Dear Mr. O’ Reilly,
My name is not Lenny. I did not graduate from a community college, and even if I had, my master’s degree in physician assistant studies more than qualifies me to take care of you and the veterans that I serve. Your off-hand comment about not wanting to be cared for by someone who is not a physician is revealing. Perhaps you arrive on the set of your show, and perform all of the duties necessary to get on the air from running the microphones and cameras to making sure that your guests have water to drink, but that is not how it works in medicine. We operate as a team. Your show has highlighted the shortcomings of our health care system, so perhaps that is why you have not discussed the quality care provided by physician assistants. I would implore you to educate yourself and thus help to educate America about what physician assistants are doing and can do to bridge the health care provider gap that is present now, and that research shows will continue into the foreseeable future. Saying that PAs are akin to “Lenny, who just came out of the community college” grossly misrepresents my education and the quality medicine PAs practice in every medical setting and specialty in America. The misleading information in your show does a great disservice to the millions of viewers who trust the information and opinions you provide.
What you need to know is that the majority of today’s PAs are educated through intense, graduate-level medical programs wherein we are trained to diagnose, treat and prescribe. In contrast to your comment, 94 percent of PAs hold bachelor’s, master’s or higher degrees. We are often trained right alongside physicians in medical schools, academic medical centers and residencies. These programs are modeled on the medical school curriculum with a combination of classroom instruction and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. That means I share diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning with physicians. PAs are nationally certified and licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories with the exception of Puerto Rico. PAs are authorized by the State Medical Boards to practice medicine, meaning I can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, assist in surgery, perform procedures, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes among many other medical services.
I have to admit that I do not watch your show, other than the March 4, 2014 broadcast in which you stated that “If I want a strep throat diagnosis, I don’t want Lenny. . .,” in references to clinics that are staffed by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Mr. O’ Reilly, can you please clarify your statement as to why the care received from a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, although good enough for millions of Americans, is not good enough for you? I took my son today to an urgent care clinic for what I knew to be otitis media, and he was seen by a nurse practitioner who provided excellent, compassionate care. My children receive all of their routine care from a physician assistant who specializes in pediatrics. I did not go out of my way to choose them as these were the providers chosen by my insurance, but given the choice I would pick both again. This is the reality of medicine in America today, and I and many patients, especially those living in rural, under-served areas are grateful for my fellow physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Physician assistants are increasing access to high-quality healthcare. We know better than anyone that our health care system is broken, but instead of making disparaging remarks about the people doing the work, we just roll up our sleeves and do everything we can to make sure that we take care of everyone who walks through our doors. Please join us in our fight to make our medical system better by highlighting what works, including the 95,000+ physician assistants working in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. I look forward to your response.
To everyone following my blog along this Lenten journey, I hope you know that I write only about those topics which inspire me and which I hope will inspire you. For my gratitude journal, I am blessed to have found my life’s calling as a physician assistant, and I love what I do every day. What I try not to do is participate in discussions that denigrate others or are polarizing, and I am thankful for the opportunity to live in a country where it is still permissible to freely voice our opinions, but when misinformation which is harmful is disseminated, I have a hard time not speaking up. Please take this as fair warning that this may happen again 🙂 . I welcome any comments you may have about your experiences with PAs, and am aware that there are bad eggs among us, just like with any profession. Also, please feel free to tell me how you are doing with what you have given up as we blaze on. I am still working on that fear of failure, but have to admit it is getting a little easier with each blog post. Please pray for a speedy recovery for my little guy and his bilateral ear infections. He is sleeping now, as we all should be.
I am providing a link to the clip of the show solely for the purposes of accuracy:
If you are a physician assistant and would also like to respond to Mr. O’Reilly, please check out this link from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (the italicized parts of my letter were copied from a template provided on this link). I could not, of course, resist adding my own touches: