Dean Stephen Cavanagh explains need for more advanced practice providers

Friday, September 18, 2020

“I will hold as my primary responsibility the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings.” These are tenets that we as health care professionals pledge to uphold in our practice.

These are also the words that the physician assistant (P.A.) Class of 2020 will pledge this afternoon during the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing’s annual Physician Assistant Professional Oath celebration. Just as the Hippocratic Oath requires a new physician to swear to uphold specific ethical standards, P.A.s promise to put the health, safety and privacy of patients first and adhere to a professional code of ethics.

Not only does the pledge look ahead to the day these graduates will begin their practice, it also marks their transition from students to health care professionals. For the past 27 months, they have engaged in classroom discussions, skills lab instruction and hundreds of hours of clinical rotations. Thanks to our colleagues in the UC Davis School of Medicine, these students remained in required rotations during the coronavirus pandemic so they could complete their program on time. And the nation needs them.

Advanced practice providers – such as P.A.s and the nurse practitioner (N.P.) students who learn beside them at the School of Nursing – are key to meeting increased need for more practitioners. Not only do they bring new perspectives to the health care team, they also enhance patient care, increase access and improve affordability.

UC Davis Health Vice Chancellor David Lubarsky recently reported that we have expanded clinical services available to underserved communities and continue working to increase access to UC Davis Health care for everyone. I believe that P.A.s and N.P.s deliver a multiplier effect for these goals. According to a SullivanCotter’s 2018 Advanced Practice Provider Compensation and Pay Practices Survey, more than 60% of organizations surveyed have increased advanced practice providers since 2012. Here at our health system, we’re no exception.

Recently, we have added five new N.P. educators to our faculty who have a dual clinical and teaching role. And our new N.P. Residency Program seeks to expand medical capacity and improve health outcomes for primary care patients in Northern California rural and underserved counties. Residents began working in the Emergency and Internal Medicine departments and complement the other advanced practice providers on staff. Some will play a critical role in the UC Davis Health Aging Initiative as we prepare to launch a new geriatric clinic in 2021.

I’m excited about how the School of Nursing is expanding its capabilities as part of the UC Davis Health team. More providers means people can be seen faster. These professionals can also play a role as we expand our telehealth services. We envision a future where they work to improve evidence-based practice and complement the excellent care from other members of the health care team.

As for our graduating P.A.s, next up is taking their licensing exam. And once in practice, they continue UC Davis’ 40-plus-year tradition of preparing advanced practice providers to bring new perspectives to fellow providers and deliver inclusive care for all patients. A mission shared by us all.