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Reactions to "I'm a Physician Assistant"


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I'm a PA student, not a real live PA yet, but I was recently talking to a friend from high school that I hadn't seen in a few years, this was essentially our conversation:

Me: Yea I just moved for PA school.

Friend: What's PA school?

M: PA as in Physician Assistant, like shorter med school.

F: Oh yea, like the person who checks you in, takes your blood pressure before the doctor comes in?

M: -____-

 

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I NEVER say "assistant". it is also on nothing that represents me. not on business cards, not on CV. not on scripts, etc

Just say no to assistant.

Hi, my name is emedpa, I'm one of the PAs here. what can I do for you today?

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I avoid saying the full name unless backed into a corner.  I say "i'm chad, I'm one of the PA's at the clinic"  When asked "what is that"  I usually say "it's similar to an NP as far as scope of practice and what I can do", because I have found most people either immediately know what a PA is in my area and if not they know what an NP is because they have had several that worked in my area for a long time.  

I don't get bugged by people asking what a PA is, I still get bugged when someone says "So when will you be a full fledged doctor then?" and are confused about why I will never be one.  

My biggest pet peeve however is when I call another facility trying to coordinate a transfer (were a rural primary care FQHC at least an hour from the closest hospital and a 1 hour flight to the closest level 1 or 2 trauma center) and the Doctor I talk to says "have you cleared this transfer with your medical director/supervising physician"

Our medical director is in the office for about 6-8 hours 2 days per month...I have gotten ahold of him on a couple emergent patients when i had the patient in my clinic still, but for the most part by the time a get a call back the critical patient is already on a chopper headed out.   

 

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I've always been taught to introduce oneself (when in practice) as a PA - never as a physician assistant. It's the official position of the AAPA that we no longer use the title physician assistant unless specifically asked what PA stands for. 

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When asked, I always respond with "I'm a PA" and then further define based on the confused look.

When going into a room "Hi, I'm PA DizzyJon and I'll be taking care of you today"

I explain what a PA is if asked and do not make a comparison to NPs unless the individual brings up NPs. 

I don't like saying "I'm one of the PAs" because I feel like what am I just letting them know I'm not the only one working here. 

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Rarely does anyone ask me what a PA is anymore. And rarely do I introduce myself as a PA. I just say "Hey I'm Bruce. Nice to see you today."

I think spelling it out, e.g. "Hey I'm John/Jane, physician assistant " is the WORST way to introduce yourself. I know that's what they force you to do in school but it's just reinforcing the assistant perception.

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2 hours ago, BruceBanner said:

Rarely does anyone ask me what a PA is anymore. And rarely do I introduce myself as a PA. I just say "Hey I'm Bruce. Nice to see you today."

I think spelling it out, e.g. "Hey I'm John/Jane, physician assistant " is the WORST way to introduce yourself. I know that's what they force you to do in school but it's just reinforcing the assistant perception.

You bring up an interesting point. I'm in PA school now and we have been taught to always introduce ourselves as "physician assistants." However, in my clinical experience, none of the PA's I've worked with EVER do this. They always do what you've described. I've been wondering how common it is for PA's to completely omit mentioning their job title when introducing themselves to patients. Granted, this is in the emergency department, so it isn't like you have an ongoing relationship with these patients. I can understand why it would might be more important for patients in a longer-term relationship with their provider to understand their role. 

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15 minutes ago, karebear12892 said:

You bring up an interesting point. I'm in PA school now and we have been taught to always introduce ourselves as "physician assistants." However, in my clinical experience, none of the PA's I've worked with EVER do this. They always do what you've described. I've been wondering how common it is for PA's to completely omit mentioning their job title when introducing themselves to patients. Granted, this is in the emergency department, so it isn't like you have an ongoing relationship with these patients. I can understand why it would might be more important for patients in a longer-term relationship with their provider to understand their role. 

LOL, we're the opposite. We are taught to simply introduce ourselves as "PA" and in our case "PA Student"

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I just avoid the headache by starting out with: "Hi, I'm SoCal_PA and I'll be the one seeing you today. So you've been having back pain huh?

 

I have PA both on my scrubs (I choose to not wear a white coat in the ER) and on my badge. 

 

Or if I can tell they need an explanation...

Me: I went to college for 4 years and then a type of medical school for 3 years and got a masters degree. I can diagnose, treat, order tests, and prescribe medication. 

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17 hours ago, karebear12892 said:

You bring up an interesting point. I'm in PA school now and we have been taught to always introduce ourselves as "physician assistants." However, in my clinical experience, none of the PA's I've worked with EVER do this. They always do what you've described. I've been wondering how common it is for PA's to completely omit mentioning their job title when introducing themselves to patients. Granted, this is in the emergency department, so it isn't like you have an ongoing relationship with these patients. I can understand why it would might be more important for patients in a longer-term relationship with their provider to understand their role. 

PA "name" is the way to go.  I think to completely omit your professional title can then be potentially misleading to patients.  Yes, I have PA on my scrubs and name badge, but people don't always read and/or listen. 

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I'm a student as well, and our faculty have allowed us to say "PA student" or "physician assistant student", whichever we prefer. But they've encouraged us to use PA when we finish school. 

As far as reactions in general, I've told people what I'm doing and I'd say 90% react with "oh wow, that's awesome", "Good for you, congratulations!" "That's a great field, I love my PAs I've seen!" This, in an area that is growing increasingly friendly to PAs both in terms of opportunities but also laws have improved within the last 5 years. And also in an area that is historically NP-dominated (tides are changing). 

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Tell them PA stands for "Party Assistant" or "Practically Anything."

I introduce myself as my first name, then followed by PA working WITH not FOR Dr. XXX in CV Surgery. 

Never had anyone belittle me or be a turd, but have had a few people ask the same "when will you be a doctor" or "Are you the nurse."  I smile and carry on, usually giving no huge explanation and let what I am offering do the speaking for me. 

 

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I'm probably in the minority here because I am, after all, a PA with only 1.5 years of experience in a FQHC clinic. Maybe my opinion will change after several more years in practice. But I have no problem introducing myself as a physician assistant. Introducing myself as a PA is confusing to my patients. I explain what my scope is and most of my patients don't care either way, as long as they get good care and have a provider who listens to them. Of course, I do get a couple of patients here and there who will only see an MD. 

I can see the negative connotation associated with "assistant," but at the same time, many PAs do assist MDs in certain specialties (ie, surgery). Now we prefer the term "collaborate" since it has less of a negative ring to it. I'm just not sure what the big deal is about the name change. Even if our title is to change, I'm not sure if it will make much of a difference considering we are still not MDs, and there will still be patients and other doctors wanting to only interact with MDs.

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Guest Paula

I say, I'm Paula, I'm a PA and will be taking care of you today   (that's to the new patient who got squeezed in to my schedule).  IF they ask what is a PA, I say: PAs have a masters degree in medicine and I see you are here today for your extra long nose hairs and were seen in the ER a couple of days ago.  LOL!  At the end  of the appointment they say: Thanks, Doc. You're the first doctor that's ever taken time to listen to me about the saga of my nose hairs.

I say: I'm a PA so you still can't say a doctor has  listened to you.

To my regular patients: Hi, how are you????  What's new and hows the weather, I haven't had time to even look out the window today!   How's your grandson's studies going at Harvard?  Cool!!!   What can I help you with today?  Then the appointment commences.  

Then they give me a hug and say You're the best doctor i've ever had.  

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I still introduce myself as a physician assistant - the vast majority of Canadians outside of the military haven't come across that many, if any.  I explain what I do if asked...as noted, most people just want to be heard and looked after well.

Due to the fishing and hunting around here, I do run into the odd American who usually understands what I am and can do for them.

SK

 

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