AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow Studies PA Scope of Practice

Virginia Valentin Looks at Impact of Laws on PA Employment

May 30, 2018

By Eileen Denne, CAE, APR

Virginia Valentin, DrPH, PA-C, sees her AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship project as a perfect match between her interest in workforce and barriers to PA scope of practice.  Valentin is one of three 2017-2018 AAPA-PAEA Fellows.

“We always say that more PAs will increase access to care; we say it but don’t know it. I want to show how many patients are being served.”

Valentin, associate director and director of graduate studies at the University of Utah division of PA Studies, is using her Fellowship to understand the relationship between state scope of practice laws and their impact on where PAs practice, and the composition of the PA workforce in each state. Her study is very timely given AAPA’s introduction of Optimal Team Practice (OTP) in 2017.

OTP calls for laws and regulations that: emphasize PAs’ commitment to team practice; authorize PAs to practice without an agreement with a specific physician—enabling practice-level decisions about collaboration; create separate majority-PA boards to regulate PAs, or give that authority to healing arts or medical boards that have as members both PAs and physicians who practice with PAs; and authorize PAs to be directly reimbursed by all public and private insurers.

“We make statements with no data,” Valentin says. “Overall, my long-term research agenda is looking at contextual barriers to PA practice. What is affecting the ability of PAs to work? I will be looking at patient outcomes and access to care.”

After doing undergraduate work at the University of Utah, Valentin went to nursing school and served as a research RN in oncology for eight years. She chose to become a PA because she wanted the diversity and science of the PA profession and attended PA school at Barry University in Florida.

When her husband took a job at the University of Kentucky, Valentin worked for three years in neurosurgery at a private practice in Lexington. Her next job was working in bone marrow transplant at the University of Kentucky. She also joined the Kentucky Academy of PAs and became involved in advocacy and state legislation, organizing PA Advocacy Day. Once she got involved there, she knew she also wanted to teach. Valentin became a faculty member of the PA program in midst of getting her Doctorate in Public Health with a focus on epidemiology.

After four years as PA faculty at the University of Kentucky, Valentin accepted a position at the University of Utah. There are 1,216 active PAs licensed in Kentucky and 1,470 in Utah. When asked about the differences between Utah and Kentucky PA practices, she called Utah a PA-friendly state.

“It is a PA-friendly state,” Valentin says. “You can observe that in the way they speak of themselves. In Kentucky, they say ‘I am a PA who works under the guidance of a physician.’ In Utah, PAs speak of themselves as providers. It doesn’t mean they don’t have that supervision and physician relationship but they can say it is a welcoming environment.”

Valentin is grateful to AAPA and PAEA for the Fellowship opportunity, which extends through November 2018. She hopes to produce three to four papers that address whether PA scope of practice laws affect PA demographics, PA graduate demographics and number of PAs practicing in a state. Meanwhile, she encourages more PAs to consider research.

“More PAs should consider their role in research; nursing has done this really well. We don’t know a lot about our profession. We need to get engaged in research so we are making statements based on facts about our profession.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2018-2019 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship. Applications must be emailed to researchfellowship@PAEAonline.org no later than 12:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Please include “Research Fellowship” in the subject line of your email. All decisions of the selection committee are final.

Eileen Denne is director, corporation communications at AAPA. Contact her at communications@aapa.org.