“Thank you for giving me my son back,” the mother of a patient told me as we stood in the cereal aisle of Target.
Her son first started seeing me as a patient about a 9 months prior for severe acne. His acne seemed to appear overnight without any known cause. At his first visit, painful and cystic lesions covered his back and chest; blood speckled his shirt from the scabs of healing wounds. He described how he couldn’t focus at school because the pain from his acne was too distracting.
What my patient did not tell me, but I know from years of experience, is how emotionally depressing this condition is. It is obvious by the way his head hangs low and how he avoids eye contact when spoken to. Teenagers almost always downplay how much their acne is affecting them. If you want the real answers, just ask their parents. They will tell you how their child tries to avoid going to school, become withdrawn from friends and family and are preoccupied by picking and scratching their acne all throughout the day.
I know this patient in front of me doesn't have “just a few pimples”, he needs my help and he needs it now. After months of various acne medications, we finally decide to use Accutane, a strong oral medication for acne. Within a few months, he is clear of acne. While there is a little scarring from past breakouts speckling his face, his skin looks 90% better. He looks me in the eye with a smile and that is how I know he is happy.
Fast forward 6 months I run into this patient’s mother while I am on the search for oatmeal. She tells me how her son is doing very well, excelling at school and soccer. She pulls out her phone to show me her screensaver of his prom picture. His beaming smile is the first thing I notice, second his clear skin. She thanks me emphatically for helping her son be seen for him, not his severe acne. She gives me a hug and we go about our shopping.
These experiences make all of the hard work worth it. Endless years of schooling, studying and sacrifice easily become a distant memory when someone thanks you in this way.
As PAs, we don’t go into the profession for the money or recognition. There are a lot of easier ways to earn the accolades.
We choose this path of medicine to hold a patient's hand after she suffers a miscarriage, to provide comfort to a scared child who needs stitches or to take the time to explain a life changing diagnosis to a patient. We become PAs to make a difference and we play an integral role in health care. As managed health care and insurance companies continue to limit the way we practice medicine, we must be our patient’s advocate. We as PAs fight for our patient’s best interests, not how an insurance company tells us they should be treated.
As PAs we must never lose sight of this. We are PAs for our patients. We are PAs to give moms their son back.
Erin Jensen, PA-C is a certified Physician Assistant living in Southern California. She pursued her passion for Dermatology after graduating from the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. On her blog The White Coat Treatment, Erin shares her passion about everything skin, beauty, motherhood, being a Physician Assistant and everything in-between.
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.