Her name may be misleading, but Lori Dockter, PA-C, is not a doctor.
While many in the medical profession, as well as patients, have teased her on her rather misleading name, the credentials after her name say it all. “I’m not a doctor,” she said. “I’m a physician assistant.”
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, physician assistants are medical professionals who diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. They have played an important role in the growing field of healthcare over the past 50 years.
“We all see patients,” said Dockter, who has been a physician assistant with Trinity Health Ob-Gyn for the past 24 years. “We all diagnose and treat within our scope of practice, depending on which specialty we decide to specialize in. I’m in women’s health, so obviously I don’t treat men or children. We, as physician assistants, collaborate closely with physicians to provide appropriate patient care and to provide referrals when necessary.”
Physician assistants graduate from an accredited physician assistant program, pass a certification exam, maintain 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and pass their national recertification exam every 10 years.
On August 1, 2019, the North Dakota Legislature passed legislation where physician assistants no longer need supervisory contracts, which was “huge for our profession,” Dockter noted. Previously, physician assistants needed to be licensed under a physician, who would then sign a supervisory contract.
There are a little more than 300 physician assistants licensed in North Dakota. (Trinity Health has 10 physician assistants included among its Trinity Medical Group.) Overall, there are 131,000 physician assistants in the United States, providing care to more than 400 million patients per year.