This month, our state is getting a temporary influx of nearly 7,000 physician assistants from across the country — including members of the Louisiana Academy of PAs — who will gather in New Orleans for the American Academy of PAs’ Conference 2018 to participate in continuing medical education and discuss the future of the PA profession.

Making it easier for PAs to practice and treat patients in all states, including Louisiana, is a top priority for the profession.

The 2017 annual America’s Health Rankings report, released by the United Health Foundation, ranks Louisiana 49th on its list of healthiest states — for the second year in a row. The only state faring worse is Mississippi.

Part of this ranking includes the number of primary care physicians in the state. According to the report, Louisiana has 131.1 physicians per 100,000 residents— which puts the state at 33rd on the list. That’s in comparison to the No. 1, Rhode Island, which has 256.3 physicians per 100,000 residents.

According to the Department of Health, 81 percent of Louisiana is federally designated as a health professional shortage area for primary care. The state ranks 47th for senior health and 48th for the health of women and children. Patients need better access to high quality healthcare, and they need it now.

PAs are here to help. We are providers who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare professional. There are 123,000 PAs in the U.S., and more than 1,100 PAs practice in Louisiana.

PAs value team practice and are committed to working in collaboration with physicians. As a physician shortage in our state threatens patient access to care, PAs are positioned to be a part of the solution. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession is projected to increase 37 percent from 2016 to 2026 – and that influx of PAs can help to fill the gaps in Louisiana’s healthcare workforce.

The need for additional medical providers in Louisiana is evident. According to the Robert Graham Center, Louisiana will need 392 more primary care physicians by 2030—or a 15 percent increase—to provide patients with the same standard of care. PAs can step in to help meet that need.

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PA students are trained at the master’s degree level under the rigor and standard of the “medical model.” And in addition to their classroom education, PA students are required to complete 2,000 hours of clinical training before graduating. The background and training of the modern PA student allows PA graduates to be very adaptable and flexible in the healthcare workforce.

Let’s make the most of what PAs can offer. We are filling healthcare gaps, breaking down barriers to care and exceeding expectations year after year.

Sarah Deyo

president, Louisiana Academy of PAs

Baton Rouge