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Hiring Physician Assistants


The recent increase and demand for healthcare has brought many physicians more business and leading to an increase in profits and a significant increase in the physician’s workload. Typically a clinic or practice will begin to hire PAs when there is an increase in a demand for services exceeds the current ability and functionality of the practice. Hiring a physician assistant can provide a balance to the ongoing demand placed on physicians. Physician Assistants are important to providing healthcare to patients. PAs have undergone rigorous medical training in order to work autonomously with physicians and the medical staff team. Through their training they are enabled provide diagnoses to patient conditions, implement patient treatment and therapies and provide preventative healthcare. PAs begin their careers as medical generalist but over years of practice, they become more specialized in two or three areas. This diverse career development enables them to be flexible and exceed any challenges and needs of their medical staff team and patients.

Studies have indicated that patients find that PAs provide excellent patient and clinical care as well as they are satisfied with the health care that they receive from PAs. From a financial standpoint, there are many financial impacts for a practice or a clinic to hire a new PA. Specifically a new PA can be a more affordable than hiring a new physician, while simultaneously providing similar revenues as a physician, while needing less compensation.

The Benefits of Hiring a PA

PA positions brings added value due to the flexibility and functional skill set they possess. Benefits of onboarding a PA to a new practice can result in higher revenues, increase in patient satisfaction and more flexibility to physicians and medical staff team. Physician Assistants work complimentary to physicians in order to deliver the best medical care to patients.

Financial Benefit: Like any new hire it is important to diligently assess the true financial benefit of the new PA. Here are a few things to consider before beginning the recruitment and hiring process are:

  1. The financial benefits for hiring a PA, ie, will the new hire justify the cost of on boarding a new team member?
  2. Will this increase and provide for more new patient intake? Ie, What are the new services and or skills that the PA can perform?
  3. Will the new hire improve or influence a greater patient satisfaction rate?

Team Growth Benefit:It is necessary to educate the current medical staff and team on the importance and responsibilities of the new PA. Creating an environment where clear communication is a priority among the staff will enable the transition to move smoothly.

Here are a few things to consider before beginning the recruitment and hiring process:

  • The current staff should identify the needs that the practice needs fulfilled. For example, is the goal to relieve physicians workload with the current patient population? What level of professional collaboration is needed for the practice at the time but also for the future?
  • Also consider the level of specialization that the practice would need from the PA. Would a more generalized PA or a subspecialist best suited the need? Is there preference a new graduate that would need more guidance and training or a more experienced PA?

Identifying, Recruiting and Hiring Your New Physician Assistant

Now that you have recognized and are ready to fill the medical team staff need, it is time to properly organize the desired skill set list and begin the recruitment and hiring process.

Write a Compelling Job Description

Ensure that the job description clearly describes the skills and competencies that are needed to perform the role. Also, define where the job fits within the overall company hierarchy, this includes, making sure there is an appropriate job title. Also, differentiate between the needed skills and competencies that are required. Skills are activities the candidate can perform based on what they have learned in the past, or from qualifications they have obtained.
Competencies are traits or attributes that candidate can be expected display while completing
the assignments.

Be clear on salary in the job description.

Typically, this includes a range that is competitive to similar positions in other organizations and allows for variations in education and experience.

Ways to Recruit for Your New Physician Assistant

  1. Post positions on professional association web sites and job boards. Make sure that the description in the ad portrays the company as exciting and rewarding place to work.
  2. Use a recruiter. Typically recruiters have developed pool of candidates and can provide experience eyes and options during your search.
  3. Directly contact training programs and schools.

Identifying Qualified Applicants

It is important to invest the time, energy and effort to find the right person for the job. This means that the right PA candidate is not just technically equipped but also has the right temperament and fit for the company. Attracting the high quality candidates through thorough evaluation is a skill that every interview committee needs to develop. One helpful place to begin is creating a “success profile.” This is important because it allows all hiring committee members to outline and define what an ideal PA candidate looks like before the first interview or view of applications. A great place to start on finding and compiling this “success applicant” can be considered by identifying skills and attributes that are seen in the current top performers of the office. Do not forget that is just as necessary to consider the candidate's soft skills, like communication skills, emotional intelligence and even social intelligence. In order to gather a more well-rounded view on the candidate, check the social media profiles of pending candidates, but be careful to not let it influence or factor into the hiring process

Interviewing Candidates

Remember that the candidate should do most of the talking, this allows time to get to know the candidate by giving them time to answer questions and give them time to formulate questions for you and the company.

Phone Interview: The Initial Screening Process

Take the time to set up phone screening questions to discuss with potential applicants this can assist in the narrowing the screening process. Based on the phone interviews it is now time to select the best qualified applicants for the in person interview.

In Person Interview

It may be helpful to have an established assessment tool to evaluate the skill set of the potential candidates. While interviewing the potential new hire, focus on their accomplishments and give them an opportunity to explain how they made and produced their achievements. Try to assess the role the individual actually had in their past role. During the interview try to allow the candidate to discuss how they take on difficult challenges and how they overcome work obstacles. In regards to comparing candidates make sure that you make note on evidence on how they achieve success, take on challenges and problem solve. These can be useful when fact checking with references for supervisors and coworkers.

Identifying Red Flags

While the conversation is taking place, listen how the candidate speaks on previous job experiences. If there is a pattern where the candidate criticizes former employers, bosses, teams or companies, this may demonstrate a lack of judgement and discretion. Be aware if the candidate is difficult to contact (does not respond to phone calls, emails or texts) , lacks relevant work experience and most importantly has trouble answering questions about his/her work experience. Some initial on paper red flags to be made aware of are, short time at job, gaps in employment, and if the candidate does not want to give references nor wants to fill out the background check. While those are examples of obvious red flags, there are some errors they may not be caught until the verification follow up. To begin, the it is important to verify the list of references that have been provided. Be aware the applicant can purchase fraudulent references from online providers. Take preemptive action and google search any given phone number and authenticate the applicant’s previous company or office. It is also imperative to verify the education of the candidate. Some candidates may not be truthful about their secondary education attendance, this can be seen in listing fraudulent institutions, usually are very hard to complete a background check, and even falsifying a diploma or certificate, by fabricating documents that may look and seem authentic. Colleges and universities typically provide verification either in-house or another third party service.

Making An Offer

Now that you have successfully recruited, interviewed and selected a PA candidate you are ready to extend a job offer. Time is an influential factor, so move quickly when making an offer. Oftentimes, candidates are simultaneously receiving multiple offers, contacting the candidate on the same day as the final interview is very important. This will show the candidate how interested and excited you are to bring them on board in the new position. Making a phone call is best form of contact; this enables you to have a clear conversation with the candidate and also enables you to hear their level of enthusiasm. Maintaining an excited and professional tone while complementing the fit and the skill set that they will uniquely be bringing to the company. Remember, the physician and physician assistant employee relationship, officially starts with the job offer. Make that moment memorable for the candidate. Now is also a good time to explain the pay and benefits of their package agreement and any additional incentives. Finally, follow up the phone call with a tentative or contingent written agreement. Try to gage the conversation with the candidate and see if they have any hesitancy and determine how you can ease their decision.

Creating A Productive On Boarding Process

On boarding is the process of successfully integrating new employees into an organization so that they can be productive members of the medical staff team. A carefully designed plan on boarding the new physician assistant can lead to a committed employee. There are many ways to incorporate the new hire into their new team while creating an effective environment. The new PA should be introduced and encouraged to play a role in in the patient’s care. They are now an important facet in the team based care that is being provided in the medical environment.

On the first day, there should be a structured plan in place, such as the time and location to arrive, who they should report to, and an itinerary for their first day.

Tips to Create a Successful On Board Environment

  1. Encourage senior team leaders to proactively introduce themselves to the new PA. This creates an environment where the PA may feel immediately connected to the new team.
  2. A welcome package: a welcome to the office card signed by the staff, any needed paperwork, an employee handbook, and necessary ID, security badges and parking credentials.
  3. Preemptively order new business cards
  4. A clean work area
  5. A tour of the facility, not only their personal work space, but community areas, and other important locations, this will enable them to easily navigate the building
  6. Assign a specific mentor, the mentor can serve as the foundation for the network for the new PA. Give the mentor the responsibility to check in weekly and possibly for a 90 day follow up

Retention Notes

It is important new and existing medical team employees to have a sense of attachment and ownership for the company culture. This enables them to remain loyal and engaged to the company and their career at the same time. An effective employee/ employer relationship is founded on clear communication. An effective manager/ employer provides, clarity on expectations, career development, gives regular feedback on performance and ultimately gives the employee guidelines to where they can be successful. In order to maintain a productive and team environment, it is important to invest in staff development. Offering training and skill enhancement opportunities, such as obtaining certification or further education are great ways to keep your medical team engaged. It is necessary to keep an open ear and conversation with the team in order to understand their employee’s personal expectations and goals in regards to their jobs. Trying to understand those desires and finding a place for them within the company demonstrates to them that they are in a place where they can fulfill their passions. Consider offering non-monetary and low cost perks as ways to motivate the staff.

Another way to maintain a happy employee/employer balance is to make sure that your employees know that you are truly listening to any suggestions that they bring to the table. Hear their feedback and concerns in regards to benefits and different programs that you can implement to grow their skills. It is also important to culture and take the best and top performers and development them into leaders within the company. It is important that employees feel challenged with their work. In a medical environment cross training and teamwork is essential, one way to provide a challenge is to let a top performer take a lead on a new project or team based project. This will enable them to grow their leadership skills so that they develop greater responsibilities. Encouraging your employees to have ownership of the practice creates a sense of team. Remember, healthy workplaces for happy employees means noticing and caring for the details that make it enjoyable

 Learn More
Staffing and Hiring: Pearls of Wisdom from SpineSearch - Pro Tips
Extending the Offer - Hiring Pearl Step 6
Interviewing the Candidates - Hiring Pearl Step 4
Advertisement and Recruitment: Hiring Pearl Step 2
Identify the Vacancy / Need Hiring Pearl Step 1
Identifying Qualified Candidates - Hiring Pearl Step 3

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