A common question we both get asked is “why did you chose to be a PA” or “are you going to go back to become an MD?”
I think it is safe to say, for both of us, our previous careers were great, but did not fulfill the desire we had to impact our patients at a higher level. In addition, we both previously worked in healthcare and were exposed to the PA profession and all its wonderful possibilities, which ultimately led us to where we are today.
Emily’s Why PA-C: My previous career was an athletic trainer. As an athletic trainer, you have the opportunity to treat the acute (immediate) and chronic (long term) phases of the injury, which was extremely valuable knowledge for me to learn. But as I worked in the profession, I found myself wanting to be able to do more. I wanted to be able to diagnose, prescribe medication and first assist in surgery. These were not options in athletic training at that time. Real talk, the hours of a traditional athletic training were rough. Practice and game coverage ranged from before and after school and also to nights and weekends. Even more real talk, the salary didn’t justify the amount of time and energy the job required. I was exposed to the PA career during my athletic training residency at USF and saw the camaraderie that the physician assistant there had with his supervising physician as well as the autonomy and respect he had running his own clinic. With all this in mind, I decided I wanted a different lifestyle, a career where I could do the things I wasn’t able to do as an ATC and yes, the salary increase was a welcomed and exciting benefit. I could not be happier with my career choice but I will always remember how much my background in athletic training helped me to get here where I am now. Athletic trainers play a crucial role in the medical system and because I work in orthopedics, I have the opportunity to continue to work with them.
Katie’s Why PA-C: My interest in the PA profession actually came about when I was a senior in high school. My intent was to shadow an OBGYN physician and ended up spending the day with his PA instead. I came home so excited about my future as a PA, but I actually ended up pursuing a career in radiology and took the long road to PA school. Working as a radiology tech for 5 years did allow me to observe all of the medical professions working seamlessly together as a team and I was able to understand each of their responsibilities clearly. As much as I enjoyed my time taking quality films and learning how to read the imaging studies (which has been extremely beneficial now working in ortho), I wanted to be on the other side of the C-Arm while in the operating room assisting in surgery and prescribing medications. Working in radiology was hard on my body lifting patients on my own and I didn’t see a long term future in the profession. In addition, I have no plans to become a physician. Physician assistant is my final destination! I enjoy the autonomy I have in my practice with a physician being a phone call away if I have questions. My trauma and joint service in the hospital is essential run by me and I enjoy having the freedom and responsibility that I have been entrusted with by my surgeons.
Now, why PA-C vs MD?
Our opinion on this stems from the fact that becoming a PA-C was not our first career but our second. Had we thought about this decision coming out of college, our answer may be different. We can break this question down to a few simple thoughts; Time/money, Responsibility and Mobility.
1. Time/Money: Being that this was our second career, PA school takes on average, 28 months. To become an orthopedic surgeon would take around 10 years. Both of us entered PA school around the age of 26 and this was a large factor in our decision-making. Although PA school was not cheap, medical school, followed by residency followed by fellowship is even pricier.
2. Responsibility: We both can agree that we enjoy the responsibilities of our work while having a collaborating physician nearby if we have questions. We have plenty of autonomy while always having support. You can’t beat that!
3. Mobility: Another perk of becoming a PA is the mobility of the profession. We are able to work in any specialty of medicine at any time. If we want to take a break from orthopedics and focus our skills on emergency medicine, primary care, psychiatry, etc. for a few years we are able to!
Most importantly, neither of us ever wanted to become a physician and that is the most common response we give when asked that question 😉