October 6-12 is National PA (Physician Assistants) Week for 2013. This is a great opportunity to share what physician assistants are, what they can do, and why physician assistants are a valuable asset to our healthcare team. In preparation, I asked our newest physician assistant, Danielle Shaholli (née Scarmozza), to explain how physician assistants work with us at West Shore Urology in the care and treatment of urology patients.
Q & A with West Shore Urology’s Physician Assistant Danielle Shaholli
What is a physician assistant or PA?
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine, under the supervision of a physician, as part of a team.
In urology, physician assistants help manage a wide variety of conditions under the direction of a urologist. Physician assistants take medical histories, perform exams, order appropriate tests, make diagnosis and treatment plans.
In addition, physician assistants counsel on preventive health care, perform routine procedures, assist in surgery, and see urology consults in the hospital setting.
What is the role of a physician assistant as part of a urology care team?
PAs are knowledgeable, and are oftentimes more accessible, than the physician, especially when working in the surgical subspecialties. PAs are trained liked doctors, and think like doctors, to help formulate the best plan for a patient’s well-being. PAs also are trained to know their limits, and when they need to incorporate other members of the health care team. While the profession is still relatively new (founded in the 1960s), the physician assistant is a great asset to the healthcare environment, and hopefully, a great part in the patient experience.
Being a PA allows me a unique role on the health care team to work closely with a physician, but also exercise my own autonomy and decision-making.
What type of training does a PA have?
Physician assistants typically complete a master’s degree program that includes extensive clinical training. Physician assistant education is based on medical education, and is quite similar to that of a physician. Medical school for physicians lasts four years, plus a specialty-specific residency; PA training is usually 2 to 3 years of full-time study, completed post-graduate. The total length of study for a PA is usually 6 to 8 years after high school. PAs also have to maintain licensure, and renewal of licensure is necessary every few years.
Why did you choose to become a physician assistant?
Growing up, I knew I wanted a career in medicine. I was drawn to becoming a physician assistant because this field provides the flexibility to change specialties and explore many avenues of medicine.
My decision to move to urology was fueled by wanting to move to a more specialized field, and to move to a small practice environment where I could develop long-term relationships with patients and really get to know my colleagues.
How many PAs are on the West Shore Urology team?
I work with Lisa Thurman, PA, and Michelle Hass, PA, both highly qualified practitioners dedicated to our patients, and supporting our physicians. We believe it is important to exercise impeccable interpersonal skills and compassion, and bring enthusiasm for our field.
Some patients may initially be apprehensive at the thought of seeing a PA instead of a physician. However, we find the vast majority of patients are very pleased with the experience they have, and the care they receive from our team of physician assistants.
Celebrate our Physician Assistants
I would like to thank Danielle for taking the time to highlight the important contributions PAs make to our practice. On behalf of Dr. Salisz, Dr. Stone and myself, I can say that we truly enjoy working with our physician assistants as part of our urology care team. Please join us in celebrating National PA Week with Danielle, Lisa and Michelle.