Senior Summit PA explains Summit’s multidisciplinary approach to physician assistant training.
The role of physician assistants on medical teams has expanded over the last few decades. As practices have incorporated a team approach to care, more physician assistants are choosing to join subspecialty practices like orthopedics. Summit Orthopedics physician assistant (PA) Bryan Sternberg discusses the subspecialty physician assistant training responsibilities for newer PAs.
The evolution of the physician assistant role
“Since I started with Summit Orthopedics 12 years ago, the role of the PA in a medical practice has definitely evolved,” says PA Bryan Sternberg. “My role as senior PA on health teams have evolved with it. We are a lot more autonomous and have more responsibility now than we did when we first started. Today, medical practices know how to utilize the advantages a PA offers. They know what we can bring to the table and better understand how to utilize us efficiently.”
Today, there are 40 PAs at Summit. Our organization has grown, and PA responsibilities have expanded. PAs aren’t merely assisting anymore, they are also doing physician assistant training for the new PAs who join our practice. They are working at the top of their scope of practice.
Trust between doctor and physician assistant is critical
“Our expanded responsibilities reflect the trust of providers in their PAs,” says Sternberg. “No Summit doctor is going to let PAs do something they are not competent to handle. When new PA graduates join Summit, their education in orthopedics is handled by senior PAs and their supervising physician. As new PAs train in orthopedics and accumulate hours of experience, they are able to take on more independent responsibility.”
One of the supervising physicians likes to say that the physician assistant role is very similar to the role of a chief resident. Medical students start residency without a lot of hands-on experience caring for patients. But they learn. In the same way, physician assistants graduate from school with a general understanding of medical care, but there’s still a lot to learn. This is especially true for PAs who go to work in a subspecialty practice. PAs learn a lot during their first couple of years at Summit, working alongside physicians. By their fourth year at Summit, they are functioning very much like a fourth-year resident.
Initial physician assistant training is handled by senior PAs
Just as chief residents train new residents, Sternberg handles physician assistant training of the newer physician assistants who join Summit. “More experienced physician assistants can be effective teachers for several reasons,” says Sternberg. “We have the patience and familiarity to guide newer PAs through the basics. Also, introductory PA training is not the best use of a physician or surgeon’s time. Surgeons’ most valuable skills are exercised in the operating room. Part of our value is in our ability to take training responsibilities off the physician’s plate.”
Before new PAs begin working with surgeons, experienced PAs introduce them to practice fundamentals. “We teach new PAs how to access the different medical record systems at the different hospitals, how to dictate on the computer, and how to place orders,” Sternberg explains. “We also train them in injection techniques, sterile techniques, surgical draping, and surgical positioning.”
When PAs go to work for a surgeon, they have the skills to hit the ground running in any orthopedic subspecialty. “Summit’s physician assistant training program in orthopedics is well-rounded,” says Sternberg. “Whether our PAs go to work in hand surgery or total hip replacement, they begin with a strong foundation in basic orthopedics.”
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, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.