PAs Sternberg And Osgood Explain Summit’s Approach To Physician Assistant Training
Senior Summit PAs explain 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 assistants (PAs) Brett Osgood and Bryan Sternberg discuss their subspecialty physician assistant training responsibilities for newer PAs.
The evolution of the physician assistant role
“Since Brett and I started with Summit Orthopedics 12 years ago, the role of the PA in a medical practice has definitely evolved,” says PA Bryan Sternberg. “Our roles as senior PAs 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.”
“When I joined Summit Orthopedics 12 years ago, I was only the third physician assistant hired,” remembers Osgood. “At that time, the medical community wasn’t sure how to use a physician assistant. We assisted the surgeon in clinic and in surgery. Our utilization was more akin to that of a medical assistant. But over the last 12 years, there’s been a big push and significant change in the way PAs are used. Today, there are 40 PAs at Summit. Our organization has grown, and PA responsibilities have expanded. We aren’t merely assisting anymore. We are also doing physician assistant training for the new PAs who join our practice. I feel that today, we are working at the top of our 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.”
“My supervising physician likes to say that the physician assistant role is very similar to the role of a chief resident,” says Osgood. “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. Bryan Sternberg and I learned a lot during our first couple of years at Summit, working alongside physicians. By our fourth year at Summit, we were functioning very much like a fourth-year resident.”
Initial physician assistant training is handled by senior PAs
Just as chief residents train new residents, Osgood and Sternberg handle physician assistant training of the newer physician assistants who join Summit. “More experienced physician assistants are better teachers than surgeons 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.”
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