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Physician Assistants Add to Health Care Organization

Havre, Montana –Northern Montana Health Care has recently hired three new Physician Assistants, Jessica Sheehy, PA-C, Britney Wever, PA-C, and Kary Engel, PA-C. Jessica, Britney, and Kary have joined David Crossley, PA-C and Debbie Paulsen, PA-C, as a part of Northern Montana Medical Group.

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. Dr. Steven Liston, Chief of Staff, had this to say, “It is important our community understands how the use of Physician Assistants adds to our organization. One of our goals at Northern Montana Health Care is to improve access and the health of our community. PAs are an important part of the solution as they take can see most patients, enabling the doctors to spend their time seeing the more critical care patients. PAs not only treat disease, but they also promote health, decreasing healthcare demand through preventive care. PAs in a health care organization provide a valuable service to the community. They are critical to coordinated, team-based care.”

The PA profession was originally started in the mid-1960s. Physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians. To remedy this, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, of the Duke University Medical Center put together the first class of PAs in 1965. He selected Navy corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service. The first PA class graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967. Since then the PA concept has gained the acceptance and support of the medical community.

PAs are formally trained and licensed to practice medicine under the direction of physicians and surgeons. Taking on a primary care role, PAs are becoming an extremely important asset in today’s medical practices.

The training for a PA is modeled on the medical school curriculum, a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. The PA course of study is rigorous and intense. The average length of a PA education program is 27 months above a Bachelor of Sciences degree.  Admission to PA school is highly competitive. In addition, PAs also complete more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. They are asked to do rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine and psychiatry. At Northern Montana Health Care their PAs provide direct care for the patients in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery.

Practicing PAs participate in lifelong learning. In order to maintain national certification, a PA must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, as well as taking a recertification exam every six years.  PAs deliver high-quality care, and research shows that most patients are comfortable with PA provided care as they are with physician care.  Dr. Liston added, “Northern Montana Health Care is proud of our Physician Assistants and all that they add to our organization.”

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