Advocation vs. Agitation & the Lack of PA Awareness
The patient and I are walking out of the exam room, and he says, “Oh, it’s so nice that the doctor is training you. So, when are you going to get your MD?”
I politely respond, “This is it. I’m a physician assistant. There is nothing else.”
Inwardly, my blood boils, because that was the third or fourth patient this week with a comment like that. As innocent as these moments can be, they are perfect opportunities to blow your lid and go off about the ignorance about PAs. I don’t know why this bothers me. Maybe it’s because today’s culture seems to be more informed than ever about PAs. The state of healthcare relies upon NPs and PAs more today. Also, PA was voted as one of the top jobs in America. Even though it would seem that everyone understands what PAs are, there are always those who just don’t understand. It’s most surprising in the workplace.
“Please meet my assistant.” This has been a common way I have been introduced by the physician. Unfortunately, it gets confusing sometimes. In the same conversation with the patient, the medical assistant or nurse will be referred to as the “assistant,” as well. So, what to do?
If I’m in the room with both the doc and the patient, I first introduce myself as a “physician assistant.” Again, this is one of those moments where it’s common to get irked a little. Or when referred to by the office staff as the “physician’s” assistant. Same thing applies. A PA is not a “doctor’s” assistant. We are trained professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. Advocating for what a PA is in these instances is a little more difficult than simply making clear what your title is.
These two scenarios are pretty common in the outside world (from school, that is). Do not be surprised if you get a little irritated. This is natural because of all the work you put into being a PA; however, your response must be bridled and well thought out. These types of situations are perfect for shedding light on who and what a PA really is. We are to stand our ground with confidence and gentleness. People and professionals still lack knowledge and understanding of who we are. In the days when they agitate, we are to advocate.