PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS (PAs) and nurse practitioners can do almost anything a physician can do, and many have skill sets physicians lack, according to David Friar, MD, FHM, president of Hospitalists of Northwest Michigan based in Traverse City.
“As we go forward, with continued physician shortages and with the growing responsibilities of the hospitalist movement, we are going to need more and more people with different skill sets,” Dr. Friar said during his presentation at HM10. “I think one of those important areas is nonphysician providers.”
A quick survey of the 300 or so hospitalists at the session showed most HM groups employ NPPs, but less than a third of those thought they were “using NPPs well.” Dr. Friar, who has worked with NPs and PAs for 14 years, said he has found NPPs “to be an integral part of our practice. They have become indispensable to us in the way we provide services to our hospitals and patients.”
Still, many hospitalist groups waste NPP potential, Dr. Friar explained. He suggested HM groups evaluate their NPP roster and duties, and make necessary changes. “Make sure you treat them as if they are part of the team. That is very important,” he said. “NPPs can and should take care of patients throughout all stages of the hospital stay, from admission to discharge.”
When hiring NPPs, look for team players who are flexible and willing to learn. Make sure the NPP knows their limits and is comfortable asking for help. Target local training programs or other departments in the hospital as fertile ground for new hires. But, most importantly, know what you are getting when you hire an NPP.
“Don’t underestimate the cost of the inexperienced NPP in terms of training. If you think it’s two weeks or two months, you are fooling yourself,” Dr. Friar emphasized, adding an inexperienced NPP could take from six months to two years to reach full competency in hospitalist service. “Know the tradeoffs,” he said. “It might be more important for you to hire the more experienced—and more costly—NPP so you don’t have to spend two years to get them up to speed.” HM10