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I am in complete agreement with Mr Tetzlaff's statements concerning the invaluable role of physician assistants (PAs) now and in the future. There are substantial differences between nurse practitioners (NPs) and PAs in terms of scope of practice, state regulations, prescriptive authority, educational experience, and traditional practice patterns. These inherent differences must be recognized and understood, and the Clinical Practice Committee welcomes the initiatives of the American Academy of Physician Assistants to begin working with ASCO. Next on the agenda is a separate set of discussions between the Clinical Practice Committee and the oncology PA community, to parallel efforts now in progress with the Oncology Nursing Society.
The motivation to alleviate suffering and assist in a healing process can be nurtured, but not created. In response to Dr James Cohen's Letter to the Editor in the May 2007 issue of JOP,1 it is noted he expresses a concern over sharing patient care with other health care team members, and questions the willingness of the next generation of oncologists to provide patient-centered care. I am fortunate to be welcoming two new oncologists who are completing sought-after fellowship programs and with whom I have no reservations whatsoever regarding their work ethic nor their self-directed adherence to the highest quality standards. I believe that all of our staff, including PAs and NPs, are with us precisely because they see in the health care field the opportunities to contribute to life-sustaining and life-enriching work. It is critical that we, in our roles as physician leaders, foster a work environment that encourages the fullest expression of these desires.