By Meghan Kayan , ThriveAP Contributor and Future Physician Assistant

There are a vast amount of professions you can go into when entering the medical world. For those who don’t already have their foot in the door towards a medical career, deciding which specific career is a match for you can be a hard choice. Knowing the difference between the responsibilities of a nurse, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or any other healthcare professional may become confusing.

For those of you who find yourselves drawn towards the medical field, one of the most important ways you can determine what type of career responsibilities you would like to hold is through job shadowing.

Shadowing is a term that I didn’t understand until I was halfway through my college career. Growing up in a family of accountants and music teachers, I became familiar with jobs that were relatively self-explanatory. For me, needing to follow someone around to see what their job is like was something I didn’t deem necessary. After joining health related clubs on my campus, the idea of shadowing started to spring up in each club’s meetings. Witnessing how many health care positions are available, I realized how crucial shadowing was to ensure the career path I was heading towards was truly what I wanted.

I recently had the opportunity to shadow a Physician Assistant at a teaching hospital. The PA that I shadowed for the day worked in anesthesiology. Part of her role within the health care team that she worked with for each patient she saw was not only working during operations, but consulting with patients during pre- and post-operative care.

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As I followed her around for the day, I got to see not only what a PA does, but how each PA is supposed to treat their patients and the type of respect patients give to PAs. Observing the interaction between patient and PA was something that most people can’t see unless through a personal experience as a patient. Throughout the day we walked from patient to patient, and I got to hear and see what an average day was for a PA. I listened to patient histories, I heard patients getting debriefed on how anesthesia will work during their surgery, and I experienced a relaxation that the PA gave the patient in order to provide them with a “we got this” type of environment. After each patient that we saw, I got to speak with the PA and ask questions. She would tell me similarities and differences between what she would say to patients and why she would do so.

Throughout the entire experience I gained not only information on the day to day of a physician assistant, but I also had the opportunity to observe the PA’s interaction with every other health care professional working in the hospital. At the end of my day I left the hospital feeling elated, and that was reason enough to show me the power of shadowing. It was gratifying to see that what I’m working hard towards is the right fit. I highly recommend job shadowing as a way for prospective healthcare professionals to see first-hand what their future career is really like.


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