An interview conducted by Ayesha Ghaffar and her ED Attending in regards to the Emergency Department and the roles of a PA within that department;
PA: Hi doctor. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to meet me for an interview. Can you please tell us a little about yourself.
ED Attending: Hello. I have been working as an attending for over 10 years now. I work in the emergency department (ED) at a level 1 trauma center in the metropolitan area.
PA: I will be interviewing you today about physician assistants (PAs). I know you have a lot of experience working with them over the years. What qualities do you look for when hiring a PA?
ED Attending: The ED is a very fast paced, stressful environment to work in. I look for PAs who are capable of working with patients with critical conditions. The PA will need to be able to deal with all types of situations calmly while providing the best possible care. It can get quite stressful in the ED. The PA also needs to be a team player. As a PA, they will work alongside a healthcare team which includes the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, medical assistants, and case managers. On the contrary, it is also important that the PA is able to work well independently. Although there are supervising doctors available, it gets quite busy at times, so it is important that the PA is able to work well on their own as well. Other than that, being compassionate, hardworking and having strong interpersonal skills are also very important.
PA: Do you take into account the program that the PA attended when hiring them?
ED Attending: No I do not. Of course if the PA did a rotation at my ED as a student and I have seen them work, I am more likely to hire them. However, the program that they graduated from is not important to me.
PA: Can you describe the role of a PA in the ED setting? Are there limitations in what they can and cannot do?
ED Attending: The PAs at the ED that I work in can see any patient that they are comfortable managing. The PAs work alongside the attendings and manage both low and high acuity cases just like the attendings do. They take histories, do physical examinations, order diagnostic tests and medications, do procedures, counsel the patients and refer them to specialists if necessary. As the PA gets more experienced, they can see the more high acuity cases such as traumas. There are some PAs at my site that also intubate and manage patients in cardiac or respiratory arrest. It all depends on the PA’s level of expertise and their comfort level. PAs are an essential part of our team.
PA: Thank you so much once again doctor for interviewing with me today. I really appreciate it.
ED Attending: My pleasure.