At Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville, the Physician’s Assistants play such a key role in the compassionate care of our patients that “PA” could also stand for Patient Advocate.

Casey Johnson, a certified PA who works with the eight Premier Surgical Associates physicians at Parkwest, agrees. “PA’s are often the first to meet with the patients. We oversee the details, place orders, get patients ready for admission or surgery, and prepare them for discharge.”

He explains that PA’s are trained as generalists, with a primary care internal medicine model of training, so they can go into any specialty when they get out of school. He enjoys the variety of medical procedures he’s exposed to with Premier Surgical, such as gallbladder, hernia, appendix, and colon surgeries.

“As a PA, I want patients to know that it’s amazing how much can be done laparoscopically now and most people don’t realize that. This means surgeries require much smaller incisions and recovery time is much shorter. Some people fear the procedure so much that their illness becomes a bigger problem which results in a more complicated surgery with longer recovery time.”

He adds, “For most of the patients I work with, 95% of the worst part of surgery is their fear and anticipation before the procedure. We often hear them say they didn’t realize the procedure was going to be as easy as it was, and that the recovery was easier than they expected.” Casey advises all his patients to follow their primary care doctor’s recommendations for screenings, and to not wait if they need a surgical procedure.

Lauren-Loveday-Clear_RGB-200x350Lauren Loveday Clear is also a certified PA who works with the five Premier Surgical  Associates general surgeons at Tennova North Knoxville and Physician’s Regional. “I see patients if they come in through the ER, or if they’re admitted and are consulting with us. I evaluate each patient, look at their history, lab work and imaging, and then discuss each case with the surgeon. If the physician decides that surgery is indeed necessary, I get the ball rolling.”

Lauren says one of her most important roles as a PA is to reassure the patients that she and their surgeon are a team, and are there for them. “Patients come in scared and in distress. Our strength is answering all their questions. For example, a lot of people go to the ER with abdominal pain and it’s not in their mind that they may need surgery. They get scared if this is the case, so I try to be in the operating room before and during surgery as well to reassure them, and help them be calm.”

Lauren also checks on the patients the day after surgery to see how they’re doing and what they need, and to evaluate if any changes are needed in their medications or diet. She also assists the patients through the discharge process, and follows up with them after they’re home.

But Casey and Lauren both say that Premier’s PA role as a patient advocate isn’t just limited to the patient. Many of their patients come in with a loved one who will be their caregiver that helps them with recovery after they’re discharged. Casey says, “With the aging population, many patients rely on a relative or friend to be a caregiver, and our job is to help them as well.”

“We make sure the caregiver understands things like how much the patient is supposed be eating, and how to change their dressing,” Lauren says. “We tell the patient and their caregiver what to expect after a surgery with how it might look or feel, and make sure they know that if anything at all seems abnormal or worrisome they should feel free to call and whoever’s on call will get back to them. Between the physicians, PAs, patients, and caregivers, we’re all a team.”

Premier Surgical Associates is the largest General and Vascular surgical group in the Knoxville region, providing comprehensive surgical care, with referrals from across the entire East Tennessee region. To learn more about our specialties, visit Premier Surgical Associates online.