During the COVID-19 pandemic, people often talk about and thank doctors, nurses and other health care providers. But who are these other health care providers?

They are many, including respiratory therapists, pharmacists, lab techs, radiology techs, physical therapists, EMTs, paramedics, anesthesiologist assistants and PAs (physician assistants).

Through all the news coverage, it has been clear that the media, public officials and the public don’t always think about or understand the PA profession. Yet PAs are on the front line, screening patients, working in ICUs and EDs and conducting telehealth primary care and specialty visits. We have come to rely more and more on these front-line health care workers and the time has come to really understand PAs and what they can do for you.

PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs practice in every state, D.C., the U.S. territories, the uniformed services and in every medical setting and specialty.

North Carolina is home to some of the best PA educational programs in the country. In fact, the PA profession began in North Carolina, at Duke University, when Dr. Eugene Stead developed an educational program for Navy corpsmen, transforming their combat medic training into a new profession. Now, a little over 50 years later, more than 7,000 PAs practice team-based medicine and provide care to patients throughout the state. Whenever and wherever PAs are needed, we answer the call.

PAs have always answered the call to serve rural and underserved communities, work in medical and surgical teams with our physician and nurse colleagues, and put patients first.

Now we are answering a new call — a call to address the public health needs during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The demands on our healthcare system are increasing and North Carolina needs PAs.

As always, PAs are answering the call.

Brian Robinson

Boone

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