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PA Advocates for Expansion of Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care Specialty

Ryan Baldeo, MPAS, MSPC, PA-C, FAAHPM is dedicated to improving access to quality serious illness and end-of-life care.

Baldeo’s journey into health care was “serendipitous.” Before attending PA school, he worked as a patient advocate for adolescents and young adults with serious and life-limiting illnesses.

“My exposure, professionally, to serious illness alongside personal experiences drove me to enter PA school with an end goal of working in palliative medicine and hospice care (PMHC),” Baldeo said.

Despite facing legislative obstacles limiting PA involvement in the specialty, Baldeo’s passion for palliative care only grew stronger.

“Though there is a significant emotional burden associated in working with the seriously ill, there is also a significant emotional relief that comes with knowing you are providing patient-centered care and focusing on enhancing and optimizing quality of life for these patients and their loved ones,” Baldeo said.

Unique PA Contributions

As a PA in PMHC, Baldeo brings a unique perspective to patient care.

“PAs are well equipped to work in the field given our capacity and certification standards to identify and treat illnesses of all severities,” he said. “As a PA, we have history working with patients prior to being in a ‘provider’ stance and often have exposure to understand the multiple layers of the health care system.”

Baldeo finds value in the role PAs play on the multidisciplinary palliative care team.

“Working alongside physicians, advanced practice nurses, chaplains, social workers, and nurses, we add another disciplinary hat to the notion of a multidisciplinary team,” Baldeo said.

Advocating for PA Involvement

As the first PA to earn the Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (FAAHPM) designation, Baldeo is a strong advocate for PA involvement in PMHC.

For PAs practicing in the field, he encourages them to seek a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) designation to demonstrate their expertise in the specialty.

With 227 PAs currently practicing in the field, according to the 2023 NCCPA Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs, Baldeo said the CAQ is a way to document PAs knowledge and commitment to the discipline and help pave the way and encourage others.

“For PAs entering the specialty, this can also serve as a benchmark that may be used by employers in the future to demonstrate enhanced training and can be used for PMHC fellowships as a measure of success in training,” he said.

Compassionate Communicator

Baldeo’s initial training and mentorship with Dr. Jennifer Derrick followed by multiple physician mentors and colleagues since has equipped him with the skills to navigate difficult conversations with compassion. Effective communication, he said, is a learned skill, just like any other clinical competency.

“In addition to formal capacities of learning, I believe self-motivation, practice and dedication to life-long learning are important factors to consistently provide high-quality PMHC,” Baldeo said.

Future of PAs in Palliative Care

Looking ahead, Baldeo is optimistic about the evolving role of PAs in PMHC.

“At present, PAs have some limitations in the capacity to practice in many domains of hospice care, but I’m hoping this gap will begin to shrink and expand the PA role further into hospice care,” Baldeo said. “My priority is to lift each other up both in the PA profession and the PMHC specialty.”

Ryan Baldeo, MPAS, MSPC, PA-C, FAAHPM is a Board Certified Physician Assistant in the Division of Palliative Medicine at Mayo Clinic and an Assistant Professor at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Additionally, he serves as NCCPA’s Exam Program Chair for the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care Certification. Baldeo is also the President Elect of Physician Associates in Hospice & Palliative Medicine (PAHPM) and chairs the PA Special Interest Group at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). Furthermore, he is a Doctoral Candidate pursuing a Ph.D in Palliative Care at the University of Maryland – Baltimore and is a PA Ambassador for NCCPA.