Commentary

Going for the Gold

Both the PA and NP professions will celebrate their 50th anniversaries this year. Here are six key areas in which both groups need to grow in the next half-century.

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As we enter 2015 and approach the golden (50th) anniversary of both the NP and PA professions, dating back to Dr. Loretta Ford1 at the University of Colorado and Dr. Eugene Stead2 at Duke University (circa 1965), it is important to reflect on not only where we have been but also where we want our professions to go in the next half-century.

Since I am a PA, some may suggest that it is dangerous and ambitious for me to speak/project for both professions. They may also note that the professions are distinct and my suggestions and reflections do not apply to NPs. Well, I guess I am willing to take that risk. As a colleague, friend, and co-Editor-in-Chief of Marie-Eileen Onieal, I have found that we agree much more often on issues (both political and practical) than we disagree.

See also: Letter to the Editor from Maribelle Guloy, MSHS, CCRP

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NPs and PAs have worked diligently over the past half-century to develop our individual professions, in terms of reimbursement, prescribing privileges, state licensure, commissioning in the uniformed services, and expansion of scope of practice. Studies continue to show that we provide quality health care with similar outcomes as physicians, thus making us cost-effective members of the health care team.3-7

So, here we are in 2015. While it is difficult to get accurate data, Table 1 shows the number of clinicians reported in the most recent US Health Workforce Chartbook.8 As we well know, our professions have grown exponentially from our humble beginnings in the mid-1960s. (The first class of PAs comprised four students, if you recall.)

At the risk of sounding like a fossil (Oh never mind—I am a fossil!), let me be presumptuous and share with you six areas in which I think both professions can “do more” through the second half-century of our existence. In my opinion, we should focus on:

1. Diversity. As presented in Table 2, the majority of PAs and NPs are (non-Hispanic) white. Our efforts, should you agree with me, must start at the educational program level, through recruitment and retention of students from unrepresented and underrepresented groups. Another focal point should be the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff in these programs who reflect the diversity of our nation.

When I consider the origins of my profession, the key point is opportunity. Dr. Stead and other pioneers sought to fill a serious need for health care providers while also creating opportunities for military medics who were highly skilled but who did not meet requirements for many jobs within the medical community. Now it is time for us to ensure that other groups have similar opportunities to advance themselves and also fill gaps in the health care system.

Continue for more areas to focus on >>

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