PA Week Ambassador Interviews Day 7: Public Outreach Day
Being founded by a female Physician Assistant, Lara Francisco PA-C, every year from October 6-12, we celebrate National PA Week, which recognizes the PA profession and its contributions to the nation’s health. This year, we are featuring many of our esteemed PA Ambassadors who prove that PAs are essential.
During the COVID-19 response, PAs have stepped up like never before, showing how flexible, adaptable, and collaborative they can be. They have been testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19 patients, conducting telemedicine visits, redeploying to different specialties, or continuing to provide healthcare for those who need it most.
So in honor of those PAs who are a part of this special medical community, we’ve asked some of our Ambassadors from around the country to help raise awareness of their profession by sharing with us their inspirations and insights into being a physician assistant. Be sure to tune in to their features on our social media, and show your support by posting with today’s theme: Public Outreach Day #PAWeek
Anthony Gauthier, PA-C
Growing up playing sports, Anthony became fascinated with how the human body moves and strengthens. He became a PA in sports medicine so he could help others live a healthy life, and if injured, return to what they enjoy most, be it sports-related or not. He continues to be very passionate about helping aspiring PAs reach their goal of getting into PA school, and has created the organization Your Journey To PA School. Here he promotes the PA profession to college students and provides networking opportunities via meetups and an annual conference to connect them with current, practicing PAs.
//Wearing the BERNARD Slim Fit Lab Coat
Chloe Pappas, PA-C
Being able to interact with patients of all ages and diverse backgrounds is what drew Chloe to EM, and what allows her to continuously learn from various specialists and other providers. The fast-paced, high level of critical thinking environment always keeps her on her toes presenting the opportunity to see a wide range of pathology and illness so she can differentiate the ones that are most life-threatening. For her, sorting through the differentials is like piecing together a puzzle with the information gathered from the history, physical exam, labs and imaging to get to the bottom of the patient’s chief complaint, and is an extremely rewarding feeling.
//Wearing the REBECCA Slim Fit Lab Coat
Yunah Lee, PA-C
Yunah always dreamed of pursuing a career in medicine, and becoming a PA has allowed her to be an advocate for her patients, while also being part of the healthcare team. As a provider, she is available, accessible, and approachable to deliver the highest of care to those who need it most. Advocating for mental health especially during these unprecedented times is essential because the demand for psychiatry is so high and having an accessible mental health care provider is so important for people of all ages.
Samantha Zavada, PA-C
Samantha is a newly certified physician assistant actively in pursuit of her first day officially working as a provider. Her drive to do what’s best for those in need propels her to continue her medical education as she embarks on this new path. She has learned over the last years of PA school that when things get tough, she will show you tougher, because though things are difficult during the process, it’s not impossible to achieve you goal or dream of PA-C.
//Wearing the M3 EMMA Classic Fit Lab Coat
WHY ARE PAs ESSENTIAL?
AG: I am essential because as a PA we are trained to be able to provide high-quality compassionate care unconditionally.
CP: Center Emergency Department in the largest county in the US. We also have trailers set up near our Ambulance Bay to treat any potential COVID-19 patients in addition to our isolation rooms inside of the ED. As a PA-C fellow, I work 23-26 shifts per month (10 to 12-hour shift minimum). This may seem like background information, but these details are important. I am often paired with a Resident or another PA (or solo) and in charge of entire pod (an area of beds). I am personally responsible for treating every single patient that comes in, regardless of the acuity of the condition. Whether it is a medication refill, opiate withdrawals, respiratory failure from COVID-19, or a septic GI bleed I am the primary provider and it is up to me to make a difference and to diagnose and treat these patients.
The PAs in our ED see most of the volume of the patients in our ED. We are a teaching institution and a team-based practice, which is incredibly important to provide both high-level and SAFE care to all of our patients.
YL: Advocating for mental health especially during these unprecedented times is essential. The demand for psychiatry is so high and having an accessible mental health care provider is so important for people of all ages.
SZ: I am an essential PA. I have the passion, dedication, and positive outlook that all patients deserve. I have the drive to do what’s best for those in need, to continue my medical education, and to continue coming to work even when it’s the last thing I want to do. When things get tough, I’ll show them I’m tougher.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A PA?
AG: I was inspired to do my part to help those in need. I wanted to combine my passion for sports and living a healthy lifestyle. I observed amazing PAs able to do this and I was hooked. I know PA was the profession for me.
CP: I was always on track to become an MD. I first met a PA when I was a patient in the UCSB Student Health Center. He seemed… content, and nonetheless, confident and well-educated. His lifestyle was similar to what I had always envisioned for myself. He practiced Emergency Medicine in the local hospital as well as on campus for the University students. He had a wife and two beautiful children, living a comfortable lifestyle with room to travel and do what his heart desires. Once I became an ED Scribe, this experience sealed the deal, especially after I met two PAs that inspired me to complete the fellowship program that I am currently active in.
YL: I wanted to be an advocate for patients while also being part of the healthcare team. As a provider, I wanted to be available, accessible, and approachable to deliver the highest of care to those who need it the most.
SZ: I’ve never considered any career other than one in medicine. I discovered the Physician Assistant position when I was a junior in college. I had previously dreamt about being a doctor, but the more I learned about being a PA, the more I was drawn to it. The flexibility, the continued responsibilities, and the duration of schooling was something that really attracted me to the position. So, I began shadowing PAs in my area; their abilities ASTOUNDED me. They were able to do just about everything a doctor does! Prescribing medications, making diagnoses, and doing procedures— the works. Why WOULDN’T I want to be a PA?!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING A PA?
AG: What I enjoy most about being a PA is the genuine connections I get to make with patients. Knowing that I played a positive role in them improving their health is beyond rewarding.
CP: I love surprising people. First and foremost, I love the flexibility. I can practice medicine, make a difference in the lives of my patients, be financially stable to have a family AND to travel. But what I love most, is educating others about my profession, but not so much through my words as through my actions. My patients seldom know the difference of whether I am a PA-C, MD, or DO (outside of the fact that is is written clearly on my badge/scrubs). Even when a patient or an acquaintance makes a comment, I enjoy teaching them about my profession because I am PROUD of it and the 4 years of undergrad, the in-between years of gaining patient care experience, and the additional graduate school and fellowship training I have accomplished. I enjoy the team-based approach and learning from my colleagues each day.
YL: I love the fact that I can be independent but also work as a team with other providers to provide the best care to my patients. I love the flexibility that being a PA offers - both in work and lifestyle.
SZ: I love it all. I love the responsibility that comes with the title, the team based practicing in collaboration with a physician, and the relationships I get to form with patients. I am truly living my dream!
WHAT PA FOUNDATION/ CAUSES DO YOU SUPPORT AND WANT TO SPREAD AWARENESS FOR?
AG: For anyone interested in becoming a PA. Get connected with AAPA (American Academy of PAs) and your state PA organization. For me, it is the California Academy of PAs. To strengthen our future, we must be involved and members of both organizations.
CP: I am a member of my state PA organization in California (CAPA) as well as my national organization (AAPA). I plan to attend the conventions annually (exception: COVID 2020). In the meantime, I stay up to date on PA politics, the latest in medicine via JAAPA (Journal of American Academy of PAs), and vote when appropriate for new counsel. I am also very involved with SEMPA which stands for Society of Emergency Medicine PA. Again, conference was cancelled this year but I am sincerely hoping it re-opens next year!
YL: The AAPA does so much for our PA profession by advocating for us and providing education so it's very important.
SZ: I would love to raise awareness for Florida Association of Physician Assistants (FAPA), which is the state’s branch of AAPA. They have such great resources for PAs, striving to integrate PAs in every aspect of healthcare in Florida. I think it’s incredibly important to continue to raise awareness of the Physician Assistant position.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONSURROUNDING YOUR PROFESSION YOU’D LIKE TO DEBUNK?
AG: A common misconception is that a PA is a doctor still in training.
It is understandable as almost every other profession, the assistant, will one day achieve the title role. However, this is not the case with PAs. This leads to one of the reasons for the current discussion of a name change for the profession, but that discussion is for another time...
CP: As the confusing title entails: A Physician Assistant is NOT an assistant. We do NOT assist anyone (except maybe a 1st or 2nd assist in surgery, but that is a different concept). In the ED, I am a licensed medical provider fully capable of evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and making disposition plans for ALL my patients. A Supervising Physician is there to bounce differentials off of and to learn from, because any PA (or medical provider) that does not wish to continue learning does not belong in medicine. In California, it is not mandatory for a Supervising Physician to sign off on patient charts, however each hospital policy varies and will likely always continue to require a percentage of signing mostly due to legal liability. It is not Physician’s Assistant. There is no apostrophe. There is no ownership. PAs require a Master level degree in Medicine as well as a National and State certification to practice medicine.
YL: This comes with the name but I want to emphasize the fact that we are NOT assistants to doctors! As PAs, we see our own patients and develop our own treatment plans. Also, we can work in all areas of medicine and are not limited to just family medicine - the lateral flexibility is something that can be enticing to many if they knew about it!
SZ: I feel as though a lot of people equate a PHYSICIAN assistant with a MEDICAL assistant. We have much more responsibility and have been in school for much longer than a medical assistant. PAs are allowed to prescribe, diagnose, and perform procedures! We can do a lot of things that medical assistants are not licensed to do.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH YOUR SUPERVISING PHYSICIAN?
AG: The team approach to patient care is what I enjoy most with my supervising physician. The patients can see the rapport and respect we have for each other and this translates to positive patient outcomes.
CP: LEARNING. While PAs are sufficient in practicing medicine upon graduation, it is no secret MD/DOs have been learning and training for longer. The largest part of this training and learning occurs in Physician Residency. I love being able to take a difficult case to my ATTENDING physician or Supervising physician (no one calls it this by the way) to discuss a complex work-up, to ask about different treatment options, or to discuss the disposition. BE HUMBLE in medicine always. SOMEONE knows more than you, and often your Supervising (Attending) physician does know more and should be there to lend a supportive hand. Less mistakes are made when more minds are involved.
YL: It is so important to find a supervising physician who acknowledges you and supports your decision as a PA. I personally love my supervising physician because he is aware of my capabilities but is also always available for a consult. It's amazing to have the same goal of providing high-quality care to our patients and to work together to bring that to life.
SZ: I love having that backup. As a newly graduated PA, I know I’ll be doubting myself a lot in practice. So, to have someone that has my back in tricky situations is comforting, and one of the reasons why I chose PA over MD/DO.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PA STUDENTS?
AG: The piece of advice I like to provide PA students is;
Don't be afraid to take the initiative to learn a new skill.
Medicine is a career that requires active engagement and practice to improve. Never get complacent and understand each day you are bettering yourself for your future patients.
CP: Swallow all the information you can, but understand there is absolutely no way to retain ALL of it. And you won’t. And that is ok. Your didactic year is about swallowing as much water through the fire hose as you can. Your clinical year is about using that water to put out little fires. Some days you will get that ‘pimping’ answer correct. Some days you will nail the diagnosis on your Surgical Consult. But most days, you will feel incompetent, but this is NOT a negative thing. It means you have so much to learn which is WHY we chose medicine in the first place. You are more than capable, that is why you were chosen for PA school in the first place. You are intelligent, you are driven, and you are compassionate. But don’t forget to turn some of that compassion towards yourself. Forgive yourself for your losses and celebrate every small win. Look back at how far you have already come. Remember the days when you were filling out applications just WISHING you could be a PA student already? Well here you are. Pat yourself on the back. Do your best, remain focused, but make time for yourself. Self-care is SO important whether this is socializing, a solo movie night in, or something outdoorsy. The rest will fall into place before you know it.
YL: PA school is definitely grueling and it might seem like you have no time to do anything, but remember to take time out of the day to do things that you enjoy! Hang out with friends and family, go eat at that nice restaurant, binge some shows, and really remember to do things that you love! It's always about progress and not perfection - we'll always be learning even after finishing school so don't be too discouraged if your grades aren't perfect! Also, build relationships with your peers as they can be your life-long friends and you guys are all in it together.
SZ: YOU CAN DO THIS. It’ll be one of the hardest times in your life (really though, lol). Your relationships will get more difficult, your hobbies will become forlorn, BUT— it’s definitely not impossible. As soon as you get into the mindset that you don’t need a 100% on every test or quiz, the easier your life is going to get. DO NOT sacrifice your mental health for a higher grade; it’s not worth it. Also— beware of caffeine overdose!!!