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Applying to PA school for the first time

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You’ve hit the snooze button twice already and class starts in 30 minutes. Deep down you find the strength to roll out of bed and just make it to the coffee machine. The floor is cold on your feet and you want nothing more than to be back in the mountain of blankets and pillows you just crept out of. After rubbing the sleep from your eyes and drinking that first sip of warm hazelnut coffee you open the daily planner on your desk and observe your agenda for the day. You’ll be on campus for class from 8-3:30 in the afternoon. After class you have work from 4-11pm. As soon as you clock out from work you’ve planned to go straight to the library. You expect to be there most of the evening and into the wee hours of the morning to study for the anatomy exam you have at 11 the following day. The schedule is daunting and you place your head in your hands, close your eyes and try to imagine how you’re going to get through this day.

Each and every day for the past 3 years this was my reality. Waking up and feeling like the weight of the world would be too much for me that day was a constant struggle. Sure it was easy to give up and quit, but then I reminded myself of all the goals and aspirations I wanted to accomplish in the near future. Life doesn’t slow down for anyone. In order to keep up, I had to push forward with each day in order to get one step closer to my dream of becoming a physician assistant.

As a health major I have learned that good health goes beyond simply the absence of disease and this term encompasses all aspects of a person’s life including their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. My shadowing experience with a cardiologist and his PA, Sarah, really opened my eyes to the role that health professionals play in their patients’ lives. Many of the patients that were coming in with heart disease were severely overweight and this put a heavy strain on their heart and their day to day activities, such as going to work and caring for their families. It was incredible to see how Sarah used her knowledge and expertise in the field of medicine to help her patients understand how important it is to pay special attention to their health. A healthy person nearly always has the capacity to do more and experience more. With my degree in allied health I hope to increase the health literacy of my patients. I would achieve this by instilling and promoting healthy behaviors that complement their lifestyles.

A career as a physician assistant allows a lot of mobility and this is a very attractive aspect of the profession. One PA that I met during a meeting with my professional organization on campus described some of his experiences as a PA working in pediatrics, urology, cardiology, and now brain and spinal surgery. I was really blown away by the variety of specialties he had worked in. Ever since I can remember, science has always captivated me and has encouraged my medical curiosity. While many students dread taking anatomy and physiology, I jumped at the opportunity to absorb all the information I could about the human body. The complexity of the body and all of its integrated systems inspire me to dive deeper and learn even more. There are many fields of medicine that appeal to me and my interests continue to grow as I shadow and volunteer. I am seeking a career that will provide me the kind of freedom that a PA has to move from specialty to specialty, unlike a doctor.

I’ll never forget the day I was volunteering in the pre-op department. I was busy making a patient’s bed when I heard muffled sobs from the room next door. As I pushed the bed into the room I noticed a troubled young girl. After asking if she needed anything else I escorted myself out of her room and back to the nurses station. Curiously I looked at the surgery board and saw the letters “D&C” next to her room number. I immediately knew what this meant and my heart sank. She looked as if she was about my age and was completely alone. My initial reaction was to criticize and question her decision. I didn’t fully put myself into her shoes until she was taken to the operating room. The more I thought about it, the more I began to empathize with her. I didn’t know her as a person, her life story, or her circumstances. As a health professional this is a situation I will surely encounter. It will be important for me to set my ethics aside and focus solely on my patient’s needs. All patients are entitled to fair treatment regardless of their demographics or background.

Ever since I was 16 years old, I have held a job. Sometimes two jobs and one summer even three! Most recently, I’ve been keeping up with a heavy course load while waiting tables to pay bills in college. Working while in college is not easy and has many challenges but it is helping me manage my time wisely and reduce the financial burden on my parents. Through the years I’ve learned valuable lessons about working in today’s society and understanding that everyone plays an important role. Just as I played a part in keeping a busy restaurant rolling, physician assistants play an integral role in the field of medicine and in their patients' lives. My future patients need to be happy and healthy to fulfill their roles in society. My role would consist of helping my patients develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

 “The customer is always right.” What does this overused quote heard many times in retail and restaurant businesses have to do with my interest in becoming a PA? Working as a waitress for almost 3 years taught me a lot about customer service. Unlike diners at their favorite restaurant, customers at hospitals or clinics better known as patients usually do not want to be there. From shadowing I have learned that working as a medical professional consists of understanding the science and the medicine that goes into treating a person. This is only half the job. A successful PA should also be able to deliver healthcare ensuring that the patient feels completely comfortable and understood. I have noticed that doctors, PAs, and nurses all share a similar characteristic when talking to their patients. When it is clear that a patient does not understand the medical terminology, it is up to the provider to communicate with the patient in less technical terms in order for them to fully comprehend the matter. Each patient will come in expecting you to have mastered the medicine, but they also want to be treated like a unique individual and not just another check-box on your to do list. Customer service in healthcare is about listening to the patients needs. I am eager to hear my patient’s stories, get to the root of their pain, and understand their fears.

The culmination of experience and research that I have done into the profession has all contributed to my profound desire to become a PA. I believe I have an established record of academic excellence and will continue to challenge myself throughout PA school and into the rewarding career that lies ahead. The ability to motivate, inspire and demonstrate excellent customer skills are qualities I acquired as a server trainer. My propensity to teach, share knowledge, and inspire co-workers may someday lead me to become an educator in the PA profession. My never-ending desire to broaden my knowledge and expand my horizons is a driving force that will help me achieve my goal. I may not know where the future of our country’s healthcare system lies, but I am certain I am destined to become part of the growing and evolving profession that is a physician assistant.

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