Patient Acceptance of the Air Force Physician Assistant

by David J. Armor

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An investigation of patient acceptance of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). Shortfalls in physician manning have led the Air Force to experiment with physician extenders such as PAs and NPs. These new health professionals extend physician manpower by performing a wide variety of diagnostic and treatment services under the supervision of a physician. Based on an analysis of both usage rates and attitudes, the study finds wide patient acceptance of these extender programs and high ratings of the quality of care by extenders. On the other hand, a small minority of patients, about one-sixth or one-fifth, are opposed to PAs and NPs even after some contact with them. The opposition appears to be confined to specific functions of the extender, such as physician exams or treating more serious internal problems. It is concluded that substitution of PA and NP services for certain traditional physician services should be successful from the standpoint of patient acceptance.

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