Newswise — Rutgers School of Health Professions is improving care for patients in Newark through a new physician assistant faculty practice – the first of its kind in the nation.

In partnership with Rutgers’ New Jersey Medical School, the Rutgers Physician Assistant Program launched its faculty practice at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in November 2016, and over the past year has hired four of its anticipated five physician assistants to work with faculty surgeons from the medical school’s departments of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery.

While it is standard for medical schools to hire full-time clinical physicians who practice in hospitals and work with students doing clinical clerkships, Rutgers is the only school in the nation to apply this model to physician assistants. The physician assistants serve in the operating room, perform consultations in the Emergency Department and see patients in the New Jersey Medical School offices and affiliated surgical centers. “This allows patients to be seen quicker and improve continuity of care,” says Ryan White, the Physician Assistant Program Assistant Director, Clinical Education and Practice.

The concept originated about two years ago when New Jersey Medical School faculty approached the program for assistance in expanding its practice at Newark Beth Israel and wished to add more physician assistants.

In addition to improving efficiencies in serving patients, the model also allows for guaranteed clinical placement for students. “Historically, it has been a challenge to secure rotation spots for students since our preceptors worked on a volunteer basis. They already have difficult jobs and it’s hard for them to take on a student without compensation,” says White. “Hiring faculty members whose primary responsibilities are clinical allows us to apply their teaching responsibilities to the role of preceptor.”

University Physician Associates provides administrative and billing support for the faculty practice; a portion of the revenue generated is applied back to the academic program. “This revenue stream is unique as well,” says White. “Physician assistant programs are traditionally funded through tuition dollars, grants and other sources, not clinical enterprise. If faculty members practice clinically it is either as a side job or at a university clinical operation, in which case the revenue goes to the university, not the program. Our model allows the clinical faculty to feed the program’s educational mission.”

The faculty practice is the latest innovation for Rutgers Physician Assistant Program, which is ranked seventh in the country and first on the East Coast in The Journal of Physician Assistant Education.

Students will be placed in rotations starting later this year or by early 2018. The program is expected to expand to other specialties where preceptors are needed, such as primary care.