Mid-level providers provide top care

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going to the doctor can be very nerve racking even when you are not going for an annual check-up. Many patients go to the doctor’s office expecting to see the doctor. However, as many of you have probably come to realize over the last couple of decades there are fewer and fewer doctors at the doctor’s office.
During the last 40 years, we have seen the introduction of physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Are these medical professionals less reliable than the doctor is? Contrary to popular belief, the role of the physician assistant and nurse practitioner requires education beyond a four-year degree.
Physician assistants and nurse practitioners must typically complete a master’s or doctorate beyond a four-year medical degree. In addition, this also includes clinical rotations.
The function of physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other mid-level providers arose from the need to help doctors with the overload of patients on the rise since 1960. According to a recent Business Week article, the U.S. faces a shortage of more than 13,000 physicians as of this moment. In addition, according to the American Medical Colleges, that gap could be as much as 130,000 by 2025. Because of this shortage, it is becoming increasingly complicated for the doctor to see every patient.
Here is how it all works. Mid-level providers work at doctor’s offices across the U.S. as part of a medical team. They deliver care, using protocol and guidelines set forth by the physician. In some cases, the doctor may have such a demand that they can only see those patients with extreme conditions.
Mid-level providers compliment the services of physicians: they do history and physicals, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, provide preventive care, and perform patient education and counseling services. Mid-level providers consult with the attending physician about patient questions or concerns regarding the visit.
I hope this has helped to remedy some of the discomfort of going to the doctor’s office. Mid-level providers are a great asset to D.W. McMillan Hospital, Flomaton Medical Center and to the Brewton Medical Center. They help us to provide a level of care that over the last 40 years has become increasingly more difficult.

Chris Griffin is chief executive officer at D.W. McMillan
Hospital in Brewton.