The number of physician assistants (PA) practicing in the U.S. is rapidly expanding. As nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice under the direction of an attending physician, PAs play a vital role in the health care field and on care teams here at BWH, from examining patients and diagnosing conditions to prescribing medications and scrubbing in for surgery.
There are more than 200 PAs on staff at BWH, contributing to more than 20 areas, including Emergency Medicine, Primary Care, Interventional Cardiology and Medicine. BWH is the largest employer of PAs in the Northeast and fifth-largest employer of PAs in the country.
“We so deeply value the work and care provided by our PAs,” said Jessica Logsdon, PA-C, MHA, assistant director of BWH PA Services. “Our PAs are involved in nearly every facet of the care we deliver, not only as providers, but also as leaders in the development and implementation of new patient care processes on many services.”
Logsdon said that over time, patients have gained a better understanding of the role of a PA and the value it adds to health care, thanks to an increased awareness of the profession.
She said BWH and many health care institutions across the country have worked hard to support the PA practice and ensure that PAs are able to practice to the full extent of their license. This initially became important for care teams several years ago when residency program requirements began changing and additional providers were needed. Since then, PAs have become instrumental in the delivery of high quality health care, and their numbers have grown across the organization.
Stanley Ashley, MD, BWH chief medical officer, said PAs play a critical role in BWH’s care models in both inpatient and ambulatory settings.
“Our PAs are not simply filling a gap, but bring something unique in terms of continuity, participation and leadership in hospital initiatives and patient and family-centered care,” Ashley said. “We are privileged to have so many PAs at BWHC.”
When Leanne Wines, PA-C, chief PA of the BWH Hospitalist Service, first joined BWH in 2009, there were four full-time PAs working on the Hospitalist Service; now there are 13. Wines says it is an exciting time to be a PA here.
“I love being able to collaborate with attendings and other colleagues,” Wines said. “I feel like I have enough autonomy to get the personal satisfaction that I’m making a difference, but I also appreciate that someone is always available if I have questions or need advice.”
Matt Galvin, PA-C, chief PA in the BWH Cardiac Catheterization Lab, has worked at BWH for almost 10 years and loves the variety his job offers. He said he feels fortunate to be able to come to BWH each day and work as part of a team with colleagues to care for patients.
“I could be tending to a critically-ill patient who has been in the ICU and the next moment I’m taking care of someone who came to the hospital from home with concerning symptoms,” Galvin said. “There isn’t an average day for me as a PA. I’m able to work with almost every discipline in the hospital and that really excites me.”
In the BWH Emergency Department (ED) Observation Unit, Carla Novaleski, PA-C, enjoys the opportunity to spend time getting to know her patients and caring for them for an extended period of time. The observation unit is an alternative to inpatient admission and is dedicated to caring for patients, usually for a 24- to 48-hour period, who are not ready to leave the hospital nor be discharged from the ED and require further observation.
“I’m honored to be part of the BWH PA community and to work alongside so many talented PA’s,” Novaleski said. “I’m inspired by my PA colleagues’ dedication to the physician assistant profession.”
PAs from BWH, BWFH and the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) were recognized at an annual dinner earlier this month. PAs Genina Salvio, PA-C, of BWH Cardiac Surgery; Shauna Curran, PA-C, of DFCI/BWCC; and Courtney Moller, PA-C, of DFI/BWCC Inpatient Medical Oncology were honored with 2015 PA Recognition Awards for their contributions to medicine.