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The role of the physician assistant (PA) is an important one. The job has challenging, high-level work on par with that of physicians and extends the services of doctors and surgeons. PAs work hand in hand with their doctors; at OrthoCarolina many are paired in teams with a physician and work together in patient care. PAs fill a range of roles, know the protocols of their doctors and operate alongside surgeons.

PAs work in many different medical specialties. By seeing a PA-physician team, not only do patients benefit from increased access to medical care and better outcomes but the physician that works alongside the PA can have greater access to time outside the office and OR suite. Creating a cohesive MD -PA work team means forging a strong foundation from the beginning. Because it’s essential to work closely on a daily basis, a highly effective PA-MD team follows these five habits:

  1. Establish Trust. Creating a foundation of trust means being genuinely open with one another. Allowing and encouraging feedback from one another is critical to good communication, whether this occurs informally in the office or at regularly scheduled meetings. Feedback needs to not only include mistakes and areas for improvement, but also include what is working well for the team. This is particularly helpful for the new PA in practice who lacks confidence and will be easily discouraged by the overbearing physician. Failure to build trust can be damaging for the PA -MD because it sets the tone for veiled discussions and guarded comments.
  2. Embrace conflict and mistakes. Teams that trust each other can engage in debate about treatment and review of conflict and mistakes without fear of retribution. Encouragement to ask questions and learn from experiences strengthens trust and increase professional growth for the PA. If opinions, decisions and disagreements are not openly communicated or an encouraged part of day to day conversation then patient care is at risk and trust is undermined.
  3. Determine ideal communication methods early and often. Openly and honestly communicating on day to day functions in the office allows for commitment to projects and ideals for the practice. If you find that you need a course in “mind reading” then you are doing something wrong. Learning how to best exchange ideas, updates in patient care and daily tasks is important in making sure performance expectations are being met for both you and the patients.
  4. Creating Accountability. Intentional and regular meetings together are important in ensuring accountability to the practice goals and expectations of the job. Failure to meet goals or hidden expectations on each end can result in resentment and lack of commitment. If the PA and MD team can create trust that allows for honest feedback and communication, they each will both enjoy creating goals for an ideal workplace.
  5. Focus on the collective results. Share and endorse each other’s accomplishments, but place the team goals above egos. Define what success means and how you will measure it. Meet quarterly to review progress toward the success whether that includes reviewing data or reassessing work load.

Jennifer Suckow, PA-C is a physician assistant with the OrthoCarolina Hip and Knee Center. She is teamed with hip and knee surgeon Keith Fehring, MD.


May 09, 2020

Excellent rapport and very thorough and knowledgeable. Have not met her personally, but she was on call when I had a problem with pain.
- D. Symons

February 04, 2018

Love this team,MRS Jen is awsome,if I send someone to OC,u gotta see her,
- Richard