It’s National PA Week 2017: What’s a PA?
The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) is the national professional society for physician assistants. We’re celebrating National PA Week 2017 with them, and if you’re a PA, that means we’re celebrating you.
The AAPA defines a PA as “a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the uniformed services.”
We interviewed PAHeidi Hammer to find out what’s great about the profession, and why she does it on a locum tenens basis with Weatherby Healthcare. Heidi said, “Patients should know that we’re trained in the medical model similar to their physician. We don’t have that MD or DO designation behind our names like the physicians do, but we work very closely with them and we’re trained to think the same way.”
Heidi wants patients to know that physician assistants go through rigorous credentialing steps. “It’s an exhaustive vetting process that includes background checks, criminal checks, and complete board and license verification.”
Why choose a PA career?
1. Start healing people sooner
Heidi has been working locums with Weatherby Healthcare for more than two of her six years as a physician assistant. She said, “People who are considering a PA career should know that it’s a great way to balance your work life and your home life. You get through school quicker. Depending on what specialty you choose you can have nights, weekends, and holidays off. You may also choose to work longer shifts, say in an ER or urgent care, work three or four days a week, and the rest of the time is yours. PAs are less frequently on call than physicians.”
2. Avoid burnout
Heidi confides that things got so tough at her previous permanent job that she started thinking about getting out of medicine altogether. She said, “Locum tenens helps a lot when it comes to addressing burnout. I never stay at one site longer than about a year. Any time I’m getting burned out or need a change of scenery, that one year mark gets close and I know that I’m going to get to go somewhere else soon. It does help. Locum tenens lets you do the healing work you love without giving up your health or your personal life.”
3. Take more control of your work life
Heidi sums up the locums lifestyle by saying, “I just like to explore. It keeps it fresh and exciting.” Some clinicians choose assignments based on the kinds of cases they want to see, or the kinds of off time experiences they want. In Heidi’s case, she likes to keep things simple. “For me, assignment choices come down to geography. I’m licensed in Michigan and Wisconsin, so those are the areas where I like to look first. It’s simpler to go to a state where I’m already licensed.” That’s the formula that works best for Heidi, but Weatherby does help to make licensing easier in all 50 states so you can work wherever you want.
Why do locums with Weatherby as a PA?
Heidi is quick to acknowledge that locum tenens offers advantages and disadvantages over permanent PA jobs. It’s all a matter of personal needs and priorities.
Heidi said, “I’ve never been happier professionally. I’ve visited some facilities more than once and have built up professional relationships that are important to me. It would be nice to have that closer to home, but because my locums work allows me to maintain those relationships, it’s great for learning and growing.
Julie McClean of Weatherby has been Heidi’s consultant since her first day doing locum tenens . Heidi said, “It was weird at first to talk with someone I’ve never met in person before, but we’ve bonded a lot over the two and a half years we’ve been working together.” Julie handles all aspects of Heidi’s locums assignments, from professional licensing and credentialing tasks, to personal matters around travel and housing.
Heidi recalls, “I was staying in a lake house that had a carpenter ant infestation. Julie knows me so well that I didn’t have to explain my dislike of bugs. Julie immediately took the problem off my hands and just took care of it.” For Heidi, that one anecdote sums up the way that Julie and Weatherby take care of her on assignment.
What’s to love about physician assistants?
When asked what we should celebrate during National PA Week 2017, Heidi’s response is, “What’s not to love – we’re awesome!” Her enthusiasm for the profession naturally shines through, but she moderates it with a lot of humility and empathy.
Heidi said, “Patients tell me that PAs tend to be more personable, and maybe less bookish than physicans. The nature of our work allows us to focus more on the connection between the provider and the patient.” Every once in a while, Heidi runs across a patient who doesn’t want to be treated by a PA, but says it’s rare. “Most people are very respectful. They just want someone who will listen and care about their medical issues.”
If you’re a PA, thank you! If you encounter a PA this week, make their day with a social shout-out using the #PAweek hashtag and let them know you appreciate them!