The relationship between a physician and a physician assistant (PA) is unquestionably valuable to the patients they treat and the departments they work in, and it can be critical to the delivery of excellent emergency medical care. It is, however, a relationship that is developed and refined with time and effort by both practitioners. The best way to describe that relationship is teamwork. Lynn Scherer, MS, PA-C, and Maria Halluska-Handy, MD, have been teammates at Einstein Medical Center Elkins Park in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, for 13 years and describe how this great relationship was developed and is maintained. Ms. Scherer is the EM physician assistant residency program director, and Dr. Halluska-Handy is medical director of the PA residency program and assistant residency director for the EM physician residency training program.
Ms. Scherer: I had already been a practicing emergency medicine PA when I first met Dr. Handy, who had recently completed her residency and came to work at our institution.
I have found through my years of practice that physicians often arrive at a hospital never having worked with PAs and are unclear how their roles are synergistic and what expectations should exist. For me personally, I find the greatest asset to developing a great working relationship with a physician is trust. A physician may not know the level of my medical knowledge, typically has concerns if I know what I don’t know, or may or may not be sure what the supervisory requirements are as they differ in every state and often from site to site.
Upon meeting Dr. Handy, we discussed my training and experience and the supervisory requirements, and I presented all patients to her until she felt comfortable with my medical knowledge and diagnostic approach. This is the foundation on which our team rapport was built. Because of our close working relationship, this process is now typically brief.
Over the years, we have learned to work synergistically to care for patients with varying diagnoses, from simple ankle sprains to more acutely illnesses. In every scenario, I trust that the physician I am working alongside is always available to discuss a complicated clinical presentation or to offer additional expertise. We are colleagues working together as a team, based on trust, to better care for the patients we see every day.