Physician assistant shortages spur Ohio Dominican Ohio State to plan programs|
Dr. Michael Weinstock, a Mount Carmel St. Ann’s emergency physician (IHA) and part-time medical director for Ohio Dominican’s PA program and Sloan Albert, chief operating officer of Mount Carmel Medical Group, discuss the demand for physician assistants. New master’s degree programs for physician assistants, among the state’s 15-fastest growing professions, are planned at Ohio Dominican and The Ohio State University. Thanks also to Jamie Kemp who permitted Business First cameras to show her working at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s.
Janice Piscitelli.Public Affairs.6.3410
Physician assistant shortages spur Ohio Dominican, Ohio State to plan programs
Jamie Kemp is among a growing cadre of physician assistants working under the supervision of Central Ohio doctors. A PA for nine years, she works in the ER at St. Ann’s.
Janet Adams | Business First
Central Ohio could go from having no master’s degree programs for physician assistants to two in the next couple years, eventually producing 100 graduates a year with healthy job prospects.
Physician assistants, who diagnose and treat patients under a doctor’s supervision, are among the state’s 15 fastest-growing professions. Yet the closest training program out of six in the state is 80 miles away at the Kettering College of Medical Arts in Dayton.
That’s about to change as Ohio Dominican University and Ohio State University Ohio State University Latest from The Business Journals Northwestern’s Persa for Heisman campaign gets assist from Columbus firmColumbus at the heart of it all, study confirmsNike again helping Buckeyes ready for battle Follow this company prepare to launch programs.
Ohio Dominican, a private Roman Catholic university on Columbus’ east side, is renovating its former science building and awaiting accreditation approval to accept its first class of about 40 students next July. They would graduate in December 2014, at the end of the first year of an expected wave of newly insured patients seeking regular primary care under federal health reform.
Peter Cimbolic took over as president of Ohio Dominican last year, coming from Scranton, Pa., where there were four physician assistant programs but still a shortage in the market.
“I just couldn’t believe (Columbus) didn’t have a PA program already,” he said.
Several practitioners said they’ve begged Ohio State to start a program for decades, and a feasibility study is under way for a program to start with 30 to 40 students.
“There’s a lot of support for one here in the (OSU) Medical Center and in the College of Medicine,” said Deb Larsen, director of the School of Allied Medical Professions. “We are looking at a 2013 start time if all goes according to plan.”
Profession in demand
When Chelli Richmond started 11 years ago as a physician assistant, “doctors didn’t know what a PA was,” she said.
Now acceptance and the job market have improved, especially since Ohio law expanded the scope of practice, such as allowing them to write prescriptions.
The former French teacher trained at Kettering and started in family practice. Richmond now works for Emergency Services Inc., rotating among Mount Carmel Health System Mount Carmel Health System Latest from The Business Journals Orthopedic urgent care center debuts at New Albany's OrthoNeuroHealth magnet: CyberKnifeInnovator (program), honoree: Ohio Better Birth Outcomes Follow this company ERs.
“We’ve all been hoping Central Ohio would develop a PA program,” said Richmond, on the advisory board for Ohio Dominican. “We hoped for many years Ohio State would step up and when they didn’t, I was excited that ODU did.”
David Paulk, program director at Ohio Dominican, said the need is great enough that he would welcome a second program in town. Both schools would build up to class sizes of about 50 for coursework and clinical studies that take a little more than two years. Tuition and supplies for the entire Ohio Dominican program would come to about $80,500 for a job that in metro Columbus averages $90,000 in annual salary.
The Ohio Bureau of Labor Market Information projects 99 job openings a year statewide for physician assistants, but there’s evidence that might be a modest forecast. The Cleveland Clinic alone listed 79 openings on its website the first week of August for physician assistants and nurse-practitioners. It varies by practice, but hospitals said they sometimes interview candidates with either certification.
“Even if we have two programs, those candidates will be absorbed immediately at least for the next few years,” said Sloan Albert, chief operating officer for Mount Carmel HealthProviders, the Columbus hospital system’s network of physician practices.
“It’s hard to find them, particularly to find PAs that have experience,” she said. “We’ve had great experience so far, so we’re going to want to add more to our practices, not necessarily to add capacity but to take better care of our patients.”
At Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, about a third of emergency room patients are seen first by a physician assistant, and only rarely do they accept an offer to see a doctor as well, said Dr. Michael Weinstock, a St. Ann’s emergency physician and part-time medical director for Ohio Dominican’s PA program.
OhioHealth Medical Specialty Foundation, the OhioHealth Corp. OhioHealth Corp. Latest from The Business Journals Hunter departing OhioHealth for Cassidy TurleyOrthopedic urgent care center debuts at New Albany's OrthoNeuroHealth magnet: Critical limb care Follow this company practice network, employs 17 PAs and just hired the first one for OhioHealth’s urgent care centers.
“We will be hiring some more,” said Tim Watson, director of human resources at the foundation. It’s been hard to recruit for specialties such as orthopedics, heart care and neurology, he said.
Several forces are propelling the growth: Ohio now has 16 physician assistants per 100,000 residents, a tie for eighth-fewest, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Meanwhile, the population is aging and federal reform is pushing a shift to a more team-based, coordinated approach to primary care. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who are similar but under state law have a little more autonomy, “will become more of a front-line group,” Larsen said.
A national shortage of both doctors and physician assistants is projected over the next decade, and there’s a possible wave coming of doctor retirements if the economy improves, said Anthony Miller, director of physician assistant studies at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. The Ohio native was a consultant on starting Ohio Dominican’s program.
Training spots squeezed
The Ohio Association of Physician Assistants has asked OSU to start a program for at least 20 years, said Miller, a past officer of the group. Larsen said the profession lacked a champion within the school, but now the university is encouraging master’s degrees that lead directly to jobs instead of doctoral programs.
What holds academic programs back are not job prospects but scarcity of student training spots and job-shadowing opportunities at hospitals and practices. It’s not only the two PA programs that will be looking for spots. Nursing schools are adding more advanced degrees, medical schools are expanding residency training programs, and Ohio University is planning a Central Ohio expansion campus for its medical school.
Ohio Dominican has agreements with area hospitals, practices and the Cleveland Clinic to accommodate up to 560 rotation spots, Paulk said. Each student must go through at least 10.
Larsen said hospitals also have been supportive when approached about an Ohio State program.
The first-year operating budget for Ohio Dominican’s program will be about $250,000, plus about $2.5 million worth of the $3.5 million St. Albert Hall renovation, which includes adding a cadaver lab. OSU’s program costs would be $400,000 to $500,000, Larsen said.
“I wouldn’t be making this investment if it was a short run,” Cimbolic said.