Yes, indeed I haven’t posted for a while, finals and all but I’m well on my way into term two! So what do I think so far? I have got to say that PA school has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I was just asked recently why I didn’t just choose to “go all the way” and go to Medical School. First of all, I don’t believe that going to PA school will somehow leave me short-changed, or missing out on crucial and/or necessary skills. Second, I felt that the question indicated that becoming a PA doesn’t command the same level of respect or require the same amount of work or dedication. Finally, I know for a fact that there are those within the medical school community that do not believe that PAs have a role in healthcare in our country. I feel that all three couldn’t be further from the truth.
I think that we all will find that as we interact with PAs in doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals across the country that they are just as skilled and prepared to treat patients as doctors and nurse practitioners. Well how can I say that, given that doctors spend so many more years in school? Because our residency is on-the-job, and we are required to re-certify every six years. Doctors don’t have to do that. So you will always know that your PA is up-to-date on their skills and knowledge base in all areas of medicine, even if they are practicing in a specialty. Finally, if PAs were not adequately prepared to treat Joe Schmoe who comes through the door on a stretcher, they wouldn’t be working in ERs across America. Obviously, if I wanted to be a surgeon, I’d go to Medical school. But I don’t. I will be able to perform many smaller surgeries, I don’t need to remove brain tumors, or replace knees. As for the second argument, if it was about having a fancy name plate or “DM” next to my last name, I’d go to Medical school. But it’s not. And let’s be honest, there are good plumbers, and bad plumbers. Good dentists, and bad dentists. Good doctors, and bad doctors. Good PAs, and bad PAs. I’d rather go to a good PA over a bad doctor, any day. So, the argument that seeing a doctor is better than seeing a PA is invalid. I have absolutely no proof, but I bet more medical mistakes are made by docs than PAs. 😉 Another argument can be made that it’s HARDER to be a PA, than a doctor. One of our professors who is a local PA feels that patients are harder on PAs than the doc. If she makes a mistake on a diagnosis, even if her clinical diagnosis is the EXACT SAME as the doctor she works for would make, the patient is more likely to blame the mistake on the fact that she’s a PA, not an MD. And they will be more likely to give her doc a break, if he’s wrong. Interesting, huh! It would therefore be reasonable to surmise that the pressure is higher on the PA to convince the public that we are worthy of trust and respect as medical providers. That requires more work and dedication to excellence. The fact that we can work in different specialty areas and therefore need to acquire specialty skills when we move to a new area of medicine requires more work, and dedication to learning and excellence, given that doctors do not and cannot switch among specialties. Finally, as I said earlier, we are required to re-certify every six years, something that doctors and Nurse Practitioners are not required to do. Of course you hope your doc is keeping up on all the latest research. But you don’t know if they are going to accurately read your EKG in the clinic, or see that abnormality on your retina because they aren’t required to prove that they are up to date in their skills. So choose your doc wisely!! 🙂 Furthermore, if it’s all about prestige and money, we shouldn’t be in medicine anyway. If I can treat a patient with the same level of skill and discernment as the doc I work for, how exactly is what I do less valuable?
And for the final point, the concern that there are future physicians who don’t see how PAs fit into healthcare. I don’t know where that sentiment originates, perhaps they haven’t worked with PAs, have little experience with them, or knowledge of PA training and therefore make their judgment based on eight years versus 2. What I can say is that it demonstrates that they are out of touch with reality. We all know that healthcare is too expensive, and that there are rampant shortages. Doctors are not the answer; they cost too much money, and because we overload specialists and surgeons with ridiculous pay, many medical school students want to be specialists, rather than primary care practitioners (what our country really needs). So if they think that PAs don’t have a place in healthcare, I’m left to wonder who exactly they think will fill in our enormous gaps in providers. PAs are actually an amazing answer to our country’s needs. They are cost-effective, flexible, and team-oriented. They allow physicians to take care of more people by adding to their practices and clinics. They are often the only providers who will take jobs in rural and inner-city, or low income communities.
So why do I bother to take the time to rant about this on an afternoon where my books are calling my name? Because I wanted to share that four months in, I am more convinced than ever that becoming a PA is the right choice for me. I am so excited about the things I’m learning, and believe strongly in my program. The University of Utah has a great medical school, ranked in the twenties. Our PA program, however, is ranked second in the country, which speaks volumes to the dedication and hard work of those who have developed the program.
So why not med school? You’d have to come up with some good reasons why I SHOULD have spent six more years, hundreds of thousands more dollars I don’t have, etc. etc. in order to do, essentially, the same things.
This term has been sort of the launching into the “meat and potatoes” of our curriculum. In fact, I took my first cardiology exam yesterday. Let’s just say that I should probably understand the heart,. right? I also have courses in therapeutics (drugs), pediatrics, ENT, orthopedics, lab interpretations, surface anatomy, professional issues, physical exam, and I start radiology and something else tomorrow. Like the tagline at the top of my blog- it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose, it’s crazy. So much to know, but it’s so rewarding. Well, it will be more rewarding when I get to take care of people, but right now, the learning is rewarding to me for all the hard work I put in to get here, and the trust I put in God to go to Grad school.
Finally, I just have to say that I love being here in Utah. Marcus and I are just having the best time! God has provided us with some amazing friends who enjoy spending time with us, great outdoor adventures nearby, and a wonderful faith community that we feel totally plugged into, and challenged by daily in a very good way. We enjoyed our break a few weeks ago- the whirlwind tour through Oregon, Washington and California, and now I’m right back at’em. So no regrets, no “I can’t do this” or “what was I thinking?!” moments (yet-stay tuned,) and no limits to the excitement and joy that I feel regarding my new career.
And no, I’m not hating on docs, it’s just that I’m biased now. 🙂