Frosty Relationship Thaws As Tennessee MDs And PAs Join Forces
One way the doctors and physician assistants might link up is in the form of lobbying at the state capitol. Credit: TMA via Facebook

Frosty Relationship Thaws As Tennessee MDs And PAs Join Forces

One way the doctors and physician assistants might link up is in the form of lobbying at the state capitol. Credit: TMA via Facebook
One way the doctors and physician assistants might link up is in the form of lobbying at the state capitol. Credit: TMA via Facebook

Tennessee doctors are burying the hatchet with physician assistants – who can do much of what a doctor can with less than half the training.

The respective professional associations for MDs and PAs have approved a joint statement saying they are “mutually committed” to providing care through an “integrated” but “physician-led team.” In effect – we’ll stop fighting and play nice. In part, that’s because doctors now see PAs as a way to treat some patients more cheaply and free themselves up for more complicated cases.

“It’s a whole sort of different thought process as far as utilizing every part of the team,” says Michel McDonald, a dermatologist at Vanderbilt. “There certainly isn’t now any feeling that PAs should not be part of the team or should not be part of patient care.”

In recent years, physicians in the Tennessee Medical Association have clashed with the growing Tennessee Academy of Physician Assistants, which is constantly pushing for more autonomy for PAs. The latest divisive issue has been over administering high-powered pain medication. MDs are generally reluctant to relinquish control.

But Frank Warren, who is a PA in Murfreesboro, says there’s been an attitude shift.

“You know, in recent years there’s been a lot more respect,” Warren says. “I think that’s why the physicians are wanting to recognize our contributions in patient care.”

The TMA is currently finalizing a model for how doctors can get the most out of PAs in their practice.

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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