A special report by MedWorks Staffing
Many clients come to us because they need additional clinicians for their practices, but they want to add staff in a smart way. And here’s the reality: it’s expensive to hire a new physician; growing your practice with nurse practitioners and physician assistants can make a lot more sense. But many of our clients are unsure of how to go about this, so we’ve prepared five key tips for employers:
Run the numbers.
The bottom line is important, and filling your gap with a PA or NP can make a great deal of financial sense. To start with, you’re likely to pay a much lower salary—perhaps less than half of what you would pay a physician with a comparable level of experience. In addition, a PA or NP’s malpractice insurance will cost a fraction of similar coverage for a physician.
Know the laws
At present, about a third of US states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently; PAs are not allowed to practice independently of a physician. All 50 states allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to write prescriptions, but different states have different requirements related to prescribing controlled substances or whether a physician must oversee any prescriptions. Make sure you’re clear on what an NP or PA can and cannot do before you hire someone.
Know the job
Studies show that nearly three quarters of nurse practitioners work in primary care. But the 2014 statistical profile of Certified Physician Assistants shows that only about 20% of PAs identify themselves as working in family medicine or general practice. PAs work in nearly every conceivable specialty, including pediatrics, surgery, urology, and emergency medicine. This doesn’t mean that you can’t hire an NP to work in a specialty practice or hire a PA to work in primary care, but it’s more common to see PAs in many specialties.
Be confident in your choice
When you hire a PA or nurse practitioner, it’s important not to think of the decision as plan B, or to feel that you would have hired a physician if the cost weren’t so high. Multiple studies, from reputable organizations such as the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, have shown that PAs rank just as high as physicians in patient satisfaction, if not higher. A stunning 80% of patients seen by nurse practitioners said that the nurse practitioner “always listened to them carefully,” as compared to only half of patients seen by physicians (Source: Medscape). There’s no logical reason not to trust a PA or NP, so you should feel good about your choice to hire one.
Divide tasks in a smart way
Practices that successfully integrate PAs and NPs into their staff do their homework up front. While PAs and NPs can do nearly everything that physicians do, there are still some things that they cannot do. PAs and nurse practitioners do not typically perform surgeries, and they may not be the best fit for patients with complicated conditions who are considering specialized or experimental treatment. By dividing these responsibilities up ahead of time, you can use your new hire effectively while freeing your physicians up to do the tasks that require their higher level of training.
Ask other practices about their experience
When we survey our clients who have hired PAs and NPs through MedWorks, we’re excited to hear how well the experience has gone. Most feel that their PAs and NPs provide a similar level of care to physicians, especially for routine preventive care and management of chronic conditions. Many also report that their PAs and NPs are often better-prepared than physicians to talk to patients about lifestyle changes and behavioral health problems, and that they often place a strong emphasis on making a personal connection with their patients. At MedWorks, we’d love to help you add a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to your staff!