Skin and Allergy News
September 2002

Assistants by Alan Rockoff, MD

    Last year I hired a physician assistant.  Kate brought talent and enthusiasm to a training period that lasted several months.  After that, she gradually began to see patients on her own, calling me in when needed, less often as time passed.  She works under my supervision and bills under my name.  This makes one aspect of life far simpler.  There are more like her; in fact, there is a whole associate of physicina assistants who specialize in dermatology, with an efficient and energetic organization--the Society for Dermatology Physician assistants--behind it.

    Patients have accepted Kate with remarkable alacrity.  Relatively few insist on seeing me despite a longer wait.  (I guess I'm flattered that at least some do.)  The fact that she's a physician assistant doesn't seem to bother many people, if the difference of her degree registers at all.  Men rarely express squeamishness about seeing a woman.  There are no doubt women who prefer to see her, though I rarely hear about it.

    My impression is that patients in general, even those in a "sophisticated urban" setting like my own, accept and even expect physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other non physician personnel to see them.
    As with other aspects of medical life, the managed care era has made taking on a helper somewhat more complicated.  Still, obstacles can be overcome.  All you need to do is find someone compatible to work with.  And pay them.

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