Adding a Derm PA to Your Practice

PAs extend the care that physicians provide and increase access to care.

Being a Good Supervising Physician

The relationship between a collaborating physician and a physician assistant (PA) is a dynamic relationship built on proper training, mutual respect, and inter-dependency. A long-term physician-PA relationship allows for timely, quality care to the patients of your community. A good physician-PA relationship is one in which you are familiar with each other’s practice style and habits. Ideally, patients will become familiar with a PA who is incorporated into a practice allowing for a continuity of care when seeing the same person over time. A well-trained PA can build a strong patient following which allows for timely, high quality dermatologic care and at the same time allows a practice to maximize productivity.

While adequate compensation is important for the retention of a PA in your practice, it is only one piece in the puzzle. The longest, strongest, and most productive dermatologist-PA relationships are relationships in which collaboration is key. The following are qualities of good collaborating physicians based on those physicians who have been able to retain PAs long term.

Be a Teacher

The AAPA, SDPA and PAEA all hold the same belief that the best health care providers are those who choose to be lifelong learners.  Your training as a board-certified dermatologist reveals that you have a wealth of medical information from which a PA could benefit, regardless of how long they’ve been practicing. Preferably, when hiring a PA, there will be a period of time in which they can observe and learn directly from you the way in which you practice.  Over time, you and the PA can decide how patients will be scheduled with the PA and what type of cases the PA may see. With gained experience, this tends to progress with the increasing depth of knowledge of the the practicing PA.  Don’t forget to invite the PA in on any challenging and or rare cases which come through the practice. Even if it is not “in the moment”, reviewing interesting case presentations and new research is a valuable activity for all.

In addition, many PAs will attend conferences with their collaborating physician. Attending the same seminars can allow for further discussion over important topics. Incorporating the PA with whom you practice into pharmaceutical dinner programs, educational activities and networking events can allow for further exposure and understanding of the PA role.

Have an open door policy

Always make it clear to the PAs in your team that they can approach you with any patient question. You always want a PA to feel comfortable coming to you with medical questions about patients. Not doing so could undermine your relationship and, even worse, could possibly affect the quality and timely care of a patient problem. No matter how well trained a PA is, they should still know you’re always there for them for medical back up. The PA should also feel comfortable coming to you about problems with staffing, personal medical problems, or problems outside the office. Not only will this show the PA that you care about them as a person, but in reality it may make you aware of upcoming changes to the PAs schedule or behavior that will impact the practice and care of patients.

The relationship between a collaborating physician and a PA should be an intimate, unique one built on trust and respect. Ideally, a PA will have direct conversation with the physician or physician group with whom they practice to discuss contract, duties, staffing, vacation, and benefits – the office manager should not be the go-between. This is recommended because a PA is a medical level professional employee. Like other medical level professional employees (such as employee physicians or locum tenens), they should deal directly with you for such matters. Secondly, if the office staff sees that the PA reports to or has to be ‘supervised’ by the office manager they will start treating the PA as their peer rather than effectively assisting the PA to maximize their productivity for the practice. While a busy physician may prefer to delegate these responsibilities sometimes, it can ultimately negatively impact the physician-PA relationship.

Respect, trust, & professionalism

Much of this has already been touched on in the previous points but it cannot be under-valued. The PA on your team needs to know you respect them and trust them as a medical professional.

Support Your PAs’ Education & Professional Involvement

Every PA should have adequate funds and time available for continued medical education (CME). You want the PA on your team to be the most knowledgeable and up to date medical provider possible. By paying for a PAs’ CME you’re telling them you value education and medical knowledge. You’re also saying that you expect them to remain current and abreast of the best dermatology care. PAs also require more CME than many other medical professionals. To remain certified, PAs need to obtain 100 hours of CME every two years and take a recertifying exam in general medicine every 10 years. A PA needs both the funding and the time off to fulfill their CME requirements.

As part of the PAs’ benefit package, most offices will pay for the PAs’ professional dues to at least three PA organizations. Fortunately, PA dues tend to be low compared to what physicians have to pay. The benefit of a PA becoming a member of their professional organizations is that it can help ensure they are alerted to changes in practice regulations, changes in their state scope of practice, educational opportunities, and help for your office if you encounter a problem. For a dermatology PA, these organizations generally include the AAPA, the SDPA and the state PA organization as well as state dermatological societies if allowed.

If a PA has shown an interest in becoming a leader in these professional organizations you should offer your full support, even if this means some time away from the office. It will build both the PAs’ and the practices’ reputation in the medical community. Additionally, it will show that you and the PA care about the healthcare community including patients and practitioners.

Be Generous

Generosity goes beyond benefits and compensation. Everyone likes to be appreciated and thanked. It goes a long way to say to the PA “Great pick up” or “Mrs. X really liked her visit with you. Great job!”

You and the PA can research what the average salary would be for other PAs with their similar experience and practice dynamics. Information on this subject is available from the Society of Dermatology PAs and the American Academy of PAs. There are different models of compensation for PAs based on office dynamics, experience and type of practice. This can range from salary to percentage of collections. The benefit of adding a PA to a practice can be financial gain for the practice, but the non-financial benefits include increased patient access to care which results in increased patient satisfaction, building practice equity, and improving physician quality of life.

Additional Resources

Post a Job
Ready to hire a Derm PA? Post your open position on our SDPA Job Board which is seen by hundreds of Derm PA's. Let us help you find that perfect team member.
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Derm PA Training
Learn some valuable tips on how to integrate a Derm PA into your practice and how to train them so that they can be most effective in helping you and your patients.
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Do I Need a Derm PA?
The demand for dermatological services has never been higher. Learn about the benefits that hiring a dermatology physician assistant can bring to your practice.
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