On White Coat, Black Art, we talk a lot about doctors. You might get the sense that doctors are the centre of the health care universe. True, they're important members of the team. But they're no longer the "be all and end all" of staying well and getting better.
This week, on White Coat Black Art, we meet three new players on the health care team. Join me and my co-host, nurse practitioner Michelle Acorn, as we talk about newcomes to the health care sandbox who can help you get better FASTER. Acorn was one of three NPs who delivered primary care in a chronic care hospital without the aid of a physician in 85% of cases.
Jose Araneta is a physician assistant or PA at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg. In Manitoba, they're also referred to as clinical assistants. The original PAs were medics who treated casualities of war. Some of the PAs who trained with Canadian Forces have found jobs in the civilian health care system. They were brought to Concordia because of long wait times for new hips and knees. PA's like Araneta do things like prepare the patients for surgery, hold the specialized instruments in the operating room, and do some surgical procedures during hip and knee replacements.
Jose Araneta, a physician assistant (pictured right), assists
orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Hedden (pictured left) during knee
replacement surgery. Physician assistants have helped surgeons double
the number of hip and knee replacement operations at Concordia Hospital
The payoff for patients has been astonishing. Since hiring PA's at Concordia, they've been able to more than double the number of hip and knee replacement operations they do each year. That has cut the wait time for new knees and hips by 14 weeks! This fall, the University of Manitoba launches Canada's first civilian masters level PA training program.
From Winnipeg, we travel to Digby Neck, NS, near the Bay of Fundy, where we meet paramedics Wally Howard and Josh Cail. In addition to their usual emergency rescue duties, they make house calls, do blood pressure and blood sugar checks, and even deliver prescriptions, to the residents of Long and Brier Islands. Along with a nurse practitioner, they're part of an innovative program that provides primary care to people who haven't had a family doctor since the last one retired nearly a decade ago.
Paramedics and physician assistants aren't intended to replace doctors but to complement or extend the services that physicians can offer. Nurse practitioners are a different story. From my conversation with Michelle Acorn, you get the sense that NPs are trying to bust through the bureaucratic and regulatory barriers that are holding them back from really strutting their stuff.
Together, all three of them are filling gaps in health care that are left by absent physicians. To me, it's a trend we'll see more and more in the future.