While the demand for healthcare services continues to increase across the United States, the number of active physicians is decreasing. One solution to this dichotomy lies with Advanced Practice Providers (APPs).
An APP is a health care provider who is not a physician but is able to perform medical activities typically performed by physicians, such as conducting health exams; prescribing medications; ordering lab work and other tests; or helping patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. They are most commonly Nurse Practitioners (NPs) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) or Physician Assistants (PAs). They have master’s or post-master’s degrees, are board-certified, and fully licensed. All APPs complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years and undergo a rigorous re-certification process every 10 years. Since their introduction in the 1960s, APPs have collaborated with
physicians to improve access to treatment and overall patient satisfaction.
There are 1,081 physicians and 485 APPs on staff at UPMC Passavant – McCandless
and UPMC Passavant – Cranberry. “Most of our patients encounter an APP during their stay, whether that stay is long or short,” said Wende Goncz, DO, MMM, clinical director of Anesthesiology, and Medical Staff President of UPMC Passavant. “I witness the benefits of our APPs every day. They help us, as physicians, take better care of our patients.”
Physician Assistant Lindsay Busch, PA-C, believes APPs thrive in their ability to improve communication, both amongst patients and other healthcare providers on the patient’s team. “APPs often have a bit more time to spend at the bedside listening to patients and helping to explain their diagnoses and plans of care. We ensure patients aren’t only getting the best medical care, but also that they truly understand and are comfortable with that care,” she said.
While APPs at UPMC Passavant are busy supporting physicians and patients, Passavant Hospital Foundation is uplifting APPs by sponsoring events like an APP Academy and an APP Appreciation Week each year.
The APP Academy began in 2021 and is a two-day program providing medical lectures, hands-on training, problem-based learning modules, and expert panel discussions. Participation helps APPs sharpen their skills, stay abreast of medical advancements, and satisfy their continuing medical education (CME) requirements. UPMC Passavant is the only hospital to offer an APP Academy, and this year, 55 APPs and medical students from a variety of health care systems attended, some traveling here from as far away as Harrisburg, PA.
“The academy is an invaluable experience that improves APP learning, morale and
retention,” said Physican Assistant Megan Tomaino, PA-C. “One of the APPs from an outside hospital said, ‘This is amazing. I’ve never worked for a hospital that offered anything like this for their APPs. I wish I worked at UPMC Passavant.’ Investing in the APP Academy is investing
in the UPMC Passavant APPs, which ultimately leads to better patient care.”
Passavant Hospital Foundation plays a pivotal role in the academy each year.
“The Foundation helped with whatever we needed. They not only supported us financially, they also helped with planning, fielded phone calls for us, organized food, paid the CME fees, provided volunteers and directional signage, and allowed us to bounce ideas off of them. We’re so grateful for that,” said Theresa Celender, MPAS, PA-C, FAPACVS. She is a physician assistant at UPMC Passavant who served as the event’s course director this year. “The academy was so successful, we’re still getting positive comments about it months later.”
Likewise, a National APP Appreciation Week, which also debuted in 2021, recognizes the work of APPs and raises awareness of their unique roles in health care. The celebration at UPMC Passavant consists of lectures and other activities that provide APPs opportunities to network and learn. Non-educational activities have included an ice cream social, a “Pups and Cups” party with canine volunteers and cupcakes, and an on-site yoga class. Approximately 250 APPs participated in the event this year.
Megan Tomaino coordinated the event and Passavant Hospital Foundation provided event planning and funding. “Many commented that this was the first time they’d experienced any kind of APP-specific appreciation event. One APP said, ‘This was the best week at work I’ve had all year. I loved all of it,’” said Megan. “We couldn’t have done it without the Foundation’s support.”
“UPMC Passavant is a wonderful place to work, and is one of the strongest hospitals for APPs,” added Physican Assistant Lisabeth Ernharth, MPAS PA-C. “There really is a different feel here. APP collaboration and networks get stronger each year and the culture and leadership are so supportive. Because of this, communication and patient care improve, as does the clinical team. We couldn’t have done it without the help of Passavant Hospital Foundation. They truly wrap themselves around the hospital and the community and ask the question, ‘What can we do to support you?’ And then they do it. They’ve made all the difference." Learn more www.passavanthospitalfoundation.org.