilization of PAs in orthopedics. They also discovered that the scarcity of postgraduate specialty programs for PAs and NPs was a major challenge to model implementation, while state scope of practice laws were generally not a hindrance. Moreover, the study reported that PAs and NPs strengthened care coordination in specialty practices by serving as both clinicians and communication links between patients and physicians.