Career Spotlight: Bridget McGrath

Bridget McGrath
Bridget McGrath, PA

This is the latest in a series of interviews with hospital medicine clinicians connected to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) to share insights, knowledge, and expertise about career opportunities, growth, and development. Today we hear from Bridget McGrath, PA.

Bridget McGrath, MPAS, PA-C, FHM graduated in 2014 from the Butler University Physician Assistant Program in Indianapolis, Ind. She started her career as a meds/peds hospital medicine physician assistant (PA) at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Ind., and transitioned to the University of Chicago in Illinois in 2017 where she currently serves as the director of NP/PA hospital medicine services and interprofessional education section co-lead for the section of hospital medicine.

Ms. McGrath holds external appointments at Butler University Physician Assistant Program (affiliate faculty) and Midwestern Physician Assistant Program in Downers Grove, Ill., (adjunct clinical instructor), and serves as an annual guest lecturer at Chicago’s Rush University Doctorate of Acute Care NP Gerontology Program on the topic of Acute Management of Upper and Lower GI Bleeds. She is active nationally in the Society of Hospital Medicine serving as an executive member for the NP/PA Special Interest Group, previous invited membership committee member, and current invited academic committee member. She has a strong passion for interprofessional education, NP/PA academic and professional development, and the value of NP/PA-physician bidirectional mentorship.

1. What made you decide to choose hospital medicine as a career path, and specifically your specialty?

My first clinical rotation was a hospital medicine rotation during which my preceptor told me the goal was not to understand every aspect of medicine, but to learn how to exist in a hospital setting. I was exposed to the breadth of hospital medicine practice, and I fell in love with the complexity, the variety, the interprofessional nature, and the environment itself.

That love for hospital medicine has remained. I’ve also grown to appreciate the academic mission and how it’s grounded in the philosophy of continuous improvement, mentorship, and professional development. I value how this can have an impact on not only your career but the history and future development of medicine for those who come after. This has led to my passion for working in academic hospital medicine.

2. What does a typical workday look like for you?

I work at an urban academic referral center in which I am privileged to work at my highest scope of practice. Clinically, I work on both general medicine and transplant co-management services in a team-based approach with my physician colleagues. I also have a passion for medical education and participate in precepting physician assistant (PA) students.

My clinical work is augmented by my administrative role as the director of NP/PA hospital medicine services in which I have the privilege of working with leadership to focus on quality improvement and clinical operation projects as well as focus on the professional development of my NP/PA colleagues.

3. What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?

According to the 2020 SHM State of Hospital Medicine Report, 88% of hospitalist groups employ NP/PAs. However, a recent study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine identified that of 43 academic centers surveyed, fewer than 50% used NP/PAs within non-clinical roles such as medical education, quality improvement, and research.

I’m proud of the work my interprofessional education (IPE) task force has done to help bridge this gap through the development of a novel framework—L.E.A.D.

L.E.A.D is:
L=Leadership roles/opportunities
E=Embedding your idea or passion project into preexisting structures such as committees and task forces
A D=Academic Development and mentorship of these leaders

By using this framework, we grew our IPE curriculum and participation 10-fold. I’m particularly proud of our main academic output which was the development, implementation, and research of a virtual PA rotation for students negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

Two of the hardest times in my career came from points of transition. The first was starting my first role as a meds/peds hospital medicine PA at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Ind. The second was when I started my current job at the University of Chicago. I became passionate about the value of a strong onboarding program and the importance of a collaborative and supportive team environment because of these transitions. I leaned on my support system, identified mentors, and read many articles about onboarding and business tactics related to career transitions. I particularly remember a Forbes article that recommended diversifying the pool of individuals you ask questions of and how this can lead to a well-rounded understanding of the company culture, deepen your understanding of different points of view, and lend itself to building organic mentorship relationships.

5. How did the global pandemic affect your day-to-day working life?

The global pandemic was a catalyst for rapid growth, adaptation, innovation, and change within health care. The biggest lesson I learned was that to continue to serve patients and their families, you had to accept living in a state of perpetual uncertainty. This uncertainty, though taxing, has the added benefit of making you more adaptable to change and lends itself to innovations that positively impact patients. I remain grateful to my NP/PA team, physician colleagues, and SHM leadership for all they have done to help during this time. They have remained responsive to frontline providers, developed a wellness committee to meet provider needs, and operationalized a daily leadership call and structure that we deploy during times of surges to meet section, provider, and patient needs.

6. Where would you like to see your career path going next?

I have a passion for NP/PA professional development. I’m remarkably grateful for my mentors who have helped develop me during my early to mid-career years. In the next phase of my career, I hope to transition from being a mentee to more of a mentor role for the next generation of academic NP/PAs. In doing so, I hope to continue to be instrumental in building a strong NP/PA academic team at the University of Chicago and building relationships with other NP/PA/physicians with similar interests on a local, regional, and national level.

7. What membership benefits offered by the Society of Hospital Medicine have helped you in your career?

  • Reduced cost and variability of conferences. I have found the variety of conferences to be the main contributor to my professional development. I have attended the SHM/AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistant) Adult Hospital Medicine Bootcamp, multiple Converge events including the pre-courses such as the Leadership Summit, Academic Hospitalist Academy Level 1, and most recently the Influential Management Track at Leadership Academy. At each event, I leave with new ideas to bring back to my home institution and a renewed sense of pride and excitement for being a hospital medicine PA.
  • Onboarding resources. The NP/PA SIG provides a plethora of onboarding resources that I have used when either onboarding new providers or when mentoring other NP/PAs through their own onboarding at other institutions.
  • Opportunities for professional development. Being involved in the SIGs and committees has opened doors for leadership roles that have challenged my personal and professional development and deepened my understanding of the complexities of our healthcare system.
  • Networking. The biggest benefit SHM has provided is the opportunity to network with other hospital medicine practitioners across the country. The inspiration, resource sharing, bidirectional mentorship, and professional development this network has provided are immeasurable.

8. Do you belong to any SHM SIGs (special interest groups), chapters, or committees? If so, which ones and why?

I served as the NP/PA SIG co-chair from 2019–2021 and remain an executive member. I served on the membership committee from 2018–2020 and have served on the academic committee since 2021. Within the academic committee, I have participated in planning the speed mentoring event at SHM Converge, serving as the liaison to the NP/PA SIG during the pilot NP/PA speed mentoring year. I also served on the academic leadership summit planning group. Each of these opportunities has aligned with my career passions and I have personally enjoyed the opportunity to learn from others in the field which has helped with my leadership development.

9. What impact has SHM had in shaping your career?

SHM has been my professional home since 2017. When you are part of SHM you open the door to a world of endless possibilities, which helps to not only form a strong clinical and professional foundation but offer the opportunity for continuous development for the next phase of your career. I strongly believe I wouldn’t be as passionate about working in hospital medicine if it weren’t for the opportunities, career development, networking, and resources SHM provides.

10. What is a piece of advice you would share with job seekers or offer a new hospital medicine NP or PA just beginning their career?

Be a sponge, be a team player, and be open to change. You don’t need to know everything when you start, but you do need to be invested in being a lifelong learner, putting the team above yourself, and being open to where your career takes you. Finally, never underestimate the power of mentorship. I would not be the PA I am today if it wasn’t for the numerous people who took a chance on me. Don’t forget the individuals who take a chance on you, and when given the opportunity make sure you give back to others as they gave to you.

11. Is there a particular area of specialty medicine you enjoy working with, such as clinical care, teaching, or research? Why?

I have a passion for medical education. Medical education reminds me why I got into medicine and helps me stay current on medical trends. I love seeing my students develop, their excitement for medicine, and how my patients interact with them. I appreciate how the students challenge me to defend my treatment plans and find ways to present material in new and innovative ways.

12. Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?

I think something unique about my career path is the strong physician sponsorship I’ve been blessed to receive. I know many doors were open to me because a physician colleague advocated for NP/PAs to have a seat at the table. Once welcomed, I continued to receive extensive mentorship for skill development in the clinical, leadership, and academic realms. This demonstration of interprofessional support and bidirectional mentorship has taught me that together the hospital medicine community can be stronger, more well-rounded, and meet the needs of our patients, health care community, and one another.

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