The Ups and Downs of My First Year as a PA

PA Diana Anderson Stays Positive

June 22, 2020

By Diana Anderson, PA-C

Diana AndersonI was a senior in college when I found out about the PA profession. Growing up, I always thought I’d be a physician. However, as I made my way through college, I realized that the physician lifestyle wasn’t for me. I spent a few years job-hopping, but it wasn’t until I started working with a disability insurance company that I realized that I had been missing something. I wanted to be able to combine my passion for science with human relationships. I began to speak with and shadow PAs and quickly fell in love with the generalist training, the lateral mobility, and the teamwork approach to medicine. Being a native Oklahoman, the choice to attend the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center was simple. I had already received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from OU and I knew I would receive a solid medical education as well. Because their PA program was actually a part of their College of Medicine, I knew I would have the opportunity to train alongside medical students and have access to their large faculty and hospital system. 

Starting to practice
When rotations started, I knew I was interested in emergency medicine but I tried my best to keep an open mind. I ended up loving every single rotation and truly could see myself practicing in all areas of medicine. Ultimately, I landed my very first job in urgent care. I found my first job through a recruiter for a large local hospital system. I was the recipient of a state scholarship that promoted primary care practice in rural communities, so I looked in very specific geographic areas. I was lucky enough to find a job several months before graduation. My advice to new grads would be to start looking early! While the PA profession continues to grow, if you are looking for a specific location or a specific specialty, it can be more difficult to land that dream job. It also takes months for credentialing, so the earlier you can nail something down, the better! Also, treat every rotation like an interview. You never know when your preceptor will be hiring or who they know that might be hiring.

[What They Didn’t Tell Me in PA School: Five Months to Start Working]

As a PA in urgent care, I worked three or four 12-hour shifts per week. I worked alongside another provider and we were next door to a primary care clinic with several other advanced practice providers and physicians (including my collaborating physician). As a new provider, this was a dream – I was in the urgent care clinic, but had an entire team I could reach out to any time I needed additional help. My biggest challenge was developing confidence in myself as a provider. While I had the education and training, learning to truly trust myself was difficult. It is still something I struggle with today, but each day gets better. My favorite part of PA practice is building connections with my patients every day. It has been so meaningful to know that I’ve played a small part in their overall wellbeing, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. 

COVID-19’s effects
A global pandemic was certainly not how I envisioned my first year of clinical practice. Just as I was getting into the groove of things and becoming more confident in my abilities, I was faced with a novel virus that we knew very little about. I felt overwhelmed with new information, as the guidelines and protocols changed almost daily. I was nervous about stepping into patient care roles I was not ready for, but also excited that my training allowed me to just that. PAs are unique in that we can quickly pivot into almost any setting and remain a valuable member of the healthcare team.

Unfortunately, our clinic and hospital system as a whole saw a drastic decrease in patient volume. This resulted in my clinic reducing hours and, ultimately, my position was eliminated. Coupled with some other struggles, my husband and I needed to relocate back to our hometown, just six months after moving. It was difficult to leave our new friends and neighbors, but we were also excited to be home. Luckily, I was able to land a part-time position with a non-profit women’s health clinic that also specializes in LGBTQ+ healthcare. Here, I’ve experienced some my most rewarding work. I’m excited to see where this takes me!

[How a PA in Telehealth is Helping Respond to COVID-19]

 

Reflecting on a year
The last year has been full of struggles, but one thing that PA school taught me was to always be flexible. Global pandemic and layoffs aside, medicine is a field that is constantly changing. Constantly learning and adapting will only benefit me as a provider. COVID-19 has really propelled telemedicine into the spotlight, and I’m excited to see how it will open up access to healthcare to those who previously would’ve been unable to receive care. Right now, I don’t know exactly where I will land, but I’m grateful to know that I have a career that will always be exciting and fulfilling. 

Diana Anderson is a PA practicing women’s health and LGBTQ+ primary care in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She can be reached at [email protected]. 

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