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The Utilization of Physician Assistants in Emergency Medicine: A Pilot Study

1 August 2002


A pilot study was undertaken to examine the utilization of physician assistants in emergency medicine. A telephone survey was developed and employed over a two month period to collect data describing the setting in which physician assistants are employed in emergency medicine, the characteristics of those emergency medicine PAs and how they are currently being utilized .in emergency medicine. The pilot study was implemented in Texas to take advantage of a diverse and known population comparatively similar to that of the nation as a whole. While the response rate was disappointingly low, important information was obtained demonstrating the successful employment of PAs in all geographic areas and ED settings. PAs were found to be both flexible and integral in providing care to all manner of patients in emergency departments. Most PAs were found to practice in rural areas, with equal employment .in teaching facilities as nonteaching facilities. Most were employed in emergency departments where a distinction was made between urgent and emergent patients and triaged accordingly to the Fast Track or Urgent Care Center, however the majority of PAs surveyed reported seeing all manner of patients. Of those PAs sampled the most frequent procedure reported was suturing lacerations followed by foreign body removal, casting and splinting, incision and drainage and intubation. In addition these same PAs were asked to report their prescriptive trends and were found to prescribe most frequently antibiotics followed by pain relievers including NSAIDS and narcotics. The most frequent diagnoses made by PAs in emergency departments were of a cardiac nature including acute myocardial infarction, acute unstable angina and chest pain.


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