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COVID-19: We can't bounce back with only physicians

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For the last 10 months, everyone in healthcare has lived their lives as if they were trapped in a burning building without a fire escape. 

No matter how much water we throw on the fire or how many firefighters (healthcare providers in this instance) we send in, we cannot gain control of the flames. The catastrophic loss of life has been insurmountable, and we often haven’t had enough physicians to take care of everyone. 

This is not new for a healthcare system. For years prior to this pandemic, there has been a physician shortage in the United States that is expected to worsen over the coming years. The Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that the US could see a shortage between 54,000 and 139,000 physicians in both primary and specialty care by 2033. Although the total physician supply is expected to grow, it won’t be at a fast enough rate to outpace demand. 

This is where physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice nurses (APRNs) come in. Many people don’t realise that PAs and APRNs have been around for over 50 years. 

For 50 years, a plethora of research has shown that PAs and APRNs are safe, reliable, high quality healthcare providers and essential members of the healthcare team. But too often critics claim that because they have not gone through physician training, they cannot provide exceptional medical and surgical care. In fact, they already do. A recent comprehensive review of PA and APRN outcomes from 2008 to 2018 found that PAs and APRNs had similar outcomes compared to physicians including hospital length of stay, readmission rates, quality and safety and patient and staff satisfaction. 

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Source: The Hill, 16 January 2021

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