Updated: Oct 2
Why I wanted to become a PA and why I stayed a PA are two different answers. I will discuss my "why" then, and my "why now."
I did not grow up thinking I wanted to be a PA because I had never heard of a PA. No, seriously, I had no clue what a physician assistant/associate was until I was a nurse working in the Emergency Department. Even while working with PAs, I thought of them as I thought of the physicians because they appeared to be doing the same thing. They both treated the patients, wrote orders for me as the nurse, and did procedures.
I did not even consider becoming a PA until my life plan was altered. You see, I originally planned to become a nurse anesthetist. I researched the schools, attended open houses for CRNA school, even transferred from working in the ER to working in a surgical ICU to get the required ICU experience.
The first derail from that plan was when I was placed on bedrest while pregnant with my twin daughters. I could not attend school in person to complete the requirements for my bachelor’s in nursing degree until the following year. I had planned on applying to CRNA school, but now it would be an entire year later than planned. Then, I shadowed a CRNA and was shocked. What I envisioned I’d do as a CRNA was not what I saw. As the CRNA explained what she was doing and worked her shift, I realized how bored I would be. I was afraid I would fall asleep during a case.
I had to reevaluate my life, what I wanted to do professionally, and it kind of stressed me out. I considered medical school, but I had never taken physics, organic chemistry, or biochemistry. Many schools required those classes, so I would have to work those classes into my school plan if I went that route. I never considered becoming a nurse practitioner, mainly because I hated my nursing theory classes when I earned my bachelor’s degree. I also potentially wanted to work in the operating room and that was not a common place to find nurse practitioners.
I then looked into becoming a PA. I asked PAs and physicians at work about their work/life quality and if they regretted their decision. Some of the physicians did not like their work/life balance and said they would choose a different route like becoming a PA if they had known earlier. Every PA I spoke with seemed to love what they were doing. I shadowed a neurosurgery PA and I enjoyed what I saw. What she did was totally different from the PAs I worked with while in the ER. I felt like this was the career move to make.
I applied to only one PA school. I was not able to really travel and relocate with young children and I did not meet the admission requirements for other schools yet. My plan was to apply and if I did not get accepted, I would take organic chemistry and physics, then reapply. I was a nurse, so I felt comfortable about what I’d return to in the interim.
I wanted to not have to work two jobs, have more autonomy, gain a better understanding of why conditions were treated the way they were, possibly work in surgery, and work in medicine at a higher level than I was. That was my initial “why.’
I would successfully complete the program, graduate cum laude, become the first in my family to attend and graduate from college and graduate school.
After working, my “why” changed. I realized I was needed in this field. I took care of patients that were so happy to be taken care of by a young, black female. My presence impacted the lives of so many people. I wanted to be a voice for patients, especially those from my community. I have a work/life balance and gained invaluable experience from working in different specialties. I am still a PA, after 10 years, because I love being able to help others, teach others, and pave a path for people with similar backgrounds as me.
That is the long version of my why.
Dr.Jackie the PA