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Advice for Healthy Living

October 4th, 2017

Celebrating Physicians Assistants, Medical Assistants, and Pharmacy Technicians

by Joseph Aigner-Varoz
Senior Director, Clinic Operations Support

October is a great time to recognize our PAs, MAs, and Pharmacy Technicians.

National Physician Assistants Week is from 6 – 12 October, National Medical Assistants Week will follow on 15 – 21 October, and Pharmacy Technician Day is on 17 October.

National Physician Assistants Week

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the PA profession.  We take this time during National Physician Assistants Week (6 – 12 October) to celebrate our amazing PAs in WellMed.

Physician Assistants are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals, practicing medicine on health care teams with physicians and other providers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and in the uniformed services.

Created to improve and expand health care, physicians recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians in the 1960s.  To help, Dr. Eugene A. Stead, Jr. of the Duke University Medical Center established the first class of PAs in 1965. He selected four Navy Hospital Corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service. Dr. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.  The first PA class graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967.

The PA concept gained wide acceptance in the 1970s as a creative solution to physician shortages. The medical community supported the new profession by setting accreditation standards, establishing a national certification process and standardized examination, and developing continuing medical education requirements.

Most PA education and training programs are approximately three academic years long and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools. Most programs also require students to have approximately three years of health care training and experience.

Students take courses in basic sciences, behavioral sciences and clinical medicine across subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology and more as well as complete a total of more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in outpatient and surgical settings.

PAs are trusted health care providers. Studies have shown that when PAs practice to the full extent of their abilities and training, hospital readmission rates and lengths of stay decrease and infection rates go down. A Harris Poll found extremely high satisfaction rates among Americans who interact with PAs. The survey found that 93 percent regard PAs as trusted health care providers, 92 percent said that having a PA makes it easier to get a medical appointment and 91 percent believe that PAs improve the quality of health care.

National Medical Assistants (MA) Week

This year, we celebrate Medical Assistants Week from 15 – 21 October.  We take this time to thank our hundreds of MAs and recognize their outstanding support to our providers and our patients.

The American Association of Medical Assistants, or AAMA, was founded in 1955 when medical assisting was widespread within the medical field.  Today, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, “medical assisting is one of the nation’s careers growing much faster than average for all occupations due in part to a predicted surge in the number of physicians’ offices and outpatient care facilities, and a growing number of elderly Americans who need medical treatment.”

Essential members of our patient care team, MAs are trained to perform a variety of duties within their clinical scope of practice under the supervision of a physician/provider to include assisting in identifying patient needs or problems and communicating data to the provider or other members of the clinical team.  Our MAs are instrumental in helping patients feel at ease in the clinic and often help explain the provider’s instructions.

For those called to this profession, many colleges, universities, and technical schools offer medical assistant training programs, and national certification is widely available and considered the minimum requirement in most clinic settings.

National Pharmacy Technician Day

October 17, 2017 is Pharmacy Technician Day and is an opportunity to recognize the invaluable contributions our technicians make throughout the year.  For our Pharmacists and other staff that work with our Pharmacy Technicians, take time this day to personally acknowledge their work and thank them for all they do for you and your patients.

In the early 20th century, pharmacy technicians were not widely recognized by the pharmacy profession; however this changed in the 1960s which saw an increasing administrative role for pharmacy technicians to allow licensed pharmacists to focus on the decision-making process of pharmacy operations.

In 1975, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists created training guidelines for hospital pharmacy support personnel.  In 1979, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy launched a hospital pharmacy technician training program.  In 1982, standards for the accreditation of pharmacy technician training programs were created.  In 1995, the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board was created and by July 2006, the board PTCB had certified more than 250,000 pharmacy technicians.

Let’s celebrate our amazing WellMed Physician Assistants, Medical Assistants, and Pharmacy Technicians.