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COMMENTARY: Bills pending in Nevada Legislature that would update laws regarding physician assistants make good sense for patients

In clinics, hospitals and community health centers across the United States, physician assistants are treating patients and expanding access to high-quality medical care. PAs receive a broad, generalist medical education, which allows them to work in any medical specialty, making them uniquely qualified to meet the needs of our patients.

Studies show that patient care is improved when PAs can practice to the full extent of their education, training and experience. With more than 800 PAs licensed in Nevada, it is important that the state laws allow PAs to provide care to patients consistent with their training, without unnecessary barriers or restrictions.

Two new pieces of legislation, Assembly bills 284 and 115, are designed to modernize PA laws to improve access to care and the efficiency of health-care delivery.

The proposed legislation directly impacts access to care by addressing situations in which PAs are the only available health care providers, a common occurrence in rural areas of the state. Specifically, the bills would allow PAs to sign or certify various documents for patients, including certifying disability for special license plates and placards, determinations about end-of-life care, and orders for home health. PAs are qualified to do these things, and already do in many states across the country.

The bills also make it easier for PAs to provide care during state and local emergencies and disasters, and provide volunteer medical services. The legislation streamlines the PA licensure process by removing requirements for a dual license to work with both medical and osteopathic physicians. Finally, the bill would add PAs to the definition of primary care provider in various provisions of Nevada law..

PAs are the ultimate team players, known for providing outstanding care. All PAs meet rigorous qualifications to obtain a license, including graduating from an accredited PA program and passing a national certifying examination.

With these small, but necessary, changes in law, PAs can spend more time providing quality health care, and less time dealing with administrative burdens. It would also free more time for other providers to spend with patients.

It’s time to enact these sensible changes to PA practice laws and bring those statutes into the 21st century. Patients statewide stand to benefit.

Cameron Byers is president of the Nevada Academy of Physician Assistants.

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