News & Events

Backus Physician Assistants Program looking to Expand

August 1, 2016

Employment of Physician Assistants is projected to grow 30 percent by 2024.

But Backus Hospital isn’t just sitting back and waiting for this trend to materialize. The hospital wants to be ahead of the curve and help ensure its ability to recruit these hard-to-find clinicians, who are certified and licensed medical professionals who can obtain medical histories; conduct physical exams; diagnose and treat illnesses; order and interpret tests; write prescriptions; perform medical procedures; counsel patients on preventive healthcare; assist in surgery; and make rounds in nursing homes and hospitals, among other things.

Physician Assistants perform a multitude of tasks that can help alleviate the demands and workloads of doctors, while also improving the patient experience and care coordination. In many cases they meet with patient’s families to discuss procedures, organize care for patients and help with discharge planning.

Backus has forged relationships with PA programs at Quinnipiac University, the University of Bridgeport and Saint Joseph’s College in West Hartford and will host students during their required rotations in Emergency Medicine, Surgery and Internal Medicine.

Nate Schwab, 25, a PA student at Quinnipiac University, completed the first of his nine, six-week rotations as a Surgical PA at Backus. He was also the first student to ever have completed a PA rotation in surgery at Backus.

“I was impressed with the sense of community, the way they all treat each other. As a team they were very encouraging and supportive of each other,” he said, adding that the highlight of his rotation was getting to assist a surgeon with a toe amputation.

A native of Washington, Schwab says Backus is definitely a place he would like to work.

This is exactly the type of experience that Backus Chief Surgical Physician Assistant Pete Lopez is hoping for – PA students who train at Backus wanting to come work there. “This would help the hospital meet its goal of providing 24/7 Physician Assistant coverage in General Surgery and sub specialties including Orthopedics, Bariatrics, Colo-rectal and Vascular,”   he said.

Lopez joined Backus eleven months ago from MidState Medical Center, also a Hartford HealthCare partner, to help grow the PA program at Backus. With PAs in such high demand nationwide, it is crucial to go beyond traditional recruitment techniques and develop partnerships and programs that help differentiate Backus from the competition.

Currently, the hospital has five full-time PAs and is recruiting to fill two vacant spots as quickly as possible. Lopez said the plan is to grow the program to 12 PAs.