Success as a PA

As we continue with the PA Leadership series, this was one of my very first blog posts, and I thought I should repost, since it seemed so relevant. Reflection is an important part of being a PA and this post highlights some things you can do starting today which can help you move forward in your career.

What is Success?

When you reflect on your career as a physician assistant, how will you define your success?

When I was in college, I had a list of goals that I brought with me to interviews. Items included bullet points with short phrases such as “graduate paramedic school” “gain experience as a paramedic in a trauma center” “get an associates degree” “graduate summa cum laude” “get a bachelor’s degree” go to a fantastic PA school, etc.  Each time I completed a task, I added a check mark.

As I reflect on that time of my life, those check marks were my definition of success. It meant I had completed a goal, a task, that I had been working towards. Since then, I got married, I graduated from my top PA program, had children, bought a house, worked in emergency medicine and then specialized in pediatric emergency medicine. My definition of success has changed.

Success is all relative and depends largely on where you are in life. It often is more easily edited by looking at immediate and long-term goals. Since I started working as a PA and had a family, my goals have more depth and are more complex than ever before. They have also exponentially multiplied- from roughly ten goals to literally hundreds. My personal and professional list are merged in my brain- and would seem quite random. Today, my goal list would include potty training my toddler, getting more guidelines developed for my hospital, pay off student loans, plan a trip with my husband, get a research paper published, pick the right kindergarten for my four year old, spend more time with my family, take a leadership role within my hospital, spend more time with my husband’s family, plan a play date with a friend and her children.. the list goes on (and on…).

Your Definition of Success

Success is really what you make it and the road to success looks different for everyone. Some define their success as a PA by their hourly rate or salary, others will define it by the care they provide, and others by the impact they have on their community or how much time the mid profession allows them to spend with their family and friends. I define success differently at each stage of my life, which includes a little of all of those definitions I’ve mentioned.


I suggest making a list of five goals to help you define your success. Think about them carefully. Include one or two short-term goals, but make sure the majority are long-term goals.

Some examples:

  1. Create a clinical guideline or pathway
  2. Increase press ganey scores
  3. Work with operations to organize and streamline the suture (or tools) cart
  4. Start a research project
  5. Increase patients per hour
  6. Make bonus
  7. Increase RVUs
  8. Improve documentation
  9. Publish an article
  10. Develop an orientation packet for new PAs
  11. Work on a business plan with your supervising physician

Vision and Mission Statements:

One of the best ways to focus on your goals is to create a mission statement. There are lots of resources out there to do this, and I will probably dedicate a future post to this- but for now, just think about a statement of purpose for your role as a physician assistant. The book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” has a few chapters dedicated to this.

Some other questions you can ask yourself to define your success:

  • When you explain what a Physician Assistant is, what points do you focus on?
  • When you interview as a PA, what is the top three important interview questions you ask?
  • What would make you happier at your current position?
  • Is money (salary, hourly wage, bonus structure) more important than having personal time (vacations, no weekends or holidays, no call)?

One of my goals is that EmpoweredPAs.com helps physician assistants find their definition of success. I always welcome feedback, and I hope you use it as a resource for all your goals.


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.