Physician assistant discusses role in South Dakota health care

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – A new report suggests that South Dakota might not be making the grade when it comes to health care.

According to the report from The Harris Poll, one in three South Dakota patients gave health care a failing grade.

When it comes to addressing workforce shortages in health care, more than 90 percent said physician assistants should be utilized more.

While healthcare is a collaborative effort, workforce shortages and increased demand have given more attention to physician assistants and their role in the system.

Kayla Frank is a physician’s assistant in Sioux Falls. Her job — as well as other PAs — includes a wide range of tasks and responsibilities.

“PAs can diagnose, we can treat, we can prescribe, we can perform a lot of functions completely independent of physicians,” said Frank.

She believes PAs are ready to step up and take on more responsibility to meet demand in South Dakota.

“We’re happy with our role in the healthcare system. I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to attain more independence or more functionality. It’s that we want to show and present that this is what we can do and we want to be fully utilized for that,” she said.

It’s a skill set that doesn’t go unnoticed by patients.

“When I go to call my doctor, she’s really busy because she is such a good doctor, so I can’t get in to to see her for weeks at a time. So it’s really nice when I’m able to get into a PA and when the PA is able to help me and do everything that she would do,” said Venessa McAdam.

Frank says more accessibility is key to continuing to improve service for patients.

“We’re a huge part of our healthcare system the way it is and our model in South Dakota, and we’re ready and willing to kind of fill those gaps and help provide affordable accessible care to South Dakotans,” said Frank.

Frank says expanding the role of PAs can help to encourage PA students to study in South Dakota and stay in the state.

Currently, USD is the only university to offer a PA program in South Dakota.

We reached out to Sanford and Avera for comment on the report, but we have not heard back.

The report can be found here: Patient Experience Poll.

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