A Day in the Life of a Plastic Surgery PA: Emily Hedley, PA-C

Another fabulous post for our blog series A Day in the Life of a PA. Emily Hedley, MSM, PA-C tells us what her day to day life is like as a plastic surgery PA! Interestingly, she also has a background in dermatology as well, so she has great insight as to some things they each do differently. If you are interested in either of these specialties, check out her post below!

Tell us a little about yourself, which PA program you graduated from and when you graduated.

I am the first person in my family to pursue a career in medicine. I am married with three children and a high-energy dog named Sledder! I attended Michigan State University for undergrad earning a pre-med degree in Nutritional Sciences. In 2011, I graduated from Western Michigan University’s PA program.

What is your current specialty?

I am currently working in plastic surgery but worked in dermatology the first 5 ½ years of my career. Fortunately, I still perform many of the dermatologic procedures that I loved but was able to expand my scope of practice into plastic surgery.

Why did you choose this specialty?

I am a visual learner, so a career working with the skin was a natural interest. Procedures are also very interesting to me, so going from excising a skin cancer in one room to injecting botox in the next keeps the days fast-paced and varied, which I love. I also find that many of my patients are in need of frequent follow-up for their conditions, so I am able to get to know them and their families on a personal level which I believe helps to build a strong patient-provider relationship.

What type of environment do you work in (hospital, clinic, administration, or a mix)?

Mostly clinic, first-assist in the OR for some cases when clinic days are slower.

What is your schedule like?

Do you work Monday through Friday, weekends, holidays, night shifts? Monday-Wednesday currently, no weekends, no holidays.

 Do you take call?


Describe a typical day like for you?

Typically see 20-23 patients a day. I perform skin cancer examinations, scar management, acne treatment, skincare/wrinkle assessments, pre and post-operative visits and wound care, etc. Procedures vary from skin biopsies/excisions, to skin cancer excisions, Botox injections, intralesional steroid injections, cyst extractions, etc.

Do you start in a clinic or hospital setting, do you stay there for the entire day?

Typically in the clinic all day. However, on the OR days I assist on the first case first thing in the morning and then head to the clinic for the rest of the day.

What time do you start and finish?

Start in the clinic arriving at 7:45 am and ending around 5:30 pm.

Are you an hourly or salaried employee?


Do you think your wage is comparable to your specialty in your location?


How autonomous are you, what types of things do you involve your supervising physician for and what do you do on your own?

I am able to practice relatively autonomously but am thankful to be able to consult with my collaborating physician for challenging cases (he has been practicing for 20 years). Cases I typically consult on are complex wound management, skin cancers that require my collaborating physician’s surgical skills for treatment and ED facial fracture patients.

Is this typical for your specialty or more specific to your situation?

Probably a combination. With my background in dermatology, we have the ability to help a large population of skin cancer patients and the more complex cases require the plastic surgeon’s expertise/input.

Do you currently participate in any administrative tasks or have a leadership position, formal or informal?

I am involved in some of the ancillary staff decision making as well as public relations events.

Do you think this augments or hinders your other responsibilities?


What advice would you give to a PA who is considering working in your specialty?

Do not be discouraged by job postings that say experience required. I have found that many collaborating physicians are willing to train if a prospective PA is dedicated to learning and proves they are teachable. A surgical background with a concentration on suturing technique, etc is beneficial.

What is the one thing you wish PAs in other specialties knew before calling or referring to your practice?

Thankfully, I have been able to establish solid referral sources and so typically they are referring in an appropriate manner. Something that would be helpful for the new patient referrals to be aware of is that often skin treatments take time to work and that insurance does not always cover the gold-standard treatment (which can be very frustrating at times).

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Both dermatology and plastic surgery are amazing fields to work in. Finding a collaborating physician that is respectful of PAs and values them as a member of the team is imperative. This team approach is the key to delivering excellent patient care.

Thanks again to Emily for answering our questions about her work as a plastic surgery PA and also providing some insight into working in dermatology.  There are so many fantastic specialties a PA can work in, and these are just a few excellent examples.


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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.