Since I was a child, my grandmother perpetually reminded me that serving others should be every person’s ultimate goal. I have always been interested in human health but it wasn’t until I started volunteering at the Children’s hospital that I began to seriously consider medicine as a career. I decided to volunteer at the hospital to gain some perspective into the different career options in medicine and to see if I “fit into a hospital environment. As a volunteer not only was there a lot to learn from being in a hospital setting but you really make an impact to the patients. Although I began as a front desk assistant and had the opportunity to attend the ER only occasionally, I offered support and helped Spanish speakers with their questions and concerns. I knew my help made them feel relieve and happy and not once did I ever feel unappreciated. Greeting has boosted my confidence and ability to serve people the best I can.
The first case I encountered was with a volunteer whom I had the privilege of working with every Saturday morning, for the past year, at the children’s hospital. He was a 38 y/o M who had a convulsive seizure right in front of my eyes. I was returning to the front desk from the ICU center only realizing seconds later that he was calling out my name and uttering, “ I’m about to have a seizure, but stay calm”. Completely loosing consciousness, falling to the floor and suddenly beginning to convulse.
Realizing that I was completely on my own, my instant reaction was to remove any harmful objects that were nearby and to stay with him until he was fully recovered. I immediately grabbed my phone to call my sister, who was also volunteering with me that morning, but three minutes later he began to wake up. He got up, sat down and explained to me how he’s had seizures in the shower, in front of his parents and many places. How he had been diagnosed with epilepsy since he was a little boy and had accepted the challenges and lifestyle that he eventually had to face. One thing that moved me tremendously about him was his positive energy and optimism. It was through my volunteer experience that I observed how healthcare providers worked as a team. Seeing how well they interacted with their patients to make them feel contented and confident was very inspiring.
The moment I entered college, I became a part of several medical organizations that gave me the opportunity to volunteer and interact with individuals heading towards the same field. I was able to get involved in several fundraising activities to help our club and to gain some life experiences. As my interest in the medical field began to inflate and I decided that I wanted to become a physician, I applied to several summer programs and was accepted to a 6 week Medical Career Diversity Program at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Here I was fortunate to spend an entire week gaining some shadowing experiences, where I got to see some incredible and mind-blowing surgeries. I also met and shadowed primary care physicians, pa’s and medical students at the St. Vincent’s student-run free clinic where I had the privilege to listen and understand the kinds of questions that physicians typically ask while diagnosing a specific patient, in order to prevent a small health-related problem from becoming a chronic life-threatening disease. At this point I was certain that I wanted to train in the medical model vs. the nursing model. I knew I wanted to learn about illnesses, pathology, appropriate testing, differential, treatment, etc. It was here at UTMB where I found out about the physician assistant career. For an entire day, I was placed with a physician assistant who truly showed compassion and listened to his patients; which was something I knew I really wanted to do with my future patients. To always treat others, as I would want to be treated. After several cases I chose to ask him what a physician assistant was and what drew him to that profession.
In the past year I have grown and learned immensely in my current position as a certified medical scribe in the general surgeons specialty. One of the main priorities of my position is to take a very detailed description of the patient’s chief complaint and past medical history. Doing this has allowed me to gain an extensive amount of knowledge on the gastrointestinal, endocrine, musculoskeletal and integumentary system. Gallstones, hernias, pilonidal cyst/abscess, thyroid problems, Breast CA, alongside with their procedures, are just a few of the cases I’ve seen in the clinic. Before a patient is scheduled for surgery, a ventral incisional hernia repair for example, some doctors choose to first discuss the patients BMI.
Recognizing how important physician patient communication can be, especially to the patient, I’ve realized, for example, how behavior change and adopting a healthy lifestyle can be particularly challenging especially to individuals living in low income, low education levels, limited access to healthy foods, and those that are highly affected by high stress. Physician patient communication is fundamental because it not only improves the health outcomes of the patient but also, enhances patient satisfaction and treatment adherence. By letting patients know, for example, that even moderate weight loss can reduce the severity of many conditions one can improve and save more patients lives. Even when patients know they are overweight, they continue their current behaviors unless physicians or medical providers mention the importance of their weight. Patients model their providers’ behavior and are more likely to listen and take advice from medical providers who practice healthy behaviors themselves. As a physician assistant I want to be a role model to my patients and I want to be able to prevent and treat many diseases but more importantly solve their health issues and help them live healthier lives.
One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is to be proactive about my education. During cases physicians or medical providers are only going to push you to learn if you push yourself. Every experience in life is what the individual makes of it. Early exposure to terminology, which I will be using as a physician assistant student, has definitely made me more knowledgeable and efficient when presented with different cases. Knowing what kind of questions to ask during an HPI based on a patient’s chief complaint, for example, and getting the patient to really tell a story is very important. As well as prompting them with the proper questions in order to get them to tell you the right answers so that you can create a diagnosis or an idea of a diagnosis. As a medical scribe this experience has been the best time for me to propose a wrong diagnosis or medication of a particular patient.
I absolutely love science and medicine and after all my volunteer efforts, shadowing experiences in different specialties, and witnessing a doctor and PA, at heart hospital, work together but independently at the same time, I know that I want to be part of a healthcare team. I love the idea of being able to collaborate with and learn from physicians and other medical providers. I also really like that as a PA; I will be able to switch specialties keeping the career fresh and interesting while having diagnostic and prescription capabilities. The idea of going into surgery with a certain group of doctor’s vs. orthopedics with another Dr. vs. primary care excites me. The level of autonomy, the ability to change specialties, and training under the medical model are just a few reasons why becoming a PA is the most appealing to me compared to other provider roles.
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