The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine is now taking applications for its new physician assistant (PA) program.
The master’s degree PA program, scheduled to start classes in January 2014, is the only one in the Kansas City area. The closest accredited PA programs are Wichita State University in Kansas and Missouri State University in Springfield. Neither is administered through a school of medicine, where future physicians and PAs learn side by side. The training model at the UMKC School of Medicine mirrors the team-based approach of PAs working under the supervision of a physician to improve coordination of care and patient outcomes.
“The new PA program at the UMKC School of Medicine offers a great opportunity for people who want to stay in the Kansas City area and pursue a career in this growing, high-demand healthcare profession,” says Kathy Ervie, director of the PA program at the UMKC School of Medicine and a practicing PA in the Kansas City area. “I didn’t have this type of opportunity and had to go out of state to receive my physician assistant training.”
Because of their general medical background, PAs have flexibility in the types of medicine they can practice. PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medicine.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recently signed a bill into state law that opens the door for PAs to more readily provide badly needed service to areas of the state where health care is lacking. HB315 will go into law on Aug. 28, changing the required on-site supervision of PAs by a licensed physician from 66 percent of the time to four hours for every 14 days the PA provides clinical service. The previous supervision requirement was one of the most strict in the nation, forcing many PAs to leave Missouri for other jobs.
“This is exciting because it opens the door for PAs to practice in Missouri,” Ervie said. “It will increase jobs in Missouri and we can keep our graduates in Missouri to meet those health care needs.”
Ervie said the law will open the door to making health care more readily available in areas of the state that can’t afford both a physician and a PA.
“That’s why it’s great for our program,” Ervie said. “We can keep those graduates in the state of Missouri meeting the health care needs of the state, particularly in the rural and underserved areas, which is our mission.”
PAs were created in the mid-1960s due to a shortage of primary care physicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts PAs will be the second-fastest-growing profession in the next decade, increasing from 74,800 in 2008 to 103,900 in 2018. The median salary for a PA in 2010 was $86,410 per year. In 2010, it was the No. 2 best job, according to Money magazine.
The UMKC PA program has applied for accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistants (ARC-PA).
The deadline for applications for the UMKC School of Medicine PA program is Aug. 1; students may matriculate pending provisional accreditation approval by the ARC-PA at its September meeting.A bachelor’s degree is a requirement, but not necessarily in life science. Up to 15 applicants will be selected for the program. For more information, go to www.med.umkc.edu/mmspa or call 816-235-1870.