Orthopaedic surgeon Brian J. Cole, MD, works with two PAs—Kyle Pilz, PA-C, and Natalie Podboy, PA-C. As the team physician for the Chicago Bulls and co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox, Dr. Cole focuses on sports medicine, including knee, shoulder and elbow, and cartilage transplantation. He believes that the two PAs are integral to the success of the practice.
“My experience is that the focus of PA training and the PA work ethic are very similar to those of physicians. The two PAs who I currently supervise and other PAs I have come to know bring so much to an orthopaedic practice,” says Dr. Cole. “The demands on a practice increase every year; meeting them can be daunting without high-level help.”
Both Cole and Pilz agree that a primary value of the physician-PA team is the continuity and coordination of care the team provides to patients. “We apply the same quality and mode of care time and time again,” says Pilz.
Cole concurs. “We really work as a team. I have residents or fellows with me all the time. But the PAs don’t rotate off service. They provide continuity with patients and help convey the practice principles to new residents.”
In Cole’s practice, the PAs see patients in clinic, assist at surgery, and spend time doing patient education, follow-up, and phone calls. “We need competent redundancies for our patients’ education,” said Cole. “I explain things to patients, and the PAs do, too. Our patients have great acceptance of our PAs. Their competence and professionalism validates the care and information they provide.”
Because they assist at the surgery, Pilz believes that the PAs are better able to provide informed follow-up care. “We see the patient before, during and after surgery,” he explained. “We have a high-volume practice, and we work to be a true extension of the physician. We are involved in every aspect of the practice. Cole is progressive; we were one of the first groups to use ultrasound-guided joint injections, for example, which have been a real benefit for our patients.”
“Some physicians may think I am overcapitalized with personnel, but I think that working with two PAs is ideal for our practice,” said Cole. He also thinks PAs are especially suited for practice in an academic setting. “With the PAs in the practice, I’m able to travel as my academic position requires, and our patients experience no loss of continuity in care.”
Like most PAs, Pilz finds his work very satisfying. “This is a wonderful job,” he said. “I have a great relationship with my physician.”
Excerpted with permission from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.