PA's leaving Kentucky for better laws

Dean Meredith was in a bad car wreck last month. He's having some lingering pain in his knees. His doctor at Bluegrass Family Care in Lexington asks questions to determine further treatment.

But Dr. John Richard has time to talk about more than pain with Meredith, in part, because of people like Deshana Collett. "You are as competent as your doctor will allow you to be," Collett said. Collett is a physician assistant. She has been schooled, trained and certified to care for patients. She is a critical part of the physician-led team. "It's very important that we recognize it helps me get to more patients and more patients get good care,"

Collett says the state of physician assistants took a step in the right direction earlier this year when Kentucky legislation was passed freeing physician assistants from the 18- month limitation, in which physician assistants had to be under a physician's watch at all times. "Before, a supervising physician had to be basically in the building at all times for the PA to practice. Now the time limit has been decreased to a shorter period of time."

An improvement, according to both Collett and Richard. But, they say the state has more barriers to break for physician assistants. Collett says Kentucky still ranks as one of the least friendly states for the job, with strict regulations like requiring doctors to sign off on every chart a PA writes.

Because of the laws, Collett says PAs are learning their trade here, then leaving the state. She says 50 percent of PAs trained in Kentucky are leaving. Collett says this is creating a dire need for patient care at a time when a drastic influx of patients will crowd doctor's offices with the affordable care act.

"Physician assistants need to be well-respected by the state of Kentucky in order for them to be used appropriately by the physicians that can use them" Richard said.