Every day, I grope for new ideas to save time and help get everything done, despite knowing *it won't ever all get done*. I usually manage to just keep my head above water, but there's always this panicky feeling of near drowning in the sea of work.
It is popular everywhere, evidently, to employ physician extenders to help get it all done. PAs triage patients in the ER and treat the more straightforward problems. Nurse practitioners make rounds on the critical care patients and the cancer patients, writing the detailed progress notes before the doctors arrive. They do casting for the orthopedists and see routine followups at the family practitioner's office. There's even a push for them to write prescriptions, although that's not happened yet in our state.
One of my partners has a PA. He sees 90% of his post-op patients at followup in the office, sees new hospital consults, does all his medical records, and screens all his incoming pages on call. He also often is the only person to see my hospital inpatients on the weekends when they're on call. This frees my partner up to be more productive and to have more time at home with his family.
So what's the matter with me? I admit, it's been very tempting to engage a PA myself. I'd love to have someone else dictate all those discharge summaries. I might even be able to see my family 5 nights a week instead of 3. How can that be a bad thing? Why don't I just hire somebody to help? *Everybody else is doing it!*
I just can't do it. Maybe it's a little OCD, but I keep hearing my mom saying to me years ago, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself." It's the mantra of my Type A surgical personality. I know you can't really do *everything* yourself, which is why we have an office staff. But when it comes to patient care, it's a different story.
My patients come to me because they trust me to help them. Most are in pain or critically ill, and they're vulnerable in so many ways. They are *my* responsibility. No one else can evaluate them initially, because I have to make the decisions about what patients need surgery. No one without surgical training can or should do that. In the hospital postop, there are so many subtle things that can go wrong, I don't feel comfortable letting anyone else other than my partners make rounds. (I dislike my partner's PA seeing my patients when they're on call, and my patients have told me they don't like it, either.)
In the office postop, patients want to see their surgeon, not somebody else. I want to see them, because it's rewarding seeing how they've (usually) improved as a result of what I've done. I hear patients complain frequently that "when I go to my family doctor, I never see him, just the nurse practitioner." (That attitude may be unfair to a very good nurse practitioner, but it's that patient's real response.) To me, it's important to nurture my rapport with each patient. I can't do that if I don't see them and talk to them.
There are real legal issues, too. If my PA misses something resulting in a bad outcome, that's my responsibility, and I take the heat. If my PA doesn't document something adequately, that can mushroom into a huge problem under the right circumstances. And if I check everything a PA does, it's not worth having them, because I might as well just do the work myself.
This is not to insult physicians who employ physician extenders or to insult the physician extenders themselves. It may be that with the growing population and the physician shortage, my approach may not be workable or realistic, just like house calls are a thing of the past. I may one day eat these words.
But for now, I'll keep treading water, doing my own thing.
gcs 15 is a 39 year old full-time neurosurgeon in private practice in a beautiful Southern state. She has a 10 year old son who plays travel soccer and ice hockey. Her wonderful, Type B husband is a primary care MD who quit medicine to be a college professor and loves teaching premed students. She adores her job but hates the politics involved in the practice of medicine. She's always struggling to find ways to get more hours in the day.