I would like to address an issue this month that is perhaps a little sensitive, yet extremely important in today’s complex health care system. And that is the issue of creating professional networks between PAs and NPs.
It is clear that NPs and PAs fill parallel niches in the health care system. Both groups seek to provide consumers with greater access to health care. Their expanded scope of practice indicates a shift in primary care responsibility away from physicians. Patients and third-party payers should be made aware of who delivers primary care, who writes prescriptions, and who controls referrals. In addition, many PAs and NPs provide specialty care.
For all these reasons, I believe now is the time for the two professions to communicate with each other more than ever before.
Of course, there are clinicians on both sides of the aisle who believe just the opposite—that the two professions should stay as far apart as possible because of perceived differences in regulations, supervision policies, overall philosophies, and so forth. However, there are many others who feel, as I do, that we should strive to be as close as possible in areas that affect the quality of our patient care, such as continuing medical education, professional practices, and patient teaching. I suggest that we find ways to increase the networking opportunities between our professions, not only to get to know each other better but also to become more familiar with our various specialties and more comfortable with patient referrals.
There can be no doubt that networking is the most powerful way to build collegial relationships, foster contacts, and disseminate information. In fact, networking is now considered to be a fundamental business skill.
So how do we build and maintain a professional network between our professions? Most NPs know many PAs—and vice versa. Harvey Mackay, a well-known author and speaker, suggests keeping a Rolodex of colleagues’ names and contact information and jotting down a little something about each person on his or her card. Of course, with PDAs and iPhones, we can now do that on the fly.
The point is simple: Get to know your PA and NP colleagues. Get involved in local CME opportunities, whether they’re NP- or PA--oriented. Go out of your way to meet these colleagues when the opportunity presents itself. If this kind of networking is hard for you, then start on a smaller scale. But start!
It’s important to be genuine, to be yourself. And beware of common networking errors, such as payback expectations, not being respectful of other people’s time, and not following through on promises.
One of the more interesting sayings I’ve heard is, “It is not what you know; it is not who you know; it is what you know about who you know.” Another one is: “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
I’m reminded of the movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. The reason the title character was so successful as an investigator in that movie was because she really cared for others. She could relate to people, and people trusted her.
The respect you extend to your PA or NP colleagues in your networking efforts will enhance each of our professions and help make you a better provider. We can—and should—be partners in pursuing the common good for our patients.
I hope you agree. If so, what ideas do you have for accomplishing this? If not, why not? I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me at PAeditor@qhc.com.