Physician Assistant (PA) Week is held Oct. 6–12 to honor physician assistants’ substantial role in improving health. In celebration of Brigham PAs and their involvement in nearly every facet of the care across the institution, Brigham Bulletin is highlighting one of the many exceptional physician assistants to cap off PA Week this year.
Looking back on when she joined the Brigham a decade ago as a new physician assistant in the Department of Surgery, Jennifer Beatty, PA-C, still remembers how daunting it all felt at first. Having made a career jump from physical therapy to medicine, she was filled with excitement and anticipation for this next professional chapter.
“Starting off as a brand-new PA was overwhelming. Trying to figure out how to care for complex patients while learning the ins of outs of an academic medical center — it took me a good year to 18 months to feel comfortable rotating into difference services,” Beatty recalled.
Now as the department’s first director of Surgical PAs and Clinical Operations — leading more than 100 surgical PAs and championing multidisciplinary process-improvement efforts — she draws on her years of experience at the bedside and operational expertise.
Continuing to devote 30 percent of her time to clinical practice, Beatty emphasized that staying close to patient care is essential for obtaining an authentic perspective on challenges and opportunities for surgical PAs.
“It’s hard to really know what the problems are without seeing what is happening on the floor, so having someone who can be a link between more senior leaders and frontline clinicians is vital as we all come together to set objectives and improve care,” said Beatty, who has served as director since March.
Among several projects she’s working on is a multidisciplinary effort to streamline patient flow and discharge processes for the Extended Recovery Unit, which serves patients who require overnight observation after a procedure.
Joy Brettler, PA-C, chief physician assistant in the Department of Surgery, applauded Beatty as a tremendous advocate who excels at identifying operational barriers and implementing smart interventions.
“As a surgical PA with nearly a decade of experience as part of the inpatient teams that provide care in General Surgery and Burn/Trauma, Jen understands the logistical issues each department has with hiring, training and retaining PA staff,” Brettler said. “Having her represent our voice and opinions on how to properly integrate and maximally utilize our skills is a huge asset.”
Malcolm Robinson, MD, associate chair of Surgery for Clinical Operations for the Department of Surgery and director of the Nutrition Support Service for its Division of Gastrointestinal and General Surgery, agreed that Beatty was an ideal fit for this new role.
“Jen is an excellent clinician who has the respect of her colleagues. She is a great leader and problem-solver, and she is a hard worker who collaborates well with health care professionals at all levels of responsibility and authority,” said Robinson said. “We are fortunate to have her and look forward to working with her for years to come.”
Above all, Beatty noted she is proud to be part of such an extraordinary group of PAs at the Brigham and have the support of her colleagues as well as hospital leaders, the latter of which include not only Robinson but also Gerard Doherty, MD, chair of Surgery; Kevin Hart, MBA, senior director of Clinical Operations for Surgery; and Jessica Logsdon, MHS, MHA, PA-C, senior director of PA Services.
“PAs have been in the Department of Surgery for 30 years, and we historically haven’t had an administrative structure to support their growth. The hope is that other departments see what we’re doing and adopt a similar model,” Beatty said. “We’re trailblazing a new level of support that our PAs deserve.”