Updated: Sep 18, 2020
By Renata Block, MMS, PA-C
This week, I am reflecting on COVID-19 and Dermatology PAs in today’s healthcare landscape. I am honored to be the incoming President-Elect for the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) and I cannot thank my members enough for entrusting me with this role. We have a lot of work to do, so let’s get started!
Did you ever in your lifetime imagine to be in a situation like we are in today? All it takes is ONE! One person to make this change happen, just one! One person was infected with COVID-19, which now has affected over ONE million people and resulted in over 79,000 deaths worldwide. Keep abreast yourself with Situation Reports such as this recent one being number 79 reported on April 8th. For more information about the coronavirus, please visit the CDC.
How did this happen, and why did this happen? AND, more importantly, why are not some of us take this seriously (i.e., attending events, congregating in groups) or too seriously (i.e., hoarding toilet paper, among other things). I have to say living in Chicago, people have been pretty good about the social distancing protocol, but how long will it take before we had enough of staying indoors? How many lives have to be lost to realize the magnitude of the situation? Does it take something to “hit close to home” to wake up? We all need to #stopthespread and spread kindness instead.
Nothing is more important than spreading kindness and calling upon healthcare workers who will be able to assist during this crisis. Would you be surprised if I told you PAs are being held back of such duties? “Special” considerations are being allowed because of the provider shortage, but we need more than a band-aid approach to this situation.
Enter OTP or Optimal Team Practice, spear-headed by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), something PAs have been bringing to the forefront to update the practice of PAs as the policy is from the mid-70s. The goal of OTP is to “eliminate the legal requirements for a specific relationship between a PA, physician, or any other healthcare provider for a PA to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and experience.” We are the ONLY healthcare profession without a majority of PAs regulating our profession. What? We are also the only profession that is not eligible for direct payment by all public and private insurers. What? Meaning, in essence, we are invisible in what we do. Everything is credited to the “collaborating” physician. How can the profession know what difference we make in rural areas, how PAs diagnose many skin cancers? Let me tell you that we make a HUGE impact, and we have saved many lives!
Now, don’t get me wrong, we are continuing to evolve, Oh yes, as a matter of fact, we have grown to over 100,000 or so practicing PAs in the country, yet, believe it or not, we are still tied down by archaic thinking. I bring this up because it has placed a considerable wedge between being able to provide our professional services at the time of need due to the archaic laws in place. That said, as a society, a profession, we have been in a constant battle to update these outdated ways of thinking, and I cannot help to think it is because of crises like these our hands are tied for us to get involved in one of the worst healthcare crises since 1918. We are signing a petition to grant PAs full practice authority to function as licensed independent practitioners in all Federal jurisdictions. Let me remind you that we are Physician Assistants, nothing more, nothing less. We are trained medical professionals with some having decades worth of experience. We are not doctors, nurses, nor we choose to be. We are PAs, and we are proud to be us! We are unique just like everybody else.
All it takes is one person to make a change! One! It goes for everything in life, and if it weren’t for that one person to initiate a difference, we would all be void of evolution. It is particularly important to me because it brings me to my profession. You see, as a Certified Physician Assistant, our job has been pretty stable without significant change until recent years. As a healthcare professional, our first obligation is caring for people, caring for the patient, and I cannot tell you how many PAs volunteer their time to make a difference. However, there are archaic laws that are holding us back from times such as these when a pandemic hits. We need change, and we need it now! Here is the petition, if you are a PA or know of one, please consider signing it and starting a significant evolution, all it takes is one person, YOU!
Renata Block is the creator of Savvy Derm Diva, an online resource for proper skin care. Diva Chronicles is a monthly column discussing everything skin! Make sure you follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Need a dermatology consult? Please visit Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine, LLC or Call/Text 847-802-9667 for a TeleDerm appointment. MUAH!????