Dr. Kuppersmith agreed that PEs are ideally suited to help with less complicated tasks to free up physicians for more high-level care. “If you have someone who’s trained to do lateral skull-based surgery—let’s say a neurotologist—is it the best use of their time to be cleaning wax out of someone’s ear?” he said. “I think physicians, in general, spend a lot of time doing things they can do, but aren’t necessarily the best people to do them.”
Explore This IssueSeptember 2013
Recognizing long ago the need for a PE in his own practice, Dr. Kennedy employed Christine Riga, an NP who has worked in rhinology for two decades, “and can probably do nasal endoscopy as well as I can,” he said. Riga also co-authored the aforementioned study with Dr. Kennedy. Her ability to perform some in-office procedures, while also handling less technical patient education and medication compliance issues, has afforded Dr. Kennedy more time to see new patients and tend to high-intensity services, such as surgery and post-operative patient care, he said.
Role of an NP, PA
The role of NPs and PAs in otolaryngology practices has widened beyond such routine tasks as removing earwax. Lorin Catalena, MS, PA-C, a PA at Texas ENT and Allergy for the past eight years, said she regularly sees patients with chronic ear infections, tonsil infections, allergic rhinitis, asthma, dizziness and voice disorders and also performs videostroboscopies as part of her services in the practice. For some otolaryngologic surgical procedures, she’ll also see patients for post-operative visits.
“The idea is to save the physician time by performing tasks that are routine, that don’t require the expertise and knowledge that a surgeon has,” Catalena said, noting that she’s built her own patient following at the practice. “Early on, there was some unawareness in the field of what the PA could do for a patient,” she added. “The PA field has grown tremendously through the years, and with it, patients’ knowledge of what a PA can offer to the medical community has grown. Patients understand that a PA can provide excellent medical care and be a trustworthy link between the patient and the physician. There are patients who come in to see me as new patients and for pre-operative visits who feel very comfortable with my knowledge and ability to communicate about their health concerns and the risks and benefits of surgery, if surgery is indicated.”