The 5 Most Important Leadership Qualities for a PA

PAs are in a unique position in that they must act as both leader and team player depending on the situation.  Many PAs will find themselves needing to step up in the moment and lead a team without a second thought while still maintaining a “group effort” mentality.  If you don’t have the ability to work well in both roles, you may find yourself unable to keep up with the professional demands of the job.

How can you prepare to fill the role of both the leader and team player? Besides focusing on your communication and planning skills, there are specific traits you can work on to help feel more comfortable jumping between leadership and collaboration mode.

The five most important traits of a balanced PA are:

  1. Insight
  2. Artful Negotiation
  3. Fortitude
  4. Partnership
  5. Reasoning

1. Insight
Having insight into the needs of those around you is of the utmost importance.  Understanding the needs of your co-workers can be just as important as understanding the needs of your patients because it helps you foster a sense of cooperation within your team.  If you’re able to provide for your team’s needs while rallying them towards accomplishing your goal, the goal you’ve proposed becomes the common goal and your team will be more willing to work towards it together.

Recognizing the needs of others is also valuable as a leader because it shows you have empathy for the people around you.  If you can put yourself in their shoes, you’ll have a greater success in negotiating and communicating with your patients and healthcare team.

  1. Artful Negotiation
    The phrase “pick your battles” truly applies when acting as a leader. When you encounter a disagreeable person, you shouldn’t engage them or fight to win whenever a conflict arises.  A great leader will get along with those who have differences while not ignoring those differences.  If there’s a particular point of conflict, acknowledge there’s an issue, communicate with the person having the conflict, and work on a way to resolve it, even if both parties need to compromise.

You may be asked during your interview to discuss a time when you were in a leadership role and engaged in conflict resolution. Having the patience and skills to resolve conflicts within your own team is invaluable as a PA, so make sure your response shows that you considered each party’s position before coming to a resolution.

3. Fortitude
Good team members will have the fortitude to dissent if they think their supervising physician, nurse, or anyone else on their team is doing something that may harm the patient.  It’s never an easy situation to be in and requires conviction in your assessment of the situation, but it’s an important action to take when working as a part of a team rather than as a leader.

Being a good team player means being fully engaged in the patient’s care.  It means being attentive and having the confidence to speak out when you think something is wrong.  It also means being an advocate and supporting your supervising physician or nurse when they’re making correct decisions.

During your interview, you may be posed with an ethical question regarding this type of situation. You’ll likely be asked about someone in a supervising role taking a course of treatment that you do not agree with because it’s potentially harmful to the patient and how you’d handle this situation.  Make sure your answer is tactful, but not bashful.  Remember- patient care always comes first!

4. Partnership
Team members can “make or break” the perceived value of a leader.  Taking an attitude of ownership in your department can have a large effect on when and how goals are met.  Often, PAs are the ones who are doing clinical work while the supervising physician gets most of the credit.  Leadership as a PA comes from being a good partner to those working around them, without separating those individuals out as working “above” or “below” them.  If you focus less on where everyone falls within the rank and file and focus more on teamwork, you’ll have a much easier time providing care.

In any given healthcare scenario, whether it involves ongoing treatment or an emergency, no single person is responsible for a successful outcome.  The only way you can truly find success is through a relationship with those around you rooted in partnership and teamwork.  At your interview, you may be asked about the PA/physician relationship.  While it’s understood that PAs work under the supervision of a physician, you’d be much better served explaining the relationship as a partnership rather than a strict hierarchical structure.

5. Reasoning

You need to be able to think for yourself to be a great PA.  The best PAs support and aid the supervising physician when they are doing the right thing, and speak out when they’re headed down the wrong treatment path. That being said, you need to be able to justify your objections clearly with sound logic and reason.  Before you speak out, make sure you have a clear analysis of the situation and a full understanding of all factors involved. Just remember, the only difference between being outspoken and being stubborn is sound reasoning and facts!