PA versus MD, Just as Good?

Erin Kimball, PA

We all know what it’s like trying to schedule an appointment with your doctor on short notice.  If your doc is like mine, she’s always booked because she’s just that good!

But her being that good doesn’t solve the problem when little Suzy’s spring time allergies have flared up and instead of looking like your sweet little bug, her nose is running like the Weber river and her eyes are puffed up like marshmallows or Charlie’s shoved a penny up his nose…again!  I know we’ve all been in that boat.  So what do you do?

You may have noticed that there are other providers in your physician’s office, but you may be a little hesitant to take your family to them because they’re not your doctor and they don’t have the letters “MD” or “DO” behind their names.  Instead you see PA.  You may even think that they aren’t as qualified or don’t have the medical knowledge to be able to treat your family.

To help dispel some of those very common, but untrue myths, I sat down with Erin Kimball, a physician assistant (PA) at South Jordan Family Medicine to discuss her education and training and why PAs are just as qualified to treat your family.

What’s the difference between a PA and a doctor?

The biggest difference between the two providers is the amount of schooling attended.  Physicians are required to attend medical school and complete an internship; and in many cases, they will complete residency training in a specific field.

PAs do attend less school than physicians, however it is still very intensive. Most schools require thousands of hours of clinical experience in the medical field prior to acceptance to physician assistant school.

PAs are educated at the graduate level, licensed to diagnose and treat medical problems, order and interpret lab and imaging tests, prescribe medicine and perform procedures in a variety of medical settings across the country.  They are trained to provide primary care but also complete clinical rotations in most specialties.

While physician’s have complete responsibility of the care of patients, mid-levels share that responsibility with a supervising physician.

Would a mid-level be able to treat my condition just like my regular provider?

Yes.  At MountainStar Medical Group our physicians and physician assistants act as a unified team.  You will receive the same level of care from them as you would your normal physician.

In many cases, our mid-levels treat the urgent care issues such as strep, allergies, broken bones, stitches etc. independently of the physicians.  If you have a chronic health problem or more acute illness, you can be seen by a mid-level who then discusses your case with a physician and together they can provide a treatment plan that is best for you.

Can a mid-level prescribe medication?

Yes.  A PA can prescribe the necessary medication to any patient.

What’s the benefit to seeing a mid-level over a physician?

Mid-levels often have availability to see patients next day or even same day when your regular physician may not.  This offers continuity of care, providing patients with the time and attention needed to treat both urgent and on-going problems in a comprehensive manner.

PAs are trained to provide high-quality healthcare consistent with the care you would receive from your physician, and often review cases with their supervising providers. As a member of your healthcare team, they are perfectly poised to provide you and your family the care you need when you need it!

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