In recent hearings open to the public, proposed regulations for Physician Assistants (PAs) in Alaska have been met with strong opposition. Many healthcare professionals, including PAs, physicians, and healthcare administrators, believe that the proposed regulations will create unnecessary barriers and restrictions. The concerns primarily revolve around the increased amount of directly supervised hours required before PAs can work in remote areas, and the restriction on practicing within the experience of their supervising doctor.
The current regulations require 160 supervised hours, whereas the proposed regulations would increase it to 2,400 hours, equivalent to about fourteen months of training. Given that remote areas in Alaska are vast and geographically isolated, this change would create significant challenges for PAs wishing to practice in these areas. It is feared that this could deter PAs from pursuing careers in rural healthcare, worsening the already critical shortage of providers.
Additionally, the proposed regulations would limit PAs to only practice within the experience of their supervising doctor. This means that if a PA has expertise or training in a specific area, but their supervising doctor does not have those skills, they would not be able to utilize their knowledge in treating patients, even in emergency situations. This restriction could put patients at risk and prevent PAs from providing the best possible care.
The Alaska State Medical Association, which represents physicians in the state, acknowledges the need for some changes to ensure sufficient on-the-job experience for PAs. However, they do not support the current form of the regulations due to the lack of flexibility.
Critics argue that these proposed regulations would hinder the ability of PAs to meet the healthcare needs of remote and underserved communities. There is concern that the changes may lead to a disruption in rural healthcare and impede the delivery of timely and appropriate care to patients.
The Alaska State Medical Board is currently accepting public comments on the proposed regulations until October 3. The finalized regulations will be considered at the board’s quarterly meeting on November 17. If passed, they could go into effect within thirty days.
– Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital photo by Paige Sparks/KTOO
– Alaska Hospital and Healthcare Association
– Alaska State Medical Association