June 2, 2020
AAPA Calls on Governors to Empower Physician Assistants in COVID-19 Fight
Administrative Burdens Must Be Removed Through Executive Orders to Fully Mobilize PA Workforce
Contact: Jenni Roberson, 703.380.2764
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 31, 2020) – The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) is calling on governors in all states to waive physician supervision or collaboration requirements for PAs (physician assistants) during a declared public health emergency or disaster through executive orders.
PAs are required to have a supervisory or collaborative agreement with a physician in order to practice in most states. This unnecessarily complicates where and how PAs can practice during a disaster or emergency – and most especially during a crisis like a pandemic.
Just four states – Maine, Michigan, New York, and Tennessee – have waived physician supervision or collaboration requirements for PAs in executive orders related to COVID-19. Fourteen states previously removed physician supervision requirements in legislation for PAs during emergencies or disasters.
“The majority of states do not have this crucial provision to remove supervisory or collaborative agreement requirements during a disaster or emergency. This severely limits the flexibility of the entire healthcare team to provide care in fluid situations like the current COVID-19 crisis,” said AAPA President David E. Mittman, PA, DFAAPA, who authored this related commentary in The Hill newspaper on March 28.
“PAs are already a crucial part of the on-the-ground efforts to administer tests, and diagnose and treat patients,” Mittman added. “But governors must take steps immediately to remove all barriers so that every PA can fully mobilize and contribute to the COVID-19 response effort. At a time when our healthcare workforce and system is stretched beyond its limits in responding to this crisis, every team member is essential. Archaic supervision requirements are limiting the PA response during this pandemic. Patients need PAs, and our fellow healthcare team members need PAs. We must be allowed to practice to the top of our education, training, and experience.”
As an example, a surgical PA who is no longer in the operating room because elective procedures have been postponed could help test and diagnose COVID-19 patients at their hospital. But because the physician with whom that PA has an agreement would not be working with them to test and diagnose patients, the PA can’t conduct them.
PAs are highly trained and qualified medical professionals, who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. There are more than 140,000 PAs in the U.S. who work in all medical settings and specialties. PAs are trained at the master’s degree level. PA programs are approximately 27 months (three academic years) and include classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.
Recently, Congress demonstrated federal support for maximizing the PA workforce by passing the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act as an inclusion in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed by the president on March 27. This legislation permanently authorizes PAs and nurse practitioners to order home healthcare services for Medicare patients, helping to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and decrease the spread of the virus by moving patients back into the home setting, away from exposures to the virus. However, additional action on the state level is needed to eliminate other outdated, unnecessary barriers and to increase patient access to healthcare providers during this national health crisis.
To learn more about PAs, go to aapa.org.
About the American Academy of PAs
AAPA is the national membership organization for all PAs. PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. Learn more about the profession at aapa.org and engage through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.