More orthopedists are looking to employ
athletic trainers as physician extenders to increase practice
efficiency, revenue and productivity, while ensuring patient education and
To some orthopedists, it is new and different, John W.
Xerogeanes, MD, chief of the Emory Sports Medicine Center, told
Orthopedics Today. It can be a big improvement compared to
what we have in terms of quality of care, and you can also significantly save
on the financial side.
Athletic trainers working as physician extenders can take patients
histories, perform data entry and the initial evaluation, initiate in-office
rehabilitation exercises and, with additional certification, administer
injections and assist in the operating room. Since athletic trainers are
licensed in 44 states, they can also provide the benefit of third-party
Because athletic trainers have eduction in general medical
knowledge, as well as musculoskeletal expertise, they can help in a broad way
with what the physicians may need in their clinics, National Athletic
Trainers Association (NATA) President, Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, said.
Athletic trainers have replaced physician and medical assistants at the
Emory Sports Medicine Center. The center has a 1-year program that allows
athletic trainers with a masters degree to assist in the operating room.
There is no benefit to our practice in having a physician
assistant rather than an athletic trainer, Xerogeanes said. In
fact, they are better trained to do what we need them to do.
He also noted that the starting salary for an athletic trainer is
$45,000 to $50,000 compared to $65,000 to $70,000 for a physician assistant.
A series of studies conducted by Xerogeanes and colleagues have also
shown an 18% average increase in productivity when physicians used certified
athletic trainers instead of medical assistants, no significant difference in
the collection rates between physician assistants and certified athletic
trainers, and no significant difference in patients perceptions of
athletic trainers and orthopedic residents when blinded to the attendees
It is the best of both worlds, Xerogeanes said. They
are billing and paying for their own salary, it helps us be more efficient,
patients like them, and there are a large number of them willing to work for us
in a place where it is hard to get good help.
Using athletic trainers as physician extenders is a growing trend,
Albohm said. Physicians looking to hire athletic trainers in this role should
ensure that candidates are state licensed and board certified. Fellowship
training is also a plus, she said.
Four to five athletic trainers complete the program at Emory each year,
They are looking for jobs and want the opportunity to use their
full spectrum of abilities, which is being in the operating room and being in
the clinic, not just rooming patients, he said.
For more information:
- Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, can be reached at NATA, 2952 Stemmons
Freeway #200, Dallas, TX 75247; 214-637-6282; e-mail:
- John W. Xerogeanes, MD, can be reached at Emory Sports Medicine
Center, 2165 N. Decatur Road, Decatur, GA 30033; 404-778-7202; e-mail: