What is a Physician Extender?

Athletic trainers that work in an orthopaedic clinical setting with a physician are commonly referred to as "physician extenders". Physician extenders are trained healthcare professionals who provide semi-autonomous health care under a licensed physician. The National Athletic Trainers' Association has resources for athletic trainers interested in learning more about ATC's in the physician extender role.

The Steadman Clinic's ATC fellowship program provides athletic trainers working experience and training in the role of a physician extender. The majority of the fellowship is completed in the physician's office learning and performing the daily tasks and responsibilities of a physician extender. A rotation in physical therapy is also part of the curriculum.

Examples of Responsibilities
  • Patient documentation
  • Patient history taking
  • Managing clinical flow
  • Injury evaluation
  • Patient education
  • Diagnostic imaging ordering
  • Communication with staff and patients
  • Casting/bracing/splinting
  • Assisting with in-office procedures
  • Setting up sterile fields
  • Pre and post-surgical care
  • Dressing changes
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Medical supplies and stocking
  • Insurance coding and billing
  • Rehabilitation documentation and protocols

The daily duties and responsibilities of the fellows differ on each rotation and with each physician's team; these differing experiences allow the athletic trainer to see the wide career paths that can be available as a physician extender.

With each of the clinical rotations an educational component of orthopaedics is combined with the experience of becoming a physician extender.

Examples of Educational Components of Clinical Responsibilities

Interpretation of diagnostic imaging (x-ray, MRI, CT, Ultrasound, EMG)
Enhancing evaluation and diagnostic skills
Special test for orthopaedic injuries and disorders
Differential diagnosis
Cast/splint/brace application
Surgical anatomy
How to code and bill for clinic and surgery
Dictating skills
Fracture classifications and treatment
Surgical intervention and techniques
Medication and injectables
Rehabilitation and treatment

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