To ensure that physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) support family physicians in the best way possible and contribute to optimal patient care, follow these four tips when hiring and training them:
1. Define the PA's or NP's role. Some practices give PAs and NPs their own patient panels, with the understanding that the physician will provide regular collaboration and accept referrals of more challenging patients. In other practices, PAs and NPs see some of the physician's patients. Either approach is valid, but you must define what you want.
2. Hire the right person for you. Will you do better with a new graduate you can train to work the way you do, or are you looking for someone with years of experience in primary care who can hit the ground running and care for a full panel of patients? Consider also whether the person's interpersonal communication and practice styles complement your own.
3. Make time for training. Whether your PA or NP is a veteran or newly certified, he or she will need some orientation to your practice style and clinical preferences. Plan some time daily for the first few weeks so your PA or NP can ask you questions and you can provide feedback on what you've observed that day.
4. Take full advantage of their scope. Adding a PA or NP can be an opportunity to expand your practice with extended hours, add a new procedure that your PA or NP is interested in, or experiment with group appointments for patients with chronic illnesses. Don’t view the PA's or NP's capabilities as competition but as an opportunity to expand access and improve care. Delegate as much as possible so that you and your PA or NP are working to the top of your licenses.
Adapted from “What Can a PA or NP Do for Your Practice?”
Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights," featuring practical, peer-reviewed advice for improving practice, enhancing the patient experience, and developing a rewarding career.