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Assessing the Academic and Professional Needs of Trauma Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants

Wilson, Laurie N. PA-C; Wainwright, Gail A. MSN, RN; Stehly, Christy D. BS; Stoltzfus, Jill PhD; Hoff, William S. MD

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0b013e31828661e9

Because of multiple changes in the health care environment, the use of services of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) in trauma and critical care has expanded. Appropriate training and ongoing professional development for these providers are essential to optimize clinical outcomes. This study offers a baseline assessment of the academic and professional needs of the contemporary trauma PAs/NPs in the United States. A 14-question electronic survey, using SurveyMonkey, was distributed to PAs/NPs at trauma centers identified through the American College of Surgeons Web site and other online resources. Demographic questions included trauma center level, provider type, level of education, and professional affiliations. Likert scale questions were incorporated to assess level of mentorship, comfort level with training, and individual perceived needs for academic and professional development. There were 120 survey respondents: 60 NPs and 60 PAs. Sixty-two respondents (52%) worked at level I trauma centers and 95 (79%) were hospital-employed. Nearly half (49%) reported working in trauma centers for 3 years or less. One hundred nineteen respondents (99%) acknowledged the importance of trauma-specific education; 98 (82%) were required by their institution to obtain such training. Thirty-five respondents (32%) reported receiving $1000 per year or less as a continuing medical education benefit. Insufficient mentorship, professional development, and academic development were identified by 22 (18%), 16 (13%), and 30 (25%) respondents, respectively. Opportunities to network with trauma PAs/NPs outside their home institution were identified as insufficient by 79 (66%). While PAs/NPs in trauma centers recognize the importance of continued contemporary trauma care and evidence-based practices, attending trauma-related education is not universally required by their employers. Financial restrictions may pose an additional impediment to academic development. Therefore, resource-efficient opportunities should be a prime consideration for advanced practitioners education, especially since half of the reported workforce has 3 years or less experience. The Eastern Association of Trauma and other organizations can provide an ideal venue for mentorship, academic development, and networking that is vital to PA/NP professional development and, ultimately, quality patient care.

Department of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, St Luke's University Hospital, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Correspondence: Laurie N. Wilson, PA-C, Department of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, St Luke's University Hospital, 801 Ostrum St, Bethlehem, PA 18015 (

Poster Presentation, January 2012, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma Meeting, Orlando, Florida.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2013 Society of Trauma Nurses