Delaware PA’s Experience During COVID Response Proves It’s Time to Cut Red Tape

When Elective Surgeries Were Canceled, ChristianaCare Deployed Its PAs

August 28, 2020

By Jenni Roberson

Travis Fogelman administering COVID-19 tests
PA Travis Fogelman

When elective surgeries were canceled on March 17 at Delaware-based ChristianaCare, Travis Fogelman, a surgical PA, did what all PAs are trained to do – he switched roles.

Right after his employer announced the pause, the health system began to make adjustments to meet the need for more COVID-19 care. Deploying PAs on staff into new roles was on the top of its to-do list.

Fogelman jumped right in.

“The week of March 15, we were assured by management they would continue to support us,” he said.

“Over a few days, there were communications from other departments with a need for all hands-on-deck help. Our managers then began asking for volunteers who felt comfortable working in other areas. Some PAs stepped up and went to the ICU to help, and others stepped up to cover their shifts, including me.”

Fogelman said that when ChristianaCare closed its surgicenters, it turned the Roxanna Arsht Surgicenter on ChristianaCare’s Wilmington Hospital campus into a COVID testing site for the public.

Because he had 10 years of experience working in otolaryngology, Fogelman volunteered to do nasal swabbing and also trained other testers on proper swabbing technique. He said a lot of the training at the time was “jump-in” training, but that because it was all voluntary, he and the other PAs on staff felt empowered to step into these new roles.

He said he was fortunate that his employer understood what PAs can do and gave them opportunities to be leaders during the COVID-19 response.

“I felt ChristianaCare embodied its values by continuing to look for ways to innovate and to use its resources wisely and effectively, by empowering PAs to step up and help, but at the same time making it voluntary so nobody felt uncomfortable stepping into roles they weren’t prepared for,” Fogelman said.

A key reason ChristianaCare was able to redeploy their PAs so quickly is that Delaware is one of only thirteen states that – prior to COVID-19 pandemic – had waived all or partial supervision or collaboration requirements for PAs during emergencies or disasters.

Fogelman appreciated the speed in which ChristianaCare was able to switch PAs to different roles.

“All of this happened instantaneously – there was no need for credentialing or other red tape,” he said.

“There was an immediate need, and PAs stepped in immediately. It’s a testament to how flexible and adaptive PAs can be when barriers are removed to patient care. We can use the examples from this pandemic to show that we as PAs can provide high-quality, much-needed care to our patients in all ways imaginable. We should harness these abilities in the future to break down barriers to care.”

Though he’s glad to be back to full-time work as a PA in surgery, Fogelman said the pandemic and his experience was a high point in his career.

“Watching my fellow PAs step up into many roles and help gave me a tremendous feeling of pride and solidarity, something I don’t think I have ever experienced this deeply in my 10-year PA career.”

Jenni Roberson is director of Media Relations at AAPA. Contact her at [email protected].

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