Physician Assistant Bryan Sternberg Explains How A PA Is Different From A Doctor

Summit PA explains how physician assistants complement patient care under doctor supervision.


Every physician at Summit Orthopedics practices in a team that includes a physician assistant, or PA. But some patients are unclear about the role of a physician assistant versus a doctor. The confusion is understandable.

Physician assistant is a fairly new category of healthcare professional

The first American class of physician assistants was assembled in 1965. PA students are trained under a “fast-tracked” medical model with educational guidelines and certification procedures developed by the American Medical Association. Today, more than 109,000 PAs practice in the United States.

PAs undergo medical training

In some ways you can compare two-year PA programs to a fast-tracked, condensed medical school. Nationally, the majority of physician assistant programs focus on family medicine and primary care. We also do clinical rotations in various specialties. There are even some residency programs for PAs.

The role of a PA on the Summit Orthopedics team

“We complement the care provided by a doctor,” explains Summit Orthopedics PA Bryan Sternberg. “Many physicians aren’t available as often as patients would like them to be. We are there to help bridge the gap and help ensure that patients get information when they need it.”

Every PA enters the workforce with the same qualifications, skill levels, and abilities. However, PA interactions with patients reflect the training of their supervising physician. Bryan Sternberg treats and talks to patients with the techniques and verbiage he learned from his supervising physician, Dr. Breien. If you read one of Sternberg’s notes, you might not be able to tell if he dictated it or if Dr. Breien did. That’s how similar they are. This consistency in approach makes things more comfortable for our patients.

“PAs do many of the same things that physicians do,” says Sternberg. “We prescribe medications, order tests, do injections, and diagnose medical issues. We are able to see patients independently, but we are always under the supervision of our physician.”

There is a true partnership between physician assistant and physician. They really are an extension of the physician. PAs can see patients in clinic, and assist physicians in the operating room. That’s why some people call them mid-level providers or ‘physician extenders.’ By being more available than a physician’s schedule allows and providing surgical assistance, they extend the care that the team provides to our patients.

A team approach with proven results

Research tells us that patient outcomes improve under a team approach. “When accessibility to care increases, so does the quality of outcomes,” says Sternberg. “My physician may be in surgery, but we are right here to answer your questions or see you if there’s an issue. We make a positive difference for our patients; that’s what our team approach is all about.”

Summit Orthopedics supports healthy communities

Community health flourishes when specialized orthopedic care is conveniently available close to home. Summit Orthopedics is proud of our fellowship-trained subspecialty teams offering the full spectrum of orthopedic expertise in bone, tendon, ligament, muscle, and joint conditions—in addition to our wellness, prevention, and rehabilitation services. We have the expertise to proactively improve fitness, evaluate discomfort, and deliver personalized treatment to quickly and safely return you to the lifestyle you love.

Start your journey to a healthier, more active self. Visit our Facebook page to learn about our wellness services and schedule a free wellness consultation online. Find your orthopedic expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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  • Bryan Sternberg, PA-C

    “Change things up with your activities and practice proper technique. Overuse injuries are common and can often be avoided with variety in athletics and exercise.”

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  • Kristoffer Breien, M.D.

    “I tend to be more conservative in my approach, reserving surgery as a last option. In essence, I strive to care for patients and their problems in the same manner my family and I expect to be treated when we seek medical attention.”

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