Chief PAs—A seat at the table

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What makes a leader? Is there a secret recipe for leadership and how do people find themselves in leadership roles? As the number of practicing physician assistants (PAs) in the United States has surpassed 100,000, hospitals and healthcare systems across the country are recognizing the need to engage PAs in administration and leadership. In 2013, a voluntary survey of PA administrators and managers indicated that about 36% of respondents identified themselves as chief or lead PAs.1 The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 30% growth in PA employment from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.2 PAs are being increasingly asked to take a seat at the proverbial table.
In honor of the PA profession's 50th anniversary, we interviewed two renowned PA leaders—Marc Moote, MS, PA-C, and Benjamin Reynolds, MSPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA—to learn from their experiences in order to determine what qualities make an effective PA leader and to analyze what key issues current PA leaders face. For more on these leaders, see Profiles of two PA leaders. Moote and Reynolds both hold key PA leadership positions in their organizations, share certain leadership philosophies, and have had similar experiences throughout their careers. Collectively, they have more than 25 years of experience as clinical PAs; Reynolds holds a personal philosophy that he sees active engagement in clinical practice as an integral part of effective leadership.
Over the past 50 years, PA leadership has evolved. From PAs' early roots of military medics and corpsmen to evolving roles in health systems and hospitals, leadership has been a constant but dynamic component for the PA profession for the past 5 decades. Although the title of chief PA may be a newer label, PAs have taken on leadership roles since 1967 when the first PAs entered practice.3 As the population of PAs grows, the need increases for leadership roles to help guide this burgeoning workforce. The healthcare market is calling for chief PAs and PA administrators to help optimize this growing workforce. The careers that Moote and Reynolds enjoy today are the product of more than 50 years of growth for the PA profession. Moote and Reynolds both cite their desire to improve healthcare systems and to develop increased representation for PAs as the main drivers for their assuming the role of chief PA. Reynolds stresses that the “defining principle as a PA leader [...] is to not lose sight of where the healthcare market is moving and what role PAs [...] can leverage to achieve success for our organization and patients. PAs bring value to every practice in which they work, and as a nation, we have not yet tapped into the full potential of this dynamic workforce.” PAs are known for serving as patient advocates and for keeping their eyes on the needs of patients and families, and both Reynolds and Moote view this as a guiding principle for PA leadership and practice.
For this article, Moote and Reynolds offer some insights on their own experiences and comment on issues affecting PA leadership.
How would you describe your own leadership style?
Moote says his style is “driven, focused, and to great purpose.” He describes the need to simultaneously balance and further the interconnected goals of providing the best care possible to his patients while also removing barriers to PA practice. An unwavering focus on improving the system helps keep him interested and motivated. Moote has also embraced the Lean framework, which allows him to work with others to solve problems rather than leading through mandates.
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