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  1. It is estimated that approximately one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. Approximately twenty percent of adolescents experience severe mental disorder in a given year. Yet approximately sixty percent of adults and almost fifty percent of adolescents with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year. What does this have to do with my aspirations to become a physician assistant? No, it is not a cheap ploy to display an impressive ability to regurgitate facts. Nor is it my attempt to set the stage for an emotional rollercoaster recounting my life experiences. I find my passions lie in mental wellness. I have always been known for my caring and compassionate nature – my nickname all throughout high school and college was “momma bear”. From holding a friend’s hair back while they were sick to providing hours of “talk therapy” to friends and family, I have made it clear to all that know me that I am dedicated to making the lives of others better in more than the traditional means. As many do, I underwent a few changes in character growing up. I have developed into what I feel is a confident, motivated, ambitious young woman. However, my kindness, encouragement, and altruism have remained constant aspects of my character from a young age. I have always found fulfillment in making someone feel better, in both physical and mental ailments alike. So, I naturally gravitated towards the medical field. What better way to do what I love than to dedicate my career to helping people? More than that, however, I aimed to find a profession that would allow me to improve the quality of someone’s life in a significant way. Mental illness has had pervasive impacts on my life in sundry ways. Growing up, I was privy to the secrets of my closest friends and family. Such a degree of trust meant that not only was I entrusted with helping these individuals on a regular basis, but that I ultimately talked these individuals down from suicide attempts. Being the person others turn to in their time of need is both an enormous compliment and a responsibility I do not bear lightly. I was not immune to the stresses I was saddled with in life either. Specifically, my first year of my undergrad career was an enormous undertaking for me. Between the transition to living away from home (an especially difficult feat for a sheltered Middle Eastern girl) and all the changes that come with it, I was struggling. This was also the year that my PCOS was diagnosed, and managing its symptoms came with its own challenges. These factors, coupled with more personal reasons I will not disclose, resulted in a depression I was not sure how to handle well. I was on the flip side of the coin I felt so comfortable with previously, and instead of taking the advice I had dished out to others myriad times, I decided to do what many do in my same situation: nothing. My grades fell drastically compared to my marks in high school, and my relationships with family, old friends at home, and new friends at school faltered. Eventually, I decided enough was enough and I sought assistance through therapy options offered to me through my university. When I mentioned my aspirations of entering psychiatry and therapy as a PA, my therapist responded with: “Any therapist will tell you, we don’t much trust the ones that are not in therapy themselves”. With these words, she reminded me that there is no reason to stigmatize mental illness, and that therapy is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength. With her support and guidance, I was able to get back on my feet; my grades rose, I restored my relationships with family and friends, and I maintained healthy behaviors throughout the remainder of my college experience and beyond. I was able to graduate from my university in three years with two degrees, began working as a volunteer EMT (at a rescue squad that I frequently refer to as my second home), and experienced the joys and sadnesses that come with growing into a healthy, contributing member of society. This begs the question, though: why physician assisting? The simple truth is that every aspect of the career appeals to me, from the high level of patient interaction, the close level of care and monitoring, and the team-oriented approach the position provides. Not only do I work well in a group setting, I also thrive independently; the profession provides me with the luxury of having both, a rare level of balance not found in other vocations. Moreover, I recognize that my interests may change as my time in PA school progresses, and that I already have vested interests in multiple medical specialties (some being neurology, orthopedics, emergency medicine, and family medicine). Working as a PA provides me with an unparalleled career motility that allows me with the chance to thrive in any field. I believe I embody all of the necessary characteristics a PA requires in order to be successful. I am hard-working, shrewd, and industrious. I relish an opportunity to be intellectually stimulated and take every opportunity to challenge myself mentally and physically; give me a brain teaser and I will be sure to work it out within minutes. I enjoy “people-watching”: I pride myself on being observant of others, their feelings, and their behaviors. I find satisfaction in learning about someone and finding ways to help them. I am a social chameleon, primed to adapt to any environment, and maintain a good head on my shoulders in high-stress situations. In short, I have not been able to see myself in any other profession since learning about physician assisting, and will do whatever it takes to realize my goals.
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