The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)

Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

  • By Christopher D. Dietrich
  • Tuesday, May 14, 2024 2:30am
  • Opinion

As a dedicated member of the PA community, I strongly support Senate Bill 115, which advocates for independent practice for physician assistants in Alaska.

For the past four years, PAs have sought collaboration with physician leaders to modernize practice laws, only to be met with resistance. Senate Bill 115 is crucial for improving health care access and quality in our state.

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system. PAs are essential members of the health care team, providing high-quality care, especially in underserved and rural areas. However, current restrictions limit our ability to meet growing patient needs.

Opponents argue that independent PA practice raises concerns about safety and quality of care. These arguments overlook the extensive training and proven track record of PAs. Studies show that PAs provide care comparable to that of physicians, often improving access without compromising quality.

Unlike paralegals, who support lawyers, PAs often serve as the sole health care provider for their patients. This unique role underscores the need for greater autonomy. Senate Bill 115 proposes that PAs achieve independence after 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, ensuring substantial experience and preparedness.

The argument that PAs should undergo additional training through medical school is impractical and ignores our distinct role in the health care system. Our training and experience equip us to handle a wide range of medical conditions and provide comprehensive care.

I urge the Alaska Legislature to pass Senate Bill 115 and call on the community to support this bill by contacting their legislators. It is time to listen to PAs and support this important legislation.

Christopher D. Dietrich, PA-C, DSc, PSY-CAQ, serves as medical director at Orion Behavioral Health Network.

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