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My interest in becoming a physician assistant (PA) is rooted in the desire to provide quality healthcare to the geriatric population, a group whose healthcare needs I have perceived to be complex in the course of my work in physical therapy. In the five years I have been a licensed physical therapist assistant (PTA), my most memorable patients are elderly or as we often call them “Baby Boomers”. As a PTA for the geriatric population, I am exposed to the complexities of care on a daily basis. Their multifaceted health care needs prompted my desire to become involved in a professional capacity. Becoming a PA will provide me with the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to health care while allowing a level of personal contact that fulfills me.

Throughout my career I have had many humbling and life-enhancing experiences. One patient comes to mind who taught me the true definition of optimism. When I met Jim, he was one month away from celebrating his ninety-fifth birthday. Our physical therapy sessions include balance, gait training, and lower extremity strengthening, we call it “dancing”. Jim has seen the harsh ways of this world, lived in over twenty countries, fought in three wars as an Air Force pilot, and he continues to smile, laugh, and dance. When I have a day full of difficulties and it feels impossible to laugh or smile, I think of Jim and realize there is always a reason to smile.

The healthcare field has been my home for the past nine years and I continue to learn and grow each day. As a PTA, 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 medical 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 medical 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 to the test at times, but my will to succeed remains strong. Each step of the process ignites 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 serving the geriatric population with the kindness and patience that they need and deserve.

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