Physician Assistants (PA) are medical providers who practice in many different specialties and settings. Responsibilities often include physical examinations, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting medical tests, and assisting in surgery. They operate in a team setting, often working alongside other physicians, surgeons, and healthcare workers. Read what Emily Goodwill, PA-C, has to say about how her journey to PA licensure unfolded.
Students typically go one of two routes to secure their degree.
I started my education with the accelerated program, but due to an error of my college over accepting PA students, I was offered the option to instead go the more traditional route. Taking this path meant an additional year but also provided an opportunity to travel abroad for a semester.
There always seems to be a rush to get through PA school, which is why some students opt for the accelerated program, however, being able to extend my education and study abroad allowed me to slow down and gain a greater perspective than I would have otherwise. My experience abroad was set in Ambialet, France, at a monastery-turned-campus owned by my college and staffed with American professors.
In France, I took narrative medicine and compassionate caregiving classes that changed my perspective on healthcare. The lifestyle of living in a small French village also encouraged me to take steps back from social media and do more introspection — remembering to slow down every day and enjoy the little moments in life – like the memories made touring Europe, which included riding Vespas around the Tuscany countryside and wine tastings at Italian vineyards!
Back to Reality - Didactic Year, Clinicals, and COVID-19
BOARD Exam & Finding a First Job
First Year as a Staff Employee (+ Imposter Syndrome)
Becoming a Physician Assistant is a difficult, yet rewarding career. I chose to become a PA for several reasons.
Healthcare is challenging, and people don’t always want to take your advice.
For example, you could have an uncontrolled diabetic and give them all the right suggestions to live a healthier life, but they simply won’t do it. You might recommend life-saving screenings that never get done. It’s challenging to convey my recommendations in a way that educates patients on why they’re important and motivates them to take action. Ultimately, it’s their choice, and some patients even dismiss you because you’re “not a doctor.”
Many PA’s complain that other physicians at their facility don’t show them the same respect as they would a doctor, but I am thankful at my practice that I am surrounded by phenomenal physicians that are supportive and respectful, so my issues are often only limited to patients being uneducated about my role in medicine.
I considered other routes in healthcare but didn’t necessarily want to take on the even more extensive education to become a doctor. A nurse practitioner is another career similar to a PA that many take on, but I knew less about the programs available, as my sister was a PA and had gathered a lot of information due to her expertise.
I love the healthcare career I chose because you can switch gears and do something very different with the same degree. For example, I work in a family practice now but could change my career and work in OBGYN, Surgery, Emergency, or whatever may interest me in the future with few barriers to entry.
My career as a physician’s assistant thus far has provided me with a great salary out of college that has allowed me to buy a house with my fiancé and start saving for our wedding! Career-wise, I’d love to eventually work in a pediatric position, as caring and interacting with children is something that comes naturally to me.
For those interested in becoming a Physician Assistant (or trying to hone in on your first job opportunity) here are a few takeaways to help:
I hope my perspective of becoming a PA and everything I’ve learned in my career thus far helps inform whether a career in this field is right for you!
About the Author
Emily Goodwill, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant practicing family medicine in northwestern Pennsylvania. She earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Science from Saint Francis University and is currently a staff Physician Assistant at Seneca Medical Center. Outside of her career, Emily loves tasting craft beer and wine, and exploring the outdoors with her fiancé (…and Kamana employee!) Jason as well as their dog Ekko.
Each week, I work four 10-hour days. Three days in-office, and one at-home serving patients via telemedicine. In the office, I see a patient every 30 minutes, and sometimes more due to misscheduling or an influx of patients. Clinical Assistants room my patients, chart-prep, and then they’re ready for my visit. Outside of seeing patients, I answer a lot of workloads (patients calling in with questions or concerns) and reviewing lab work.
During my telemedicine day, I still see patients every half-hour and my nurses prepare for the visit similar to if it were in-person. Once they’re ready, the person logs on to our facility portal and we connect on a video call.
Pros of Telemedicine
There are pros and cons to virtual visits. Telemedicine is great because it’s often more convenient than showing up in person, as elements like anxiety and transportation can be a barrier to care. Productive conversations are often related to acute illness, mental health concerns, lab reviews, and annual wellness checks.
Cons of Telemedicine
Telemedicine also has its limitations. I often get complaints of rashes, blood pressure follow-ups, UTIs, and other health issues that simply can not be diagnosed over a video call. You’re also relying on the patient compliance to get their blood work or other recommended test done, which can often be a challenge.