American History Of The Physician Assistant

966 words - 4 pages

One of the fastest growing fields in America is that of the physician assistant profession. Physician assistants are medical professionals who provide diagnostic and preventative health care services under the supervision of doctors. Forbes magazine recently listed physician assistants as the fourth fastest growing profession in the United States. Although the profession is currently getting a wealth of attention, the idea of physician assistants has been around for centuries. More recently due to the shortage of physicians, there has been an increased need for physician assistants. We find it important to explore and understand the history of the profession and how it has evolved in order to understand the future direction of the profession.
While the concept of the profession began in the 17th century, our paper will focus more on the contemporary American history starting in the 1940s. Dr. Amos Johnson, a founder of the American Board of Family Practice, hired a hospital orderly named Henry Treadwell to assist in the daily activities of his office. Dr. Johnson’s practice in Garland, North Carolina, initiated the spread of the physician assistant model across the state. Dr. Eugene Stead and his general medicine residents at Duke University took interest in this idea. In 1942, due to the lack of adequate medical care during World War II, Dr. Stead created a three year medical doctorate fast-track program. This sparked the idea that perhaps one day he could implement a similar program to alleviate the physician shortage in the United States.
Dr. Stead’s first attempt at a condensed medical program was in 1957. While working with one of his nurses, Thelma Ingles, Dr. Stead attempted to establish a master’s level degree for nurse clinicians. This program proved to be successful but the National League of Nursing (NLN) denied them accreditation. Shortly thereafter, the US Surgeon General announced there was indeed a shortage of medically trained personnel. In 1961, Dr. Charles Hudson reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that perhaps former military corpsmen could be trained to be “mid-level assistants.” A year later, Dr. Henry McIntosh hired off-duty firemen and former Navy corpsmen in his cardiac department. Duke’s payroll department referred to them as “physician’s assistants.” In 1964, Dr. Stead, still frustrated from the NLN’s decision to deny accreditation to the nurse clinician program, launched a two year experimental program training former military corpsmen as physician assistants at Duke University. The four men of the inaugural class were selected because of their potential to expand upon what they had previously learned in military training and incorporate it into clinical care. In 1966, the United States government enacted the Allied Health Professions Personnel Act, which promoted the idea of new type of primary care providers. This led directly to the establishment of other programs throughout the country...

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