JOURNAL ARTICLE

Physician assistants as physician extenders in the pediatric intensive care unit setting-A 5-year experience

Mudit Mathur, Angeli Rampersad, Kathleen Howard, Gilbert M Goldman
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 2005, 6 (1): 14-9
15636653

OBJECTIVE: To describe the scope of practice and complementary role of physician assistants as physician extenders in the pediatric intensive care unit.

DESIGN: Descriptive report of a 5-yr experience using a physician assistant-resident staffing model in comparison to the traditional resident-only coverage.

SETTING: Six-bed pediatric intensive care unit at a tertiary care center subject to longstanding New York Hospital Code 405 restrictions on resident work hours.

INTERVENTIONS: Orientation, training, credentialing, and evaluation of physician assistants.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: New Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education regulations based on the longstanding New York Hospital Code 405 limit the number of resident hours worked per week. Our hospital employs physician assistants as physician extenders in the pediatric intensive care unit to enable regulatory compliance. Physician assistants were oriented for a period of 6 months to 1 yr to develop skill competencies, observe and learn pediatric intensive care unit practices and procedures, and complete credentialing to perform traditionally physician, nursing, and respiratory therapist functions. Physician assistants were then assigned to an independent but supervised patient care role similar to that of a resident physician. The impact of the physician assistant program was assessed by the attending physicians, and resident opinions were surveyed.

CONCLUSIONS: Physician assistants play a complementary role as physician extenders in the pediatric intensive care unit, enabling compliance with New York state and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education resident work hour regulations. Physician assistants perform similar tasks and activities as the pediatric intensive care unit residents and integrate well with them in enhancing bedside patient care. Over time, physician assistants provide additional direction to the residents by virtue of their familiarity with unit-specific policies and procedures and repetitive pediatric intensive care unit practice patterns. As multifunctional members of the health care team, they support nursing and respiratory therapy functions and improve the day-to-day functioning of the unit. The physician assistant serves as a key member of the pediatric intensive care unit transport team. Limitations observed include high job turnover rates among the physician assistants and confusion between their role as shift workers or professional employees.

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