Today marks exactly the halfway point of my clinical year. I have officially conquered 2 1/2 rotations and in only 6 months I will be an official graduate of PA school with credentialing to come shortly after! It is hard to believe this journey of PA school has an end in sight, as when I began I felt like school would never end. Everyone says it but you don’t believe it at the beginning…time really does pass by in a blink of an eye!
As I have ventured through my rotations, I have recognized one thing I am not thrilled about. Yes, 9/10 times I cannot express how excited and privileged I am to be a PA student and a future PA…and today won’t be that 1/10 time I am not. No, my problem does not stand with the PA profession in itself, but how people react to it.
The demeaning comments of my career choice began even before I started PA school. I remember taking a biochemistry exam my senior year of college and being the first student in the class to hand it in. My professor was a pretty awesome dude but was clearly shocked I had finished his exam so quickly so he decided to grade it right there on the spot. After grading it and realizing how I did, he looked up at me at asked what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t hesitate and responded, “I’m going to be a PA”. I remember the frown wash across his face and he responded “you’re far too smart to waste your brains on PA school. You should really go to medical school”. As a young student in the midsts of interviewing for PA schools and thrilled for my next educational step, this comment stung. It stung bad. For a good week, this comment made me re-think what I was doing with life, especially since I had debated long and hard before applying to PA school as to which route I wanted to follow: PA school or medical school. Was I really limiting myself by attending PA school? Did I make the wrong choice? Am I going to be happy as a PA?
Fast forward to May of 2016. I began PA school and was absolutely thrilled and excited and a ball of nervous energy. Anyone that has conquered didactic year of PA school knows there’s nothing quite like it. All through didactic year I busted my butt to soak up as much information as I could. I set up shop in the library for most of the year, watched endless medical YouTube videos and read countless books to try and cram the info in my brain, and I sacrificed a lot of my time away from loved ones for the good of my education. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the endless studying because it felt amazing to know the information I put in my brain today would influence my patient care in the future. Yet, I still found people questioning my career choice through my first year of school. “Oh so this is like “pre-school” before you go on to medical school?”, “so did you not get into medical school…is that why you’re going to be a PA?”, and “why do you want to be the doctor’s assistant”? all were comments made to me. Yikes! Not exactly the things I wanted to hear when I was busting my butt with the books.
As clinical year started, the comments continued to roll in. I overheard some of the nurses I worked with describe me to a patient as “the doctor’s personal assistant”. Other doctor’s I worked with informed me “I didn’t have to learn that because I’m “just” the PA”, or introduced me as the “Physician’s Assistant”, and over and over again I continue to hear “you’re just too smart to be a PA…you should really go to medical school”. By this point, it truly takes all my willpower not to roll my eyes when I hear that.
As frustrating as this has come to be, I’ve realized one thing: there needs to be more education about a PA’s role in the healthcare system. We are the new kids on the block, and don’t get me wrong, the rest of the healthcare world has come a long ways in accepting who we are in the last 50 years, but there is still a long ways to go. And as PA’s, that is on us.
Another lesson I have had to learn along the way is to be confident. As PAs we are very intelligent individuals (if you doubt that, check all the rigorous academic requirements that need to be achieved to get into school or take a look at the fast-paced first year curriculum). As individuals who are educated, you know our reasons to go the PA route are valid. Whether it be the lifestyle balance, lateral mobility, less debt, style of work, or about a zillion other reasons why the PA route is appealing…we picked this awesome career for a reason. Don’t let anyone take that away from you or let you feel less than for picking a career that best suits you.
In addition to the above reasons, as PAs we go into the profession to help our patients and our curriculum makes us incredibly able to do that. This is what I remind myself every time I hear a comment made about my profession that is not positive…it’s the patient that matters at the end of the day and quite honestly, I can set my ego aside for that reason alone.
Now, this blog post makes you think I hear these comments daily…and thankfully I do not! For every one negative comment, I hear about 20 more positive comments about PAs! Patients who interact with PAs love us. Just yesterday one patient lit up when I told him I was a PA student and said “wow, good for you! PAs are the best!” When I was with my family medicine preceptor (who is a PA) her patients could not say enough about how wonderful and smart she was. You could tell they were 100% confident in her ability to treat and care for them. It’s brave and intelligent PAs that have gone before me that have paved the way for my success as a new PA. So thank you for that!
As for me, I proudly wear my name badge that states “Jourdyn PA Student” every day. And as a soon to be PA-C, I couldn’t be more excited to share my profession with the world!
(Internal feeling of being a future PA)
P.S. Med school still rocks if you decide to go that route (my fiancé is currently rocking out his first year of it), but you really do have to do some soul searching as to what you want. Like anything in life, you do you, and don’t let the haters stop you!