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Our Physician Assistants and the Patient Experience

Our Advanced Clinical Practitioners

At Vascular Surgery Associates, we operate as a multidisciplinary team to provide the most efficient and well-rounded care to our patients. This brings to attention the role of PAs in our practice. If you are a current patient of VSA, you have likely been seen and treated by one of our physician assistants whether in the office, the hospital, or in the operating room. This may have you asking what exactly is a PA and what is their role in a vascular surgery practice?

A PA (physician assistant) is a medical provider who diagnoses illness, develops and manages treatment plans, and prescribes medications. PAs go through thousands of hours of medical training which is designed to follow the same medical model as physicians. A PA graduates with a masters degree from an accredited 27-month PA program and then must pass a national certifying board exam prior to practice.

At VSA, we follow a team-based approach where our 13 surgeons and 6 PAs work together and collaborate to provide the most appropriate care for each individual patient. It is a sort of partnership between the surgeons and the PAs dividing and conquering each day's tasks. The PA extends the reach of the surgeon into the multiple settings they are needed on a daily basis. Each PA assists in the operating room and has a strong knowledge and understanding of the surgical procedures we provide and the associated anatomy. PAs extend our inpatient reach to the many hospitals we care for in the greater Baltimore area. We perform rounds on our post-operative patients and consult on acute vascular issues- all while in close contact with the attending surgeons, updating and communicating progress and concerns.

A large aspect of the PA role in our practice is increasing availability and access to communication between the provider and patient. Our PAs staff our offices 5 days a week and allow increased clinic hours of operation. This helps decrease wait times and allows our patients to get in for appointments sooner. PAs are also available to answer phone calls and triage acute medical concerns to ensure they are handled appropriately and efficiently. We are available to answer questions, both big and small, taking time for discussions and education.

Many of our long-term patients develop a relationship with a PA they see on a regular basis and see them preferentially given their consistent availability. They enjoy the regular follow up and routine visits with a PA, knowing and trusting that the surgeon will be available for complex issues or new needs for surgery that may arise.

Overall, the goal of PAs at VSA is to provide quality care and improve the patient experience. We aim to fill the gap between the patient and surgeon, giving the patient more access to an educated vascular surgery provider and freeing up the surgeon to focus on what they do best-performing vascular surgery.

Shelby Norris, PA-C Shelby Heilman, PA-C Ms. Norris joined Vascular Surgery Associates in 2019. She attained her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from the Medical University of South Carolina.

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