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Watch AAPA President, John McGinnity talk about the PA profession and how PAs are helping increase access to healthcare. Watch here: http://bit.ly/CSPANInterview Danielle Di Silvestro Director, Applicant & Student Services, PAEA, CASPA danielle@PAEAonline.org
At the age of 20, I left everything behind in China to start a new life by myself in the United States. Since then, I have experienced the most challenging, exciting, and unforgettable time of my life. I have improved my English; I have adapted to the foreign culture; I have experienced the American college life; and the most important thing is—I have figured out what I want to do with my life: become a Physician Assistant. Before moving to the US, I had completed two years of pre-Med courses. Having always been interested in medicine, I thought becoming a medical doctor was the only logical choice for me. However, I changed my mind after learning about the PA profession through my volunteering experience in an Urgent care facility. I was drawn to PA’s flexibility to work in different fields of medicine and to make decisions on treatments autonomously while also work as a team with physicians to provide patient care. After graduating from University of Pittsburgh, I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Orthopedic Center of Halifax Health hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to see how PAs work in a hospital setting on a regular basis and the roles that PAs play in providing patient care. Once, I had a patient who was brought in from a motorcycle accident with multiple fractured bones. After surgery, she was very anxious and scared. A PA came in to see her. He was very comforting and took time to explain her diagnostic test results, surgery, medications, physical therapy and recovery. Learning about her condition and knowing that she is in good hands, the patient gradually calmed down. The PA’s professional manner, knowledge and compassion were so inspiring that further ignited my passion to become a PA. The presence of PA allows patients to be seen promptly, gives patients the attention that they deserve, and helps the ones who are truly in need. I believe that patient care is more than treating diseases. Working as a CNA, my biggest satisfaction is gaining trust from my patients, who can then open up to me, allowing me to help them both physically and mentally. However, my scope of practice limits how much I can help and I wish I could do more. I want to perform diagnosis, develop treatment plans, consult patients, and follow up with them until they are healthy enough to go back to their normal lives. Moving from China to the US, I have encountered a wide range of people who have different cultures and social backgrounds from me. My experience of absorbing the foreign cultures and growing from the diversity has made me very adaptable when interacting with people. I have realized that many patients in the hospital are under various degrees of emotional stress, and it is very important that healthcare professionals relate to them, communicate effectively, work as a team, and have a positive attitude and gentle demeanor. I have learned a few techniques to improve my ability to interact with my patients. I always memorize their names at the beginning of my shift, and throughout the day, I practice their names and get to know everyone as a person. This has helped increase the comfort level of my patients and improved our communications. In my spare time, I’ve read articles and watch videos about some common diseases or surgeries, like knee or hip replacement, which has helped me relate to my patients. Throughout college, I have learned from my experiences and matured building upon my potential to become a successful PA. As a receptionist in the Urgent Care facility, I registered patients’ information in the computer. This experience taught me the importance of collecting medical history before making any decision, which is a critical skill transferable to practicing as a PA. I also explored the relationship between biomedical research and clinical medicine by working in a pathology lab, an In-vitro fertilization lab, and a lung cancer research lab. These experiences not only gave me an eye for detail, but also generated my interest in reading scientific articles. In the future, I hope to contribute to some research that would have practical values in patient care. Furthermore, I shadowed an orthopedic PA and a neurosurgical PA, who not only showed me how they treat patients in clinic settings, but also gave me the first-hand opportunities to watch them assist in surgeries. I also shadowed a Nurse Practitioner in a Rehabilitation facility, where she has similar responsibility as a primary care PA. This experience reinforced my confidence to truly enjoy the profession where I can actively get involved in the care of patients. I have always dreamed of having a career that is fulfilling and meaningful. After exploring, learning, and working in the medical field, I am positive that PA is what I want to be. Its autonomy, teamwork, and treating patients on a personal level are all the reasons why I’m passionate about this profession. I believe that my academic background and working experiences have prepared me for the demanding, yet rewarding career. I am dedicated, determined, and excited to fulfill this dream.