Advanced Providers are Crucial Team Members at Mission Hospital McDowell

Carol Wolfenbarger

Carol Wolfenbarger

By Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE

The accomplished and committed professionals who form our care team here at Mission Hospital McDowell [1] (MHM) include a diverse array of caregivers, from nurses and physicians to pharmacists and social workers. Each member of the care team provides a specific type and scope of care, and all are essential. At MHM, health services are provided in tandem with our doctors by skilled and qualified advanced providers — nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

These healthcare professionals are critical to ensuring access to healthcare services — especially in a rural community. Though these care team members are sometimes referred to as “mid-level providers,” this is misleading because advanced providers have a robust scope of practice based upon completion of a graduate level degree or doctorate degree.

Rural communities often have the challenge of access to primary care. Through the Rural Health Clinics that are part of Mission Hospital McDowell (Mission Health Center – Old Fort, Mission Health Center – Nebo, Mission Pediatrics – McDowell, Mission Health Center – Marion, and Mission Health Center – Sugar Hill), nurse practitioners and physician assistants work with a physician to ensure access to preventive care, diagnosis workup, treatment of acute health issues, and management of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. While advanced providers work with a physician, they independently make patient-centered care decisions for their clients.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) achieve a master’s degree with the education foundation being in nursing practice and patient-centered care. Physician assistants (PAs) hold an advanced degree with a foundation grounded in general medicine, and training that’s based on a disease-centered model. Both advanced providers (NPs and PAs) are licensed medical professionals who work to provide team-based care with physicians.

As the healthcare industry has changed over the last several decades, we have seen physician shortages occur, particularly in rural areas like western North Carolina. Advanced level providers have filled this gap, with no compromise in the level of care patients receive. Mission Hospital McDowell is blessed to have a wonderful blend of advanced providers that serve in primary care, emergency care, surgical care, cardiology, orthopedics, pediatrics, women’s care, urgent care, and hospital medicine.

Just like our physicians, MHM’s committed nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide excellence in care.

As we come to the end of 2020, it’s hard to summarize just how much has changed in both our lives and in healthcare over the last nine months. While we continue to fight COVID-19, the MHM healthcare team — including our advanced providers — want to ensure that you continue to fight disease transmission as well. PLEASE practice the three Ws: wash your hands, wait six feet apart, and wear that mask.

As you may know, Mission Health received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, December 17, and began vaccinating our employees Friday morning in accordance with the CDC tiering system. This guidance from the CDC prioritizes healthcare workers most at risk for contracting COVID-19 and includes staff at Mission Hospital in Asheville, along with staff at the five regional hospital locations. The staff health team has worked through the weekend to administer the vaccine quickly to our frontline workers. Vaccinations are continuing and we have been told to expect doses of the Moderna and more of Pfizer vaccine within the next week, but we don’t have firm dates at this time. For additional information regarding the availability of COVID 19 vaccinations as well as the phased approach to administering the vaccination, please access the NC DHHS COVID 19 website [2] and Mission Health. [3]

Knowing that all of us will most likely celebrate Christmas a bit differently this year, our wish for you is that you and your family remain safe and healthy. As we look toward 2021, please know that Mission Hospital McDowell continues to be ready to serve your healthcare needs. Wishing you a hope-filled Christmas!

Mission Hospital McDowell


Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell.

Mission Hospital McDowell, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving McDowell County. Located in Marion, North Carolina, Mission Hospital McDowell operates 30 beds including 5 labor and delivery suites. Medical specialties offered include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, and walk-in, non-emergency care at Mission My Care Now McDowell. Five of Mission Hospital McDowell’s primary care practices have been recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as Rural Health Clinics. For more information, please visit missionhealth.org/mcdowell [1].