Physician assistants in orthopaedics work alongside orthopaedic doctors to provide medical care to patients. A PA works as an extender to fill the gap between nurses and doctors. They can fulfill some of the duties of a doctor, like diagnosing or treating conditions. In this blog, we explore why seeing a physician assistant in orthopedics is a great choice for your medical care.

Physician assistants in orthopaedics are highly trained

Some people assume they can only get proper care from a doctor or surgeon, but physician assistants in orthopaedics are highly trained. People who pursue a career as a PA must go through rigorous education and training programs. PAs must have a bachelor’s degree before applying to the master’s program. Physician assistant programs across the U.S. are competitive.

Once admitted, the physician assistant program includes classroom and lab sessions. Students learn clinical problem-solving and decision-making skills. Courses include anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, orthopedics and clinical diagnosis.

PAs learn advanced diagnostic skills. They can assess and interpret a variety of medical imaging, like X-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

Students in PA school then have high-level clinical rotations in various areas. Some include primary care, surgery, psychiatry, emergency medicine and surgical subspecialties. Before graduating, PA students must have 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice.

To become certified, a PA can take an exam through the National Commission of Certification of PAs. The certification lasts for two years. Graduates can provide medical care to patients under any type of physician, including an orthopaedic surgeon or doctor.

A “physician assistant in orthopaedics” is different from an “orthopaedic physician’s assistant.” They have similar names, but a PA in orthopaedics must complete an accredited program. An orthopaedic physician’s assistant (OPA) receives on-the-job training and is limited to providing certain types of care.

PAs have cross-functional skills

A PA in orthopedics can serve as a primary point of contact for patients. They can offer support and guidance throughout the treatment process. Their ability to communicate effectively helps patients understand their diagnoses, treatment options and rehabilitation plans.

Here are a few ways physician assistants in orthopaedics work in our practice:

  1. PAs perform initial intake by recording patient history, completing exam orders and interpreting diagnostic tests. They can also order lab testing and prescribe medications.
  2. Their training in imaging diagnostics allows them to accurately diagnose orthopaedic conditions related to the bones, muscles and more. The training also helps them recommend effective treatment plans.
  3. PAs can see patients with issues such as fractures or fluid around their joints and receive care. They can cast a broken bone or aspirate a swollen joint.
  4. While PAs cannot perform orthopaedic surgeries, they often play a vital role during the procedure. As skilled surgical assistants, they can assist with surgeries and work closely with orthopedic surgeons.
  5. PAs can work in a specific area of orthopaedics, such as physical therapy . Many specialize in areas such as sports medicine or focus on assisting in the operating room.

PAs are collaborative

PAs in orthopaedic medicine collaborate with orthopedic surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive the highest quality care. Patients benefit from having more than one practitioner provide care. This type of structure among doctors and physician assistants has always existed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration became a priority because of staff shortages and increased numbers of patients. Collaborative work provides patients with consistent care throughout an illness from the initial assessment to physical therapy or surgery.

When a doctor or surgeon is not available, physician assistants in orthopaedics can provide the needed care. They can run tests, review results and in many cases, administer treatment. During busy seasons, getting an appointment with a PA may be more convenient and faster than seeing a doctor.

PAs are professionals

Patient care is a priority for physician assistants in orthopaedics. Whether working alongside a doctor or caring for patients directly, PAs are part of the healthcare team. PAs also help create detailed information about treatment plans, including surgical options and how to prepare for a procedure. In our practice, a patient may have a follow-up appointment with their PA instead of their doctor.

Physician assistants in orthopaedics in Cary

The team of physician assistants in orthopaedics at Cary Orthopaedics serves patients throughout the Triangle. Call us today to make an appointment at one of our locations.