April 25, 2018
One of my favorite questions to ask an interviewee is: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This question affords me insight into people’s goals and aspirations as well as their motivation to succeed. In addition to this being an interview question that I love, I also believe that it is a question we should ask ourselves and our profession on a regular basis. It allows us to take a moment to look at our current position, decide what we want to improve or change, and create a plan to achieve this goal.
Now is the perfect time to ask ourselves this question to plan for the future. Each of us may have a different answer to this question from a personal perspective, but I hope we all have a similar vision for the future of the PA profession. The goal of this article is not to tell you what I think, or how you should think, but to inspire thoughtful reflection about the future of our profession. Therefore, I wish to propose questions for all of you to ponder.
There are many issues that impact the PA profession that we need to consider when visualizing the future we wish to obtain, but I want to focus on a few recent thoughts. These are Optimal Team Practice (OTP), changing the Physician Assistant title, and our legislation to modernize the practice act for PAs in Pennsylvania that was introduced into the Senate this year.
On a national level, the concept of OTP and renaming our profession have the potential to significantly impact the PA profession. First, let’s consider OTP and the potential changes that may occur as a result of this new direction the AAPA is taking. The questions I pose about OTP are: Does OTP help move the profession forward in the way we want it to go? Could there be negative impacts of this change to the PA physician team dynamic? Could this open the door to unintended changes to the PA profession? Will this create a competitive job market position for PAs? Is OTP going to keep the PA profession an indispensable piece of the healthcare system as it changes? To arm yourself with information to answer these questions and formulate questions of your own, I would suggest reading the OTP paper for yourself, envision where these changes will take the PA profession, and then decide if you want to follow this path or advocate for a different future. You can read about OTP on pages 3-4 here: http://news-center.aapa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/06/Guidelines_for_State_Regulation_2017-A-07-FINAL.pdf.
Next, let’s ponder the idea of changing the name of the PA profession. One of the newly elected board of directors ran on a platform partly centered on “whether or not a change in our professional title could benefit PAs”. I pose these questions: How will changing our professional title positively impact our profession? Could there be confusion among patients and other healthcare team members if our profession changes the name? Will this impact current state laws and regulations which reference the current PA title?
Looking at the future through the lens of a PA from Pennsylvania, the currently pending legislation has the potential to significantly impact the future for PAs here in Pennsylvania. As you are aware, the PSPA has introduced legislation to update the medical and osteopathic medical practice acts. When passed, this legislation will: Add a permanent PA seat to each board; Allow for co-signature to be determined by the physician and PA at the practice level; Remove the requirement that practice written agreements need to be submitted to and approved by the board; and Remove the requirement for physicians to be on-site at satellite locations. These changes will allow PAs to begin practicing immediately upon hire at a new job, reduce administrative paperwork burden that does not improve patient care or insure patient safety, and allow PAs to partner with physicians in the regulation of PAs. I ask you to review the legislation and think about these questions: Will these changes move the PA profession forward? Will they allow PAs an equal playing field in the marketplace? Will they position us to provide excellent patient care in an ever-changing healthcare field? Are there other changes to PA practice in PA that we should be advocating for from a legislative perspective?
There has been a lot of anecdotal discussion on the viability of the PA profession as it is currently structured and a call to move the profession forward. These three topics, I believe, will be key drivers when we look at the future of the PA profession on a national and state level. We need to take responsibility for our profession and every single PA needs to contribute to our future. Educate yourself, decide where you think we should go, advocate for the change you want to see, and take responsibility for ensuring the future you want.
In closing, I would like to share a quote that sums up my thoughts how to realize the future we want to achieve in the next 5 years; Dwight Eisenhower once said “Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run him over.”