After reading “How My Mother’s Illness Made Me Abandon My Dreams Of Becoming A Doctor,” I felt compassion for the author. I could understand why her experiences made her change her career path and how her mother’s care (or lack of) dissuaded the author from becoming a doctor. As a young female physician assistant, whose passion is emergency medicine, the misdiagnoses and suffering the author and her mother went through are examples of why, every day, I am driven to provide the best care I can. Of course, some days are harder than others, but addressing my patients needs in a way that is compassionate and understanding are my daily goals and would not be possible without my education (the pros and cons of higher education have been discussed previously on TFD).
As far as education goes, I feel as though my journey toward science has never been one I questioned. I have always enjoyed learning about the world around me. My father is an engineer, and my mother is an artist and a technical writer. My brother is an engineer as well and, as children, my parents had instilled a drive in us that propelled us towards individually fulfilling careers. As an avid reader of TFD, I am aware that in my particular case, my Master’s degree has been instrumental in securing my job, which is fortunate, and not the case for many other young professionals. To be a physician’s assistant, most programs award you a Master’s upon completion, and without my education I could not have taken my board exams, or be working in my desired field.
After I received my degree, I worked in urgent care and then transitioned into the ER. I work to provide the best care that I can offer, and rely, not only on my scientific education and background, but my life experiences as well. Science doesn’t teach you how to hold a patient’s hand when you tell them they have cancer. Science does not teach you how to tell someone that it is their cherished, beloved family member’s time to go. My life experiences and mentors, however, have. I have had these conversations, and anticipate having many more in the future, due to the nature of what I do, and because of the increase in patients I will be seeing on a daily basis.
In my opinion, it is our duty as a community and nation to provide affordable healthcare to everyone. This is something I believe deeply, and I think Obamacare has been instrumental in encouraging this. The mass influx of people who now have healthcare has, nonetheless, created a strain on the providers. The same number of providers are now mandated to see even more patients without working additional hours. As a physician assistant, sometimes I can spend a little more time with my patients. But on the whole, providers have to see many patients in a day and provide comprehensive care by treating patients physically, emotionally, and mentally.
It saddens me when providers are so burnt out that they cannot take the time to fully listen to the patient’s needs. I try my best to let my patients tell their story, and speak their mind, when I walk into a room. I am only human, and yes, I am often in a rush, managing multiple patients, following their test results, admitting them into the hospital, etc. I have, and will continue to, make mistakes over the course of my career. But I refuse to let someone walk out of my emergency room with a life-threatening condition. Will it happen? Maybe. Like I said, in balancing all of my patients at once (with the sheer volume increase, partially as a result of Obamacare), I may unfortunately let someone fall between the cracks. But I’ll be damned if I won’t listen, hold your hand, or explain your condition.
For all the missteps I hear about in medicine, I am here to tell you there are many people from doctors and nurses, to physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who are stressed and pulled in many directions at once— but the care is there. I am in no way belittling any suffering anyone has experienced in the current healthcare structure. I just want the world to know that for every mistake that is made in healthcare, there are also good people trying to provide excellent care.
Amanda is an emergency medicine physician assistant in Pennsylvania who enjoys hiking, the beach, and a good cup of coffee. She is on Instagram.
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