Health Notes: St. Scholastica plans new physician assistant programSt. Scholastica already offers a pre-physician assistant program, and freshmen entering that program next fall could be eligible for the master’s program in 2016.
By: Compiled by John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Augsburg College in Minneapolis boasts of having the only physician assistant program in Minnesota. But the College of St. Scholastica is preparing to offer its own program in the fast-growing field.
The school’s Board of Trustees voted Friday to begin developing the master’s-level program. The plan calls for students to be accepted in 2016 pending provisional approval from an accrediting board. The initial class would have 24 students, said Bob Ashenmacher, St. Scholastica spokesman. The college plans to hire an administrator and up to six new faculty for the program.
St. Scholastica already offers a pre-physician assistant program, and freshmen entering that program next fall could be eligible for the master’s program in 2016, Ashenmacher said.
Rondell Berkeland, the college’s dean of health sciences, noted that demand for physician assistants is expected to grow 43 percent by 2019, according to the Minnesota Department of Economic Development. It’s fourth among the fastest-growing occupations in the state. Physician assistants nationwide had a median annual salary of $90,000, according to the American Association of Physician Assistants.
Physician assistants help medical doctors by providing diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health-care services. “They can really be physical extenders and really expand the scope of services, increasing the number of people who can be seen — especially for primary health-care needs,” Berkeland said.
That particularly could play a role in rural areas, Berkeland said. St. Scholastica’s proposal for the program includes offering a clinical rotation for students in a rural area.
St. Scholastica isn’t the only Minnesota school looking to jump on the physician-assistant bandwagon. St. Catherine University in St. Paul is seeking accreditation to start its program next fall.
A government agency makes it possible for you to do some comparison shopping when considering hospital care, and this month it added an additional category.
The Hospital Compare website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services now includes hospitals’ scores for central line-associated bloodstream infections. A central line is a tube, usually placed in a patient’s neck or chest to give important medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If placed incorrectly or not kept clean, they can become “a freeway for germs to enter the body and cause serious bloodstream infections,” the CDC says.
Those infections can be deadly, but are considered preventable.
The ratings now posted online are based on data obtained during the first three months of 2011. Under the rating system, zero infections would get a 0.00 rating, so the lower the number, the better the rating. But numerous hospitals were not rated, either because they have no intensive care unit or because they had too few or no cases to evaluate.
Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center appeared to be the only hospital in the Northland to receive a rating. Its 0.44 rating was close to the overall Minnesota rating of 0.40, the eighth-best score in the country. Best in the nation was Hawaii, at 0.06; worst was Maryland, at 0.91. Wisconsin ranked 32nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a score of 0.59.
Tania Daniels, vice president for patient safety of the Minnesota Hospital Association, said in the past decade 70 of the state’s hospitals have joined a national collaborative implementing reforms to reduce bloodstream infections.
“Our hospitals have been working hard on this,” Daniels said. “We’re proud of the work that has been done. We haven’t seen resistance with this. Even though we are better than average, nobody’s saying that’s good enough.”
The bloodstream infections ranking is only the newest of numerous categories available on the Hospital Compare website at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. When the website opens, you can type in a ZIP code or city and state. That will bring you to a list of hospitals in the area you’re looking at. You can compare up to three of them at a time for a wide variety of medical outcomes and responses to patient surveys.
Cold or flu?
You know you’re miserable, but is it a cold or the flu?
The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, in a news release, said both are infections of the respiratory tract, but they manifest themselves differently.
A cold, for example, develops over a few days; flu symptoms come on suddenly and severely. Colds rarely cause fevers; flu almost always does. Body aches and chills are characteristic of both, but it’s much worse with flu. A runny or stuffy nose and sneezing is common with a cold but atypical with flu. Coughing, headaches and fatigue all are more severe with the flu. A cold usually won’t affect your appetite, but flu often decreases it.
The bottom line seems to be that if you feel miserable, it’s a cold. If you feel worse than miserable, it might be the flu.