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First Year PA

The Quarterly Check-up, Part II

Published June 28, 2013 12:29 PM by Harrison Reed
We are halfway through my first year as a professional PA. You may stand up to stretch, run to the bathroom or refill your favorite snack. But there is no halftime intermission for this PA. In fact, the intensity (and excitement) of the PA-C life has just begun. As we pass the mid-point, let's take a look back at what we've learned.

Onboarding Can Take a Long, Long Time: The paperwork obstacle course constructed at the national, state and local levels can leave you dizzy and nauseous. My onboarding process stretched well into the second quarter of the year and, if the howls of my classmates and colleagues are any indication, it appears I am not alone. Keep calm and mail those documents.

CME: Pricey and Priceless: One difference between a good first job and a great first job: the former teaches you to perform tasks; the latter expands your medical knowledge. Nothing beats an investment in your own professional growth.

Try to take advantage of Continued Medical Education (CME) offered by your employer. But beware third-party CME offered by other companies and organizations; it often comes with a hefty price tag. Just make sure your employer picks up the bill.

Find A (Work) Best Friend: When you work 10- and 12-hour days, your job is like your second home. That means-for better or worse-your coworkers are your second family. Try to find at least one person at work with whom you can trust, confide in and share a laugh. That work best friend serves as an extra support to unload the weight of a new medical career.

The Bitter and the Sweet: Working in medicine, particularly in the Intensive Care Unit, can reveal the unfairness of life. I've cared for patients without hope of survival and I have watched others defy expectations and walk away from the precipice of certain death. Sometimes there is no way to predict or explain these ultimate results.

But I learned that death is far from the worst outcome. In fact, it can bring relief to both the suffering patient and the loved ones they leave behind. That sweet finality is sometimes the best care we can offer.

The Stories I Couldn't Share: Readers of my previous work know that some experiences I pour out as they happen and others take months to digest and share. The complex and heart wrenching issues faced daily in the ICU often take the perspective of time to place in the proper context. There have been rich, human experiences over the last few months that deserve more than a hasty composition. They serve you-and me-better as thoughtful lessons than emotional reactions. Stay tuned and thank you for reading.


Thank you all for your feedback and support. I find we often do not think about certain aspects of our jobs until we have to put down written words and express them to others. In a way, this blog forces me to examine myself on a weekly basis. Thank you for reading and even more for your comments. Good luck in school/work!

Harrison Reed July 6, 2013 8:04 PM

Thanks  for sharing Harrison. I am a NP student, hopefully will be in your shoes as a first year grad in about 2 years. I enjoy the realness  in your description of your first year as a PA. It shed some light on my future expectations.


Lorraine, Postpartum - RN, Dekalb Medical July 3, 2013 11:35 PM

INteresting perspectives from a "new grad" in ciritcal care.  I have oriented adn mentored so many NPs and PAs in my  9 years as a critical care NP and I am so glad to read such mature, insitive comments.  I often wonder if some practiioners who may be young as well as new to critical care do not grasp the issues that our patients and families deal with on a daily basis. Kudos!

carolann, critical care - ACNP, UMass Memorial Medical Center July 3, 2013 2:23 PM
Worcester MA


Great post! So excited to hear about your first year as a PA.  As always, I'm enjoying your crisp writing style and your perspective on your new career.  Kudos!  

Marjorie Shanks July 3, 2013 9:33 AM

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