Specialty Settings vs. General Settings
There are two types of jobs in the world of medicine: primary care and specialty. Primary care is known for its general medical scenarios. The ages, sexes and problems are varied. The medical problems that are far beyond the scope of practice and knowledge of the general practitioner are referred on to a specialist. Those in a specialty solely focus on one thing. They do not invest into the other fields of medicine because their job is to be the expert at a single genre. For the new PA, this can present a challenge.
Physician assistants are trained under the general medical model. They are designed to enter any arena with the ability to adapt. Because of their "primary care" knowledge background, this adaptation is possible. However, what about the PAs who first enter the specialty world rather than working in a general setting job? Will those PAs be subject to losing all of their knowledge if they limit themselves to a specialty? It’s possible. It’s actually inevitable.
If the "specialty" PAs do not put in the work, they will lose what they once learned. I am becoming fully aware of this consequence by working in a specialty practice. In a specialty, you eat, breathe and sleep what walks in your office or hospital. You want to learn everything there is about these specific problems. There isn’t any time for all that other stuff. It’s very easy to leave it all behind, even when there are some things to motivate us.
Thankfully, PAs are required to recertify every 6 years under NCCPA guidelines. This provides some motivation to keep up with all things medical. PAs in specialties are relied upon to provide insight into issues beyond the realm of the specialized practice. Helping our patients is probably more motivation than taking some test, or so one would think.
Specialties may be more glamorous with their better hours, pay and day-to-day encounters. Like I said, new PAs have to consider what challenges they will face and how they plan to deal with it. It’s not like we can turn the other way and continue our exclusive pursuit. We have a profession to uphold. Both our patients and supervising physicians rely upon us. We must remain sharp regardless of how our minds are directed. It will pay off one day, when you least expect it.