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First Year PA

What do you like best about people?

Published June 23, 2014 9:21 AM by Caroline Pilgrim

What I ask people who are considering PA school or trying to pick a specialty in medicine is that they decide what they like best about people. Do you like it best when people are passed out on the operating table, nonverbal? Do you like people when they're panicked and have chest pain? Do you like people when they are in their last days of life? Do you like people when they're less than 5 pounds and premature? Deciding that can be the difference between misery and fulfillment in a job that took no small sacrifice or student debt to arrive at. 

I personally like people who are verbal, who somewhat know what they want, and are not about to die. I like making decisions, but having a few minutes to reflect while you do is more my style. Then there are times patients think they know what they want, and we have to be the ones to steer them away and encourage the actual evidence-based approach. I have also seen patients this week who are a little too tough.  One patient has been suffering through agonizing abdominal pain all week and refusing to go to the ER. Another younger patient with three open heart surgeries under his belt with chest pain, not cardiac which we confirmed, shows up in the office late one afternoon. I like the tough patients, but it's hard to convince them that there's only so much we can do in an outpatient exam room. Yet I know for every three patients in our office, there are five who actually did go to the hospital for just the common cold.

I hope in my first days in this field to communicate effectively, not act rushed, actually listen, and be clear when I have to give detailed instructions about treatment. Most of the time patient's do want to hear you and do want to at least try your suggestion. I am so thankful that the most frustrating part of medicine is not the people but rather the computers, the insurance companies, the fax machines, and the nagging clocks that remind me how long that patient's been waiting.


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