The New York Times

The New York Times 7 Apr 2020

I Worked In the ER For Over a Decade. Why Can't I Help Save Coronavirus Patients?


Across the country, hospitals are overflowing with coronavirus patients, and health care workers are scrambling to keep up. Physician assistants are trained as generalists — but in several states, including Florida, the help they are able to provide is limited not by their ability but by strict supervision agreements with a specific physician. This administrative red tape creates barriers for hospitals in need of workers during an all-hands-on-deck crisis. In the above video, Kimberly Berggren, a physician assistant in Florida, implores Gov. Ron DeSantis to join states like New York and Michigan and remove restrictions in her state so hospitals can get the help they need.

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I'm a physician assistant.
I'm a physician assistant.
Board certified physician assistant.
I've served in the United States Army
for the last 20 years.
I can cast, splint, do I.N.D.s.
Choose appropriate anticoagulation
for patients with heart arrhythmias
I've personally intubated well over 150 patients
during my 30 years in the medical field.
I'm a P.A. in northwest Florida
with over a decade of experience
in the emergency room.
However an outdated law in the state of Florida
is preventing me from saving lives.
The laws in the state of Florida state
that I need to have a supervisory relationship
with a physician and that I can only do those things
that physician delegates to me within the scope
of that physician's practice.
Now that I work in cardiology I'm limited to the things
that a cardiologist does.
Even though I have many years of experience working
in the E.R. and I'm comfortable taking
care of a broken bone,
if I were to have a child come in and fell and injured
their leg,
I could not treat that child.
And now with coronavirus rapidly spreading
across our state,
I can't use my experience from the emergency room,
because I'm currently working in cardiology, to go to where
my skills are needed.
This pandemic means everybody who
has skills, ability and desire to help
should be allowed to do so.
We need all the help and health care professionals
that we have.
I'm a P.A.
in Florida.
I'm a P.A. in Naples, Florida.
And I want to serve my state.
Governor DeSantis, Governor DeSantis,
I am ready to serve patients. Put us to work.
We're here.
We're ready.
I've heard the argument that P.A.s should not
be unsupervised, that an unsupervised P.A. is going
to work outside their scope of practice,
that they're going to replace doctors, that they're
going to perform test and do things
they should not be doing.
This isn't going to happen.
We are trained in general medicine –
the P.A. training gives us the unique ability
to be able to help out in this sort of health care
crisis — when there's a pandemic
and the needs are constantly changing within the health
care environment.
This is not a problem that's unique to the state of Florida.
In the state of California,
Arizona, Oklahoma, Wisconsin,
Washington State, Minnesota, Georgia, in the great state of Texas.
39 out of 50 states have overly restrictive
supervision laws in place preventing P.A.s
from practicing what we've been trained to do.
If states would authorize an executive order,
this would allow a significant workforce to treat people
as their skills and experience allow.
To their credit, several states have done this already.
The governors of New York, Maine and Tennessee
issued executive orders lifting restrictions on P.A.s
and are heavily recruiting them to hospitals.
I've been contacted by the New York health department
at the call of their governor to assist
in their critical health care needs.
I live in Florida and I want to serve my state.
Governor Ron DeSantis, you refused
to shut down our beaches.
You were late in issuing a stay-at-home order.
A pandemic is hitting Florida.
There's nothing we can do to change that.
What we can change is our response and tools
available to handle this crisis.
It is time now to issue an executive order to eliminate
practice barriers for P.A.s.

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