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It was day two of orientation consisting of HIPAA, OSHA, and AIDS/HIV training. Human Resources (HR) was up next to speak when an excited and vibrant voice came booming into the classroom. “Good Morning!” said Mike from HR. “How many of you have ever witnessed or been a part of a client having a bath?” Half the class shot up their hands, including myself. Sam, a quiet kid in the back, volunteered to tell his experience as a certified nurse assistant when he observed a client bath. In Sam’s example, Mrs. Smith is taken from her room, down a long hall, into a shower room. She is then transferred into a wheelchair made of PVC pipes and pushed into the corner where she is hosed down. While this room is named the shower room it is also a location for overflow equipment. During Mrs. Smiths five minute shower, two other people enter the room to take a cane or walker from storage. There is no curtain. Mike from HR asks the group is this example is similar to what we have observed, we reply “Yes”. He then asks if any strangers walked through our shower this morning, we reply “No”. That moment became an epiphany for my life.


The healthcare field has been my home for the past nine years and I continue to learn and grow each day. As a licensed physical therapist assistant for five years now, I have been fortunate to work closely with many dedicated physicians, physician assistants, and physical therapists with a passion that equals my own. At seventeen I became the second person in my family to attend college, following in my sister’s footsteps, clueless of what I wanted out of life. Athletic Training sparked an interest with learning sports injuries and how to react instantly in an injury situation. I grew to love the training room and interactions with the injured players which led me to the path I would eventually take into Physical Therapy. Each semester of Athletic Training included clinical rotations with a different sport on campus and at the local high schools. My second year I was able to do a clinical rotation at a free clinic in an underserved community. I observed some very interesting and complex cases. The next semester my rotation was at an orthopedic clinic. I shadowed the physician and physician assistant through office rounds while learning about casting, splints, x-rays, pre-ops, post-ops, and arthritis. As one of ten students at the orthopedic office that semester, I was thrilled when asked by the physician to stay on as an employee.


My new role as medical technician/front desk reception/physical therapy technician/full-time student was exhilarating. Those days were full of life lessons as well as medical experience. Communicating with people in need was something I knew nothing about when I started. Over time I grew confident in my abilities to communicate and become a positive presence in the healthcare process. I continued my education, graduated with an associate’s degree and passed the state board to become a licensed PTA. Over the years I have been blessed to see many MD/PA teams in action within various settings including the office, hospital, and operating room. Observing surgery fascinates me; so far I have seen a total knee replacement, total hip replacement, open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) of a digit, arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, and carpal tunnel release. The dynamics of a great MD/PA team is incredible to see in action, while seamlessly creating the best possible environment for patient recovery. I have been fortunate to observe PAs who demonstrate empathy and compassion, along with optimism in many different situations.


These insights lead me to the decision to become a physician assistant. Through these experiences, I discovered an affinity towards being a caretaker and my compassion for helping others. Motivated by this, I completed my Bachelors degree by taking classes at night and working as a full-time PTA during the day. During those two years I was able to maintain a 3.95 GPA to complete my Bachelors degree. My days of youthful indecisiveness were over; the goal has been set high. My determination has been put the test at times, but my will to succeed remains strong. Each step of the process excites the spark inside me to fulfill my greatest role in healthcare.


The physical therapy world has opened doors for me to exciting medical experiences I may have never seen elsewhere, for that I am grateful. Each day I continue to learn and grow in my desire to serve others healthcare needs. As a full-time PTA, full-time student, and full-time wife I have excelled in time management, communication, and organization skills. My path has not been easy or short but I would not change a single step. Each stride that led me here has enhanced my strong work ethic and desire to serve others. As a physician assistant I hope to incorporate my knowledge of physical therapy and orthopedics into whatever setting I am in.


Orientation with Mike that day opened my eyes to the challenge we are faced with in healthcare today. To be upfront, we are all faced with a seriously challenged healthcare system. Mrs. Smith deserves the right to maintain her dignity as a human being, as we all do. The point of Mike’s illustration of Mrs. Smith that day was to remind us all how important it is to uphold our self-respect. We are all human beings worthy of respect. Our healthcare system as a whole will always be changing, but people will always be at the heart of it. As a physician assistant I will take each lesson I have learned and continue to be a lifetime student, taking knowledge with me and treating each person along the way with respect and compassion.

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