What are the most challenging aspects of practicing hospital medicine, from a PA’s perspective?
Medicine is an art, and each patient’s body is different. It’s a challenge to create individualized care in a system where metrics and templates exist. An additional challenge is simply navigating the culture of medicine and its receptiveness to physician assistants.
How does a hospitalist PA work differently than a PA in other health care settings?
PAs in hospital medicine must excel in communication skills. We are frequently the primary liaison between families, patients, specialists, consultants, and various departments daily. PAs in other care settings also communicate with a broad variety of people, but in hospital medicine that communication is required to be much more rapid. Your skills must really rise to the next level.
There is also the opportunity for PAs to integrate within hospital committees and the C-suite. That is very different from other settings.
How can PAs and nurse practitioners fit best into hospital medicine groups?
Initially, a hospital medicine group needs to identify their specific needs when deciding to integrate PAs and NPs. There must be a culture of receptiveness, with proper onboarding. That is a vital necessity, because without a proper onboarding process and a welcoming culture, a group is set up to fail.
What kind of resources do hospitalist PAs require to succeed?
There is a big need for education that targets the hospital C-suite and our physician colleagues about the scope of practice and autonomy that a PA can have. There are significant misconceptions about the capabilities of hospitalist PAs, and the additional value we bring to a team. PAs do not want to replace our MD/DO colleagues.
What do you see on the horizon for PAs and NPs in hospital medicine?
As the chair of SHM’s NP/PA Special Interest Group, we see a significant need for onboarding resources, because there is a hospitalist staffing shortage in the United States, and that gap can be filled with NPs and PAs. There is a lack of understanding about how to onboard and integrate advanced practice providers, so we are working intently on providing a toolkit that will assist groups with this process.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in becoming hospitalist PAs?
I would encourage students to seek mentoring from a hospitalist PA. This can really help prepare you for the inpatient world, as it’s very different from outpatient medicine with a higher acuity of patient care. I would also encourage students to join SHM, as there are many resources to help improve your skills and increase your confidence as you grow within your career.