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When my student volunteer team first arrived in Nicaragua at our makeshift clinic and the faces of the poverty-stricken citizens peered into our van, I was immediately overcome with excitement and eagerness. After our abbreviated training on clinical assessments, local diseases, and pharmacology, we brought our equipment into the church, set up our stations, and began seeing patients within minutes. It was the first time anyone on my team had performed hands-on care, and while we were all eager to be assessing patients on our own, at the same time we were nervous. However, we quickly learned that in Granada, Nicaragua, the patients were willing to take medical advice from anyone who offered it. As the week went on, I became much more comfortable and even confident in performing physical assessments, consulting with my group, and diagnosing patients along side a local physician. I quickly realized that I really enjoyed being a part of a medical team, and as expected, the reward of being able to help people who had next to nothing was invaluable.


Before the mission trip, my exposure to healthcare settings as a patient certainly attributed to my desire to be a physician assistant (PA). Because of a few surgeries and a two-year battle with chronic tonsillitis and sinusitis, I have had the chance to interact with several physicians and PAs. I began shadowing several of my healthcare providers, and quickly grew more attracted to the PA career. After seeing the differences between physicians, PAs, and nurses, I immediately saw myself fitting in best as a PA. The challenge of diagnosing patients is exciting to me, and having a physician to collaborate with is reassuring. After shadowing, I see that not only do PAs have a vast knowledge of the medical field, but they also have an observable passion for the job and earnestness toward their patients. The PAs I know have an enthusiasm for their work that I do not think I could find elsewhere. PAs are a valuable part of the medical team, and they are well received by the patient population.


Along with the mission trip, the time I have spent volunteering at a primary care clinic for indigent patients has driven me to further develop my critical thinking skills and gain a more practical understanding of medicine and health education. I have benefitted from being able to put my mind to the test and solve problems alongside a physician. Working with impoverished patients at the primary care clinic and during the mission trip, I had a chance to see first-hand how many people are not educated on their own personal health. It is shocking to see such a lack of health education, even on topics as simple as knowing what to eat as a diabetic patient or someone with elevated cholesterol levels. As a PA, it will be a priority of mine to spend time educating patients on specific details regarding their conditions. In the medical field, the opportunities for teaching are endless, and it is a goal of mine to serve as an educator in order to help those who are uninformed. Being a PA would allow me to take up the role of an educator and ensure that the patients are learning how to better their health by making more informed decisions in their lives.


Being the youngest child of older parents facing new health issues of their own has made me realize that this nation needs more health professionals, and soon. The aging population and the recent changes in our health care system are beginning to overwhelm current physicians, and this country needs more health care providers. Since shadowing, volunteering, and serving on a mission trip, I can see myself fulfilling this role as a PA by combining the values of teamwork, compassion, and determination. I have always been a team player and enjoy collaborating with others for the betterment of the group. For example, in Nicaragua, teamwork was a key component of our success. I am excited about having a career where I can help people each day by educating patients, performing surgical procedures in the operating room, or diagnosing patients in a primary care setting. I believe I possess the qualities needed to be a successful PA. I will use my experiences, knowledge, motivation, and if accepted to a PA program, my education, to become a valued part of the PA profession.

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