PA Week recently brought well-earned recognition to physician assistants across
the country. Our profession was featured in major publications, national
television spots and popular morning shows. The most powerful government and
industry leaders expressed their appreciation and countless breakfast, lunch
and dinner gatherings were held in our honor.
acknowledgement from the general public feels great. Our profession can
sometimes feel like the neglected middle child of the healthcare industry. A
little cheerleading boosts the morale that the daily work grind drains out.
But unsung praise resonates louder. I will
always remember the day I accidentally overheard one nurse tell another:
"You're lucky you are with Harrison today. He's a great PA."
even that praise can't outshine the recognition that comes straight from the
source: the patients. They don't always say it out loud in the Intensive Care
Unit. Some just ask for my name, smile and nod. Others grip my hand and give a
squeeze before I leave their room. After one particularly grueling day, a
patient's family sent me a present from the hospital pastry shop. "I don't know
what you did," the unit secretary said as she handed me a box, "but that is a
lot of cookies."
little appreciation can even change the course of your career. I sat in the
cafeteria of a Veterans Affairs hospital on one of my final rotations as a
student. My white coat and name badge were stuffed in a desk upstairs as I
enjoyed my meal in relative anonymity. Until an unfamiliar voice called out my
took me a moment to place him. Then it struck me: the last time I saw this man
he was sprawled across a hospital bed, a porcupine of lines and tubes. He had
never said a word to me-an endotracheal tube saw to that-but we had shared
conversations every day in the surgical ICU. Now he stood before me in jeans
and a t-shirt with an outstretched hand.
thanked me for the time spent with him while he recovered from cardiac surgery.
I was so taken aback by his transformation that I could only smile and shake
his hand. Seeing him walk out of the door that day, after being so close to
death, may have led to my eventual career in critical care medicine.
week a crowd of PAs gathered in my hospital to celebrate the PA profession. Someone
stepped up to a podium with a microphone and announced that my Medical ICU
colleagues and I were named the Best PA Team in our health system. Everyone
clapped and some of my coworkers accepted shiny plaques and took a bow.
what I imagine happened, anyway. I wasn't there.
was across the campus, several buildings away in a completely different world:
the ICU. I was busy arranging a last-minute procedure for one of my patients. It
meant I would stay late and miss the ceremony, but that is exactly where I
prefer to spend my time.
all, it seemed a little strange to accept an award while I am still working to
earn it. And while the praise of my employers was a generous gesture, my real
boss was the sick lady in that hospital bed.