PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT UTILIZATION IN THE WWAMI REGION AS A MODEL FOR THE POTENTIAL ROLE OF PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS IN NORTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA: A LITERATURE REVIEW
Moreno Martinez, Sem
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Background: Physician assistants (PAs) have gained popularity in British Columbia (BC) as potential healthcare providers to help meet the needs of rural communities, however, the profession is still not acknowledged. Purpose: A literature review on PAs in WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) was performed to explore the potential role of PAs in northern BC. Methods: A search of the literature in the English language without publication date restrictions was performed. Only primary publications on rural PAs in the WWAMI region were selected. The articles were assessed and grouped into 4 themes. Results: A total of 8 articles were selected for pre-screening. Only 4 papers met the criteria of original research on rural WWAMI PAs, including PA characterization and utilization. Generally, the literature indicates that WWAMI PAs work primarily in rural primary care, with others in acute-care environments. Depending on the setting of practice, WWAMI PAs were found to perform a broad range of clinical tasks and services, skills that are essential for when they are the sole providers. And with the concurrent guidance of a template for PA development, the WWAMI experience could be used as a model for PA implementation in BC. Conclusions: This literature review sheds light on the potential role of PAs in British Columbia. Overall, PAs have helped stabilize healthcare in rural and underserved communities. The lack of current publications, and research in general, was regarded as a major limitation.