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How do PAs assist in a pediatric emergency department?

A relatively new set of faces in the world of Pediatric Emergency Medicine are those of Physician Assistants or “PAs”. Find out what they can do if you find yourself having to take your child to the ER.

Today's guest blogger is Megan Donovan PA-C, a physician assistant in the Emergency Department at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Walking through the doors of a Pediatric Emergency Department is a scary experience for any parent. Luckily, you are greeted with compassionate faces: clerks, registration staff, doctors, nurses, and this list could go on.

It is hard to keep all the faces straight, not to mention all the professional titles and their accompanying duties. The good news is that the skilled hands of every single person you see are there to provide the best care possible for your child.

A relatively new set of faces in the world of Pediatric Emergency Medicine are those of Physician Assistants or "PAs".

What is a "PA"?

PAs are medical professionals who are trained at the graduate level to work in partnership with physicians. The extent of their contact with their partnering physician is dependent on specialty, as well as practice or state regulations. PAs graduate from an accredited, graduate-level, program and then must pass a national certifying exam in order to practice medicine. Their training covers many areas of medicine, including:

  1. Family Practice

  2. Emergency Medicine

  3. Pediatric Medicine

  4. OB/GYN

  5. General Surgery

  6. Specialties

  7. Surgery

With Pediatric Medicine being a newer subspecialty in the world of medicine, the implementation of PAs in Pediatric Emergency Departments has also been a newer trend.

PAs in the Pediatric Emergency Department can perform history and physical exams, order and interpret lab work and imaging studies, initiate medication management, perform procedures, and answer your parental questions and concerns. Depending on your child's reason for their Emergency Department visit, a PA may serve as your child's primary care provider during your visit or they may function as a partner to the attending physician (MD or DO). Rest assured that PAs work in consult with their colleagues to afford your child the best care possible.

A local Pediatric Emergency Department at Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children, can attest to this firsthand. Years ago they did not employ PAs. Today they staff all areas of the emergency department with eight PA providers. Amy Thompson, MD, of Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children notes, "Our PAs are essential members of our team in the pediatric emergency department. I have been thoroughly impressed with not only their clinical knowledge and experience but also the passion and empathy they bring to the job."

Let this knowledge empower you as a parent and help to ease your nerves, should you ever find yourself walking through the doors of your local Pediatric Emergency Department.

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