Working with PAs during COVID

As a healthcare manager, my work has always been well cut out for me throughout the years. However, COVID-19 came and disrupted hospital administration jobs in so many ways. We soon found ourselves finding ways to cope with the financial demands that came with the pandemic. We also had to find remedies for staff shortages and deal with the pressure of ensuring quality healthcare for patients.

In the midst of all this, I can say that I have had the pleasure of working with selfless healthcare providers, particularly PAs, in the fight against COVID-19. I continue to witness firsthand how they are working tirelessly with the team of other medical practitioners to ensure that patients receive the best treatment. 

PAs transferable skills helped enhance COVID response

PAs are trained to work in different settings. They can test, diagnose and treat patients who come in with different surgical and medical problems. These different skills come in handy in the response to the pandemic, which has improved the efforts significantly. Their ability to work across a variety of settings has seen them work where their help is needed the most to ease the burden of other caregivers in the team. I saw physician assistants move to the testing tents when the queues became overwhelming and would switch to explaining the results to patients and caring for those in COVID units whenever they were required to. The flexibility in whatever role we assign them to do has made everyone’s work easier and enhanced patients’ experiences. 

Using their skills to offer psychological support

Another skill that has come out strongly for physician assistants during the pandemic is communication skills. The pandemic came with a lot of mental anguish for both the patients and their families. The fear of losing their loved ones amidst looming financial problems is too much to bear. I have seen PAs use the communications skills they learned in school to communicate compassionately to the patients at the time they are undergoing treatment. They are able to offer psychological support for the patients and their families as well. In addition, they are able to extend the same services to their colleagues whose long hours and fatigue are taking a toll on them.

Many offered their services on a volunteer basis

When we started experiencing patient surges in our hospital, there was a need to act quickly to ensure that patients got the help that they needed. When this was happening, in-person classes for medical students were being halted. The good thing is that many PA students were looking for ways they could continue learning and making use of the skills that they had learned. We got a number of PA students who were willing to volunteer to help fight the pandemic. Their services range from offering support to other frontiers to helping in contact tracing and more have been resourceful in this fight. I met PAs who were preparing for their PANCE exam. Amazingly, they were willing to endure long hours volunteering even when they had such a big exam coming. Undoubtfully, online sources such as resources and guides by Osmosis were a great help. 

PAs services helped combat patients surges

One more thing that we had to do as management is to ensure that the hospital operated with minimal capacity as much as possible. We had to turn to phone triage to ensure that patients who don’t need to come to the hospital stay home. We also introduced indirect patient outreach for patients who were battling other diseases. This was not only to avoid overcrowding but also to protect them from contracting the virus due to their vulnerability.

We tasked PAs with services such as phone triage where they diagnosed patients and prescribed medicines over the phone. PA students have also been very resourceful in ensuring that patients have their medicines refilled from their homes to limit the need of them coming to the hospital.

Sensitizing the public on COVID guidelines

The number one task for medics in the fight against COVID is to help as many people as possible protect themselves from contracting the virus. This calls for a lot of efforts in sensitizing the public on hygiene measures to keep the virus at bay. PA students have come in handy in this sector. I have seen them work together with nurse practitioners to educate people on the pandemic. This move has greatly helped our organization deal with the crisis.

Conclusion 

PAs have always been restricted by the scope of practice laws which require them to practice under collaborating physician supervision. Fortunately, the relaxation of these laws by the state made it possible to utilize PAs to their full potential. PA students who are still offering voluntary services are also contributing greatly to the fight. These amazing professionals have made it easy to control patients’ capacity in the hospital through their transferable skills. They have also been able to offer psychological support as well as educate people about preventive measures.

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