This program will give patients access to more physician-like care.
Many students choose to become physician's assistants as a way to shorten time spent gaining an education in the field of medicine. As a result, while they hold great responsibility, they never get to call themselves a medical doctor. Now, thanks to a new program, they will have that chance.
Lincoln Memorial University recently introduced a doctoral program that they hope will improve health care quality and give patients greater access to the care they need. Essentially, the program raises the status of physician's assistants to be more in line with medical doctors.
"The program is considered to be the same level of education as a doctor of medicine degree."
Paving new ground
The new program, known as the Doctor of Medical Science, is a type of Ph.D. program that students interested in becoming doctors can take. Students will already have considerable medical knowledge from a master's degree in a physician's assistant program as well as three years of experience working in the field. The university decided to create the program knowing that many students are looking to forgo a long medical education, especially if they have to relearn material in the process.
The program is considered to be the same level of education as a doctor of medicine degree or a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree. With this education, physician's assistants can practice at a higher level and provide more patients with the care they need, especially in underserved locations. Currently, most physician's assistants can see around 20 patients a day, mainly because they don't have the required residency experience that's critical for the job. However, with this education, they would be able to see as many patients as doctors because they would have an education that's very similar to a residency. The directors hope to maximize the clinical experience for students so they can gather as much knowledge as possible from the program.
Students can complete the program in a matter of two years. The program is offered primarily online, so it's ideal for students who continue working in the field. Many medical programs require students to complete a residency during their time in school. This program is flexible and allows students to use their work hours as a residency, instead of having to find a program during school.
The leaders at the university believe this program will help work to fill the gaps that currently plague the U.S. health care system.
According to the Association of Medical Colleges, it's expected that 250,000 physicians have, or will retire between 2008 and 2025. While many doctors go into retirement, another 32 million patients will be added to the health care system. Of that group of incoming patients, a large portion is expected to be chronically ill or elderly. These populations are expected to grow by 46 percent over the next ten years, which means the health care industry needs to prepare itself. The Appalachia region specifically/especially, which is local to the Tennessee-based college, has experienced health care worker shortages in the past.
While the one-of-a-kind program will be based at LMU in Tennessee, it will be offered to students in 39 states as the program is primarily online. Students also have the option to explore different areas of medicine depending on what field they choose. The program is offered in three different medical tracks including primary care, emergency care, and hospital medicine.