Crucial Member of an Interdisciplinary Health Care Team: the Physician Assistant

November 21, 2016 2:49 pm

Reflections on this Career from a 20+ Year Pro

kevin-saunders-crHad Kevin Saunders, PA-C, been born in another era, he might have been drawn to serve as a medic in the Korean War or a hospital attendant during the Civil War.

Some form of “medical assisting” has been documented around the world since the 1600s. Prior to the official formation of the American Association of Medical Assistants in the United States in 1956, men and women — who were not trained as doctors — helped to deliver medical care to everyone from wounded soldiers in battle to prisoners to families living in neighborhoods with public health epidemics.

Referring to himself as a mid-level provider, Saunders said that the biggest draw to working at Mercy Health Physician Partners Downtown is this: “It’s the people I work with. It’s not necessarily the administration or the salary or the benefits,” he said. Mercy Health’s compassionate, people-centered culture makes it a place where Saunders has enjoyed working for the last 18 years.

“The doctors are easy-going, they are available for questions, they have a lot of fun and they have a great sense of humor,” said Saunders. “It doesn’t matter if you are a physician, a PA or an NP, we all treat each other with respect.”

But there is more than a collegial environment that keeps Saunders at Mercy Health.

As a physician assistant (PA), Saunders loves the fact that he is able to have long-term relationships with patients. “I have some patients I saw as infants who are now going to college,” he shared. Saunders considers his patients to be his friends and enjoys whenever he happens to see them in public.

He also loves the variety of patients and medical conditions that he cares for during a typical day. Most days he sees both acute and non-acute patients who may range in age from newborns to senior citizens.

Saunders doesn’t shy away from patients with complex issues. “It’s like a big puzzle that you have to try to figure out,” Saunders said with enthusiasm. Getting it right is both the challenge and the reward for him.

As with other PAs, this graduate of Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia is able to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions — as well as order labs and imaging, conduct examinations and prescribe medications — under the supervision of a licensed physician.

For anyone considering a career as a PA, Saunders offered this advice: “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and all I can say is this: ‘It’s the way to go. I get to do a lot of what physicians do, but I have a great work-life balance. I get paid for something I like to do, which is almost like golf!'”

Thinking about becoming a PA or an NP? According to Merritt Hawkins, a healthcare provider recruitment company, the demand for PAs increased by more than 300% between 2011 and 2014. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, one study projects a near doubling of the total NP workforce by 2025, while another predicts the number of NPs providing primary care will increase by 30 percent by 2020.

Mercy Health supports the ongoing education of its colleagues. To learn more about professional growth opportunities, contact Kristine Todd, director of RN practice and development at


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