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Ever since third grade Biology class, I knew that I had an interest in the medical field and wanted

to utilize my knowledge and nurturing personality to help others. Social constructs at the age of eight provided me with an idea of two possible medical professions: doctor or nurse. As I progressed in education, I saw a whole new world of science and possible areas of study. Imagine my shock when I realized that there were eye doctors, brain doctors, heart doctors, all areas of specialization in addition to my pediatric family doctor. Last winter, my usual physician was on vacation and I noticed that her replacement wore a different colored lab coat. When I questioned her, she said it was because she was a Physician Assistant (PA), not a nurse, nor doctor. I had originally thought only doctors could diagnose and prescribe medicine, but here was a PA who had just informed me of my pneumonia and placed me on a strict regimen of antibiotics. A Physician Assistant practices medicine under the direct supervision of physicians and surgeons. They receive formal Master’s Degree training to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, assist in surgery, and provide treatment (Bureau of Labor Statistics). PAs are required to be licensed in all states and have gone through a two-year program, usually taken after receiving a bachelor’s degree, and some medical experience. Each program varies, but provides the PA with the medical training necessary to perform a physician’s everyday activities while the partnered physician attends to more demanding patients. The employment outlook is to increase thirty percent in the next decade, well above the expected national average increase in job openings with a median salary of $86,410 annually (Bureau of Labor Statistics). There are some descriptions of the position that cannot be stated through statistics. The American Academy of Physician Assistants emphasizes the close relationship between physician and PA.

Though the physician is responsible for the performance and behavior of the PA, both have extensive medical training and share advice and ideas for patient treatment. Simply because the PA must practice “under the supervision of the physician,” does not mean that the physician must be present in order for the PA to practice, nor does the physician dictate every aspect of the PA’s medical practice (AAPA). The AAPA feels that the physicianPA teamwork is the most effective way to care for patients, “Physician-PA practice can be described as delegated autonomy. Physicians delegate duties to PAs, and within those range of duties, PAs use autonomous decision-making for patient care,” (AAPA). Their relationship is a result of the leadership of the doctor coupled with the ingenuity of the PA taking an independent stance on care for the patient. Echoing the Jesuit ingenuity of following orders to make a presence in new lands, PAs must autonomously utilize creativity to execute their ideas. Being a part of the Orientation Leader team and learning how to develop and utilize my leadership skills to better complement that of my teammate will prove immensely helpful in developing close bonds with professionals in my future medical team. In an orientation session, I had to change my leadership style based upon the other orientation leaders I was working with and the motivation level of my students, just as PAs must change their approach when treating different patients, and even more so when interacting with their supervising physician. Also, I was able to console many distressed students and parents, answering their questions kindly and communicating information while still keeping a relaxed atmosphere. As a PA, I will have to calm sick and distressed patients, answer questions about their illnesses, and make sure they have the information needed to feel comfortable about their healing process and my knowledge about restoring them to health. In the internship class, I studied the importance of being self-aware and having confidence in values

and leadership style and reflecting on which leadership actions were effective. PAs must remain consistent and confident in their treatment of patients and reflect upon how their treatments affect different patients so that they are better able to treat someone with the similar medical issues. The skills of leadership, teamwork, and communication are crucial for success in any workplace, but the high risks in the medical field call for these traits to be consistently developed, so that everyone on the medical team can help the patient to the best of their ability. Overall, a Physician Assistant must endure extensive training and years of higher education, but the most important skills are those that are constantly exercised and improved upon. Not only was becoming an Orientation Leader an opportunity to enhance those skills, but I was given the tools to effectively develop my leadership and communication skills through the internship course and reflecting on the values present in the Jesuit tradition.

References Month. (n.d.). Physician Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 12, 2012, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-1 Design., physicians., & team, P. w. (n.d.). AAPA | What is a PA?. American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Retrieved August 12, 2012, from http://www.aapa.org/the_pa_profession/what_is_a_pa.aspx

*Cites were suggested by the Reference Librarians at the Loyola University Chicago Information Commons Help Desk on 8/7/12 at 11:00AM.