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Shadowed 1 PA - Different Than Expected. Thoughts?


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Hi,

I was fortunate to shadow one PA who was amazing, it was family medicine in a clinic 9-5 type of gig. She was very nice and transparent. In all honesty, there were parts of the job I did not feel were all that great for example, majority of the patient experience was amazing.

Things that I wasn't sure about:

  • Seemed like a good amount of computer work between patient's - one of the reason's I am pre-PA is to try to not be locked to a computer so much.
  • The area was rough and there were some homeless patient's etc. so that was sort of eye opening and I noticed to be an effective PA you need to truly touch and be very close to all types of people. In particular the homeless person with an infected hand and the woman coughing all over everything was something I was a little taken back with initially.

Overall, I loved the patient interactions and feel if I were the actual PA it would be that much more fun to troubleshoot and problem solve. I have another shadow opportunity in a completely different specialization (neurology) which I am very excited about. My main questions were:

  1. Did you know right away after Shadowing, PA was the right fit for you? 100%? Or did it take a few settings and time to find out where you envisioned your dream specialization.
  2. Is it realistic to think I could eventually become a PA and get away from more of the 9-5 office setting? Something more fast paced and maybe shift work?
  3. I believe the area where the clinic was located (in the ghetto) and demographic sort of played into the experience, is that a tale tell sign I could be wrong for the profession?

Please be as honest as possible as I am considering a career shift and I can handle the truth. I am trying to approach the situation as realistic as possible but there are still many "blind spots" as I have only shadowed one PA thus far.

Thank you very much in advance!!

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18 hours ago, Codes said:

Hi,

I was fortunate to shadow one PA who was amazing, it was family medicine in a clinic 9-5 type of gig. She was very nice and transparent. In all honesty, there were parts of the job I did not feel were all that great for example, majority of the patient experience was amazing.

Things that I wasn't sure about:

  • Seemed like a good amount of computer work between patient's - one of the reason's I am pre-PA is to try to not be locked to a computer so much.
  • The area was rough and there were some homeless patient's etc. so that was sort of eye opening and I noticed to be an effective PA you need to truly touch and be very close to all types of people. In particular the homeless person with an infected hand and the woman coughing all over everything was something I was a little taken back with initially.

Overall, I loved the patient interactions and feel if I were the actual PA it would be that much more fun to troubleshoot and problem solve. I have another shadow opportunity in a completely different specialization (neurology) which I am very excited about. My main questions were:

  1. Did you know right away after Shadowing, PA was the right fit for you? 100%? Or did it take a few settings and time to find out where you envisioned your dream specialization.
  2. Is it realistic to think I could eventually become a PA and get away from more of the 9-5 office setting? Something more fast paced and maybe shift work?
  3. I believe the area where the clinic was located (in the ghetto) and demographic sort of played into the experience, is that a tale tell sign I could be wrong for the profession?

Please be as honest as possible as I am considering a career shift and I can handle the truth. I am trying to approach the situation as realistic as possible but there are still many "blind spots" as I have only shadowed one PA thus far.

Thank you very much in advance!!

Hi codes, so first let me say, this is what shadowing is all about. You shadow so that you can decide whether a profession is right for you or not. With that being said, PAs do computer work. You will always have medical notes to put into a patient chart. You will always be on the computer to review labs and/or look at scans. Some clinics may have a scribe for the PA but you will still have to go in and add and/or remove wording for each patient that you see. 

The point about the area being rough.... not every clinic or hospital is in a lavish area. Most PA schools look really heavily upon helping underserved and poverty-stricken or rural areas. Patients come from all walks of life and you have to be okay with that. Our only job is to treat them, not judge them. We will take an oath to save lives no matter their economic background, gender, race, etc. People will cough and people will have infections. That's why they are coming to see medical professionals. 

I am a pre-pa myself but I have shadowed in about 5 different sub-specialties and each one was different. As far as your questions, I knew before I shadowed that being a PA is what I want. I cannot devote the years to become an MD because I am a single parent, and I do not want to specialize in just one thing and not have the flexibility to change that (like NPs). If you don't like a 9-5 setting, then work in hospitals. You will have weekend shifts and overnight shifts. Emergency medicine may be a good field for you to shadow in next if you like high-intensity environments. As far as the demographics go, it goes back to what I said earlier: your job will be to help all people no matter their background. That is the case if you want to be in the medical field at all... nurse, doctor, PA, NP, tech, PT, etc. 

I hope this helps. Try to be more open-minded. The world needs our help, not just one place or population of people. Best of luck! 

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  1. Did you know right away after Shadowing, PA was the right fit for you? 100%? Or did it take a few settings and time to find out where you envisioned your dream specialization.

    I knew (even before shadowing!) that PA was the right fit for me. I think that is something that you have to determine yourself. Ask yourself: why not MD? DO? RN/NP? PT? Some times ruling out why other specialties are not a good fit for you can clarify why PA may be the right path. And before, during, and even after PA school I don't have a "dream specialization." So I wouldn't worry too much about that.
     
  2. Is it realistic to think I could eventually become a PA and get away from more of the 9-5 office setting? Something more fast paced and maybe shift work?

    Hospitalist and ER positions can be fast paced and pretty well-paying. Surgery can also be more varied; a few days in clinic and a couple days OR to break up the monotony.
     
  3. I believe the area where the clinic was located (in the ghetto) and demographic sort of played into the experience, is that a tale tell sign I could be wrong for the profession?

    I would encourage you to be open minded about the demographic situation. You don't know what school you'll get into, what rotation locations they have set up, etc. And you may find yourself changing your mind after interacting with patients. You definitely need to get some patient care experience - medicine can be gross: vomit, blood, diarrhea, necrosis, bugs, things that ooze and smell. So the question will be do you not like patient care, or do you not like touching "sick" patients. If it's the former, you could do research or medical sales without needing the PA degree. If it's the later, maybe consider psych or another specialty.
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Hi @MedIsLifePA - Really appreciate your insight, thank you! You made some great points to consider and in fact since the posted I managed to find a new specialty (Neurology) to shadow in a different region of the city. There was less direct input into software and much more patient interaction as we saw ~13 patients over 8 hours vs 12 patients in 4 hours (Primary Care experience). I actually saw the pro's/con's of both experiences but I won't lie I much preferred the Neurology setting and experience.

Question if you could: How did you manage to shadow in an emergency environment? I really do feel this is what I want to see, I want something that is fast paced and on the go, 100%. I've thus far been rejected a lot there when asked to shadow ER or Urgent Care because they say the policies are too strict here in San Diego.

I agree I need to see much more shadowing hours, I did really enjoy the Neurology environment it was terrific. The doctor offered me a MA position once I get closer to application to get the hours and trained in the specialty better so I am grateful I went. The other staff members were all on track to become PA's and their experience as an MA prior made them extremely knowledgable/gave them exposure into the specialty for post graduation.

------------------

Thanks for responding @Topsy - and your honesty. I actually would love the PT path in terms of the job itself, but I just cannot get past the debt/income ratio with my plans of having a family etc. I couldn't risk getting into PT and not have kids, etc. as that is a higher priority and PA seemed to be the perfect blend of favorable opportunity in the future while still working on the feet, working with others in an environment that isn't stagnant and is rewarding in terms of helping.

I appreciate your advice, I will start the process of looking at surgery and ER shadowing - both do sound very intriguing.

Regarding your question, this is perfect and helpful to mull over. I would say I love the interaction with patients - that is how the time goes by I find, and specifically what I am seeking getting into the health care (currently work on computer only). I loved the Neurology patients and making small talk etc. I am green so maybe this will change but touching "sick" patients seems to be difficult for me (at least the homeless patient with infection and woman excessively coughing all over everyone). I am just trying to be honest as I am green in the field and wasn't sure if other PA's feel that way or I need to build the tolerance way up. 

That said, the Neurology clinic had no incidents that put me off in terms of touching patients though - other than maybe cleaning ear wax but I could for sure do it as part of the job.

---

Thanks to both of you, really appreciate you taking your time and offering your expertise. Coming from a different industry, I am overwhelmed by the selflessness and willness to help others that the PA industry has shown me. It's really something special, PA's are extraordinary folks.

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