Physician-extenders: the Orthopaedic Center of Corpus Christi’s secret to successful patient care
By: Jessica Dusek
Photos by: Paul Marshall
Known for their world-class total orthopaedic care, the physician-extenders at the Orthopaedic Center of Corpus Christi (OCCC) keep operations moving full speed!
The board-certified physician assistants (P.A.s) and nurse practitioners (N.P.s) assist their high-caliber surgeons, treating injuries and providing post-op care.
Covering the full spectrum of orthopedic specialties, OCCC provides a supportive and friendly environment to the Corpus Christi community, according to Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Eb Zey. Zey, along with certified Physician Assistants Camille Barton and Christian Ehrhard, resides on the frontlines of triage, supporting the facility’s eight surgeons.
The physician-extenders oversee patient care, maintaining operations within the facility’s 22 exam rooms. Their role is to identify cause of injury, build patient trust and support each of the onsite surgeons. When they see patients, they obtain a thorough history, perform a focused physical examination and provide treatment as necessary.
With 14 years of orthopedic experience, Barton works with Dr. Jeffrey Schlimmer, who specializes in shoulder and knee injuries. She received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin and earned her post-graduate degree from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, physician assistant program, with honors.
As diverse as their backgrounds, each mid-level provider brings different strategies to the practice. Each focuses on patients in different categories such as college athletes, the elderly and “weekend warriors.” As a seasoned P.A., Ehrhard has been practicing for 17 years. Assisting spine surgeon, Dr. Andrew Indresano, he describes his role as “flexible and autonomous.” Ehrhard received a bachelor’s in biology (cum laude) from the University of Connecticut and later, earned his master’s in medical sciences from Yale University in their physician assistant associate program. He brings a unique lens, as he relocated to Corpus Christi in 2002 after serving on board the USS Nimitz during Desert Storm.
He notes that pre-existing conditions in patients can cause some challenges in the healing process. Some of the top issues include fighting diabetes, obesity and smoking. “By the time we get involved with a patient, they may be in a critical state,” Erhard explains. Yet the nurtured “long-term relationship” built between provider and patient improves the patient success rate exponentially.
The “OCCC, a truly family-oriented practice, thrives because our surgeons have provided high-quality care for multiple generations throughout Corpus Christi and surrounding communities,” Zey says. Zey, who works closely with Schlimmer and Dr. Brian Patterson, received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing and later, his advanced practice nursing degree from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. He was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honors society during his undergraduate studies.
Working with college and high-school athletes, Barton, Ehrhard and Zey focus on sports medicine and work with acute injuries both on and off the field. They care for local athletes from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and Kingsville, as well as many high schools throughout the Coastal Bend. If an injury takes place on or off the field, they initiate an evaluation and consult with the surgeon as needed.
Prevention and wellness remain key factors that demonstrate OCCC’s commitment to quality patient care. Looking beyond the symptoms, each physician-extender incorporates clinical knowledge and state-of-the-art imaging to accurately diagnose and treat the patient. Many times, the clinical presentation is complex. For example, a patient may come in complaining of leg pain, when the actual problem is spine related.
The professional environment at OCCC enables them to work as a tightly knit team. It allows them to improve patient care by consulting with each other and the surgeons. “The utilization of mid-levels within the practice has allowed for a more efficient and timely care of our patients,” says Administrator Linda Hernandez, who has been with the practice 37 years. “On a daily basis, it is apparent by our patients’ positive response that Camille, Christian and Eb are an asset to the orthopaedic center.” Barton, Ehrhard and Zey all uphold the organization’s esteemed reputation, as well as operations, patient recovery and satisfaction.
The Orthopaedic Center of Corpus Christi is located at 6118 Parkway Drive. For more information, call 361-883-2000 or visit www.orthocentercc.com.