Objective: An emergency department observation unit (EDOU) opened in April 2006 staffed by physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). This study describes the complexity and outcomes of the EDOU patients to determine the effectiveness of staffing by PAs.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed of chest pain and trauma patients in the EDOU from April 2006 through May 2007. Patient characteristics, length of stay (LOS), and admission rates were recorded. Adverse events were monitored, and trauma patients were followed for 30 days to evaluate for missed injuries.
Results: 531 chest pain patients and 364 trauma patients were admitted to the EDOU during the study period. Average chest pain patient LOS was 14 hours and 32 minutes, and 12.2% of patients were admitted from the EDOU to an inpatient unit. For trauma patients, average LOS was 12 hours and 46 minutes, and 11.5% of patients were admitted to an inpatient unit. There were no deaths, intubations, or loss of vital signs. In 30-day follow-up, there were no significant missed injuries among trauma patients.
Conclusion: PAs effectively cared for patients of moderate complexity in the two largest groups of utilizers of the EDOU.