Background: Most pediatric ED visits are for nonemergent problems. Physician assistants are well trained to manage these patients; however, their effect on patient flow in a pediatric ED is unknown.
Objectives: To compare the effect on key pediatric ED efficiency indicators of extending physician coverage versus adding PAs with equivalent incremental costs.
Methods: We used discrete event simulation modeling to compare the effect of additional physician coverage versus adding PAs on wait time, length of stay (LOS), and patients leaving without being seen.
Results: Simulation of extended physician coverage reduced wait times, LOS, and rates of leaving without being seen across acuity levels. Adding PAs reduced wait times and LOS for high-acuity visits, and slightly increased the LOS for low-acuity visits.
Conclusions: With restricted autonomy, PAs mainly benefitted the high-acuity patients. Increasing the level of PA autonomy was critical in broadening the effect of PAs to all acuity levels.