Physician Assistant


“I’m excited for the future” of the role physician assistants (PAs) play, says Christine Hsu, hospitalist PA at Fairview Ridges Hospital. The role of the PA is “a profession that will keep growing.”

Each job, every day: Physician assistants

Christine Hsu is a bit of a trailblazer. As Fairview Ridges Hospital’s first hospitalist physician assistant (PA), hired in 2008, she has helped shape this important role and enjoys being part of its continuing evolution.

With a quick smile, Christine says that becoming a PA has been a great career move for her. Most rewarding, she reflects, is having the privilege of affecting people’s lives in a positive way.

“It’s humbling to be involved in caring for acutely ill patients and helping them get well.

“Patients and the medical community are embracing the idea of PAs and nurse practitioners. I’m excited for the future. It’s a profession that will keep growing,” says Christine.

What they do
PAs work in a wide range of settings across Fairview—from our hospitals to our specialty care clinics to our primary care settings.

They function as a medical provider licensed by the state and trained in a medical model to diagnose and treat patients, order labs and write prescriptions. They must have a supervising physician to collaborate with when questions arise.

Training for PAs is similar to, but shorter than, that of physicians. It is a master’s degree that typically includes 12-14 months of classroom work followed by 12-14 months of clinical rotations.

A great deal of the training occurs with PAs and medical students learning and working side-by-side.

Hospitalist PAs
Christine has been a PA in a range of environments, including general surgery and urgent care, in addition to her current role as a hospitalist PA.

Today, her role—along with that of her six hospitalist PA colleagues at Fairview Ridges—focuses on patient admissions.

“On a 10-hour shift, we typically admit and consult on between five to six patients, occasionally it can be as many as 10. During downtimes, we help physicians round on patients, do progress notes and discharges and follow up on patients we admitted the day before,” says Christine.

Primary care PAs
Steven Gilles, a PA at Fairview Clinics – New Brighton, sees about 17-19 patients per day. Like a primary care physician, he is responsible for a panel of patients (although a smaller panel than a physician) and for delivering on clinical quality, productivity and patient experience goals.
“I will sometimes refer very complex patients to a physician colleague. That’s because their training truly is above and beyond what I have. However, I do have many complex patients, and I collaborate with physicians on these cases to be sure I am providing the best possible care,” says Steven.

When making an appointment with a primary care PA, patients can expect to get the same quality of care that they would get from any other clinician in primary care—medical doctor, doctor of osteopathic medicine or nurse practitioner, says Steven.

Why they do it
“Having a patient say to me: ‘You’re the first person I’ve ever really connected with in an office visit,’ is very rewarding,” says Steven.

“I just enjoy spending time with cool people—colleagues, patients,” says Steven. “Fairview is a great place to work, and medicine is a great field.

“I am very lucky. I get the privilege of hearing things about patients’ lives that they wouldn’t share with anybody else. That’s a fascinating and fantastic role to be in.”

Learn more about Fairview’s physician assistant and other advanced-practice provider job opportunities.
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