A Letter To My Supervising Physician:

I see you.

Staying past your already too long shift to help care for a sick patient. Staying to help our team care for a patient, to assess and decide, to intubate and stabilize. I see you.

I see you stress when the waiting room has exploded, and we are drowning in a sea of acuity and need. When the nurses and staff need guidance, and when you’ve been asked to answer your tenth phone call amongst the chaos.

I see your face when we are told we have to use a less effective method because people we’ve never met decided it.

I watch as our patients’ family argues with you as though they have also graduated from the medical school you are still paying for.

I see you place your hand on the shoulder of a crying mother. I watched you do everything you were trained to do and still had to deliver bad news.

I see you checking on a patient, making phone calls or looking up their results to see how they are doing.

I watch as your profession is eroded away by social media posts and lawyers and angry families who are looking for blame. I watch how bad doctors make good doctors look like bad doctors.

I see you.

I am a physician assistant, a “PA”, an advanced practice provider and I want to know that we are a team. I have also delivered bad news, cried with patients and made late phone calls to check on them. I too have worried for them and with them.

Of course you already know this, but please hear me- I am here for you and with you in these moments and I want you to know I have your back.

I may not always get it right. Sometimes I order a test you wouldn’t have, I may have been looking for horses when you were concerned for a zebra. Sometimes, I may ask why you’ve added a test- not to question you but to learn your reasoning and your way of doing things. Sometimes, I am balancing your way with your (our) colleagues’ way, while finding and practicing my own way at the same time.

We have a symbiotic relationship. It is in my best interest for you to succeed and it is in your best interest for me to succeed. When we work together with our patients and our team are the people who benefit.

My goal is to provide the best care to our patients, to grow professionally and also allowing you to grow your practice and reach further than before. From you, I need knowledge and trust. I rely on you to also be up to date on current practice, and I rely on you to put the patient’s wellbeing and health first. If you are frustrated at my level of knowledge then I rely on you to help guide me. I also rely on you to stand in my corner when I am mistreated.

I have been disrespected and belittled by supervising physicians. I have also been commended and awarded by supervising physicians. My growth depends on you. I don’t need frequent praise or fancy plaques- I need respect and opportunity. When I can grow, I can shine.

My profession is still quite young. It grew out of a need, and as it has evolved, has been clear that the physician and PA relationship is built on teamwork.

So, to my supervising physicians, past, and present thank you. Every one of you has taught me something, and I hope I’m a better PA for it.


Physician Assistant, Owner and Blogger at EmpoweredPAs.com. Currently practicing in a Pediatric Emergency Department, overseeing and developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines with teams of amazing people, supporting and mentoring Pre-PA and PA Students, with a hope to advance our profession and give PAs the tools and resouces they need to advance their careers.