How to Deal with Patient Refusals to See a Physician Assistant

PA Coaching • August 25, 2023

In the dynamic world of healthcare, encounters between patients and medical professionals can present unique challenges. One common scenario is when a patient expresses reluctance or even refusals to see a Physician Assistant (PA) for their care. In this informative video, we delve into the intricacies of handling such situations with professionalism and empathy.

How to Deal with Patient Refusals to See a Physician Assistant

Dealing with patient refusals to see a Physician Assistant (PA) is an occasional challenge that professionals in the medical field might encounter. While patient refusals are not a common occurrence, it’s essential for PAs to know how to respond in a professional manner when faced with this situation. This article outlines strategies to handle patient refusals effectively and maintain a positive patient-provider relationship.

As a healthcare provider, encountering a patient who refuses to see a physician assistant can be disconcerting. Patients have the right to choose their healthcare provider, and respecting their preferences is paramount. Understanding how to address patient concerns and provide clear explanations about the role and capabilities of a physician assistant is crucial for maintaining trust and delivering quality care.

Preventive Measures

Minimizing patient refusals can be achieved through proactive measures:

  1. Transparency in Scheduling: Ensure that patients are informed upfront about the type of provider they are scheduled to see. Effective communication by administrative staff can help prevent surprises for patients.
  2. Provider Profiles: Display physician assistant profiles on clinic websites to allow patients to learn about their background, experience, and qualifications, similar to how they research physicians.

Handling Patient Refusals

When faced with a patient refusal to see a physician assistant, PAs should approach the situation with professionalism and understanding. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Listen and Understand: If informed by nursing staff or medical assistants that a patient is hesitant to see a PA, do not automatically refrain from entering the room. Pay attention to the patient’s concerns and past experiences.

2. Introduce Yourself: When entering the room, introduce yourself as a PA working collaboratively with the physician. Acknowledge the patient’s preference to see a physician but express your willingness to assist them.

3. Provide Education: Take this opportunity to educate the patient about the role of PAs. Explain that PAs are nationally certified medical practitioners capable of diagnosing, treating, ordering tests, interpreting results, and performing procedures in collaboration with physicians.

4. Address Concerns: If the patient shares a negative experience with a PA in the past, listen attentively. Apologize for their experience and assure them that you are committed to providing excellent care.

5. Focus on Patient Care: Shift the conversation to the patient’s health concerns. Inquire about symptoms, duration, and severity. Offering insights into potential diagnoses and treatment options can foster trust.

6. Use Empathy: Empathize with the patient’s feelings and preferences. Show genuine concern for their well-being and make it clear that you want to help them feel better.

7. Offer Options: If the patient remains hesitant, present them with the option to wait for the physician. Explain that the physician’s availability might lead to a longer wait time.

8. Respect Patient’s Choice: Ultimately, respect the patient’s decision. If they still prefer to see the physician, allow them to do so without any judgment.

9. Maintain Professionalism: Throughout the interaction, maintain a calm and professional demeanor. Avoid becoming defensive or confrontational if the patient insists on not seeing a PA.

10. Collaborate and Advocate: If the patient’s concerns persist, ensure open communication with the physician. Share insights about the patient’s preferences and concerns to facilitate better collaboration.


Patient refusals to see a PA are infrequent but manageable situations in the healthcare field. PAs must approach such encounters with empathy, professionalism, and a commitment to patient-centered care. By providing education, addressing concerns, and focusing on patient needs, PAs can help alleviate patient anxiety and build trust. Remember that patient autonomy is paramount, and respecting their preferences is essential for maintaining a positive patient-provider relationship. Through effective communication and understanding, PAs can successfully navigate patient refusals and continue to provide high-quality care.

Also read: Do’s and Don’ts on PA School Interview Etiquette

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!