Being a Physician Assistant #2: Being Comfortable with the Human Body
This is the second post of a series to help you learn more about the physician assistant profession. My goal? Not to merely echo what you’ve already heard, but to delve deeper, so you can truly get a taste of what it means to be a physician assistant! You can read the introduction by clicking here.
Personal feelings about Being a PA
I want to begin by expressing my feelings about being a Physician Assistant. I will soon discuss several topics that challenge the glamour of working as a healthcare practitioner. Therefore, it’s important for you to understand that I love being a PA! In spite of the discomforts and frustrations, there’s nothing as wonderful and rewarding as connecting with and helping other human beings in such a meaningful way. There are few occupations that are so challenging, that require such a broad set of skills, and I’ll emphasize, few that are able to bring to surface such an array of emotions. It is indeed a marvelous occupation, one which I am proud to be a part of!
Being Comfortable with the Human Body
If you want to be a physician assistant, you have to be comfortable with bodies and all the parts that come with them. You have to be comfortable with touching and manipulating body parts of both males and females. And not just young, healthy, and attractive bodies, but aged, unhealthy, and diseased bodies as well. You have to be comfortable with carefully examining and working with deep ulcers, oozing sores, bleeding lacerations, genitalia with herpetic lesions, abscesses that express foul smelling exudate, and thick yellow fungus-filled toenails that easily slough. You have to be comfortable placing your fingers in anuses and vaginas, handling testicles, as well as lifting and displacing pendulous breasts. You also have to be comfortable with performing maneuvers that may cause patients discomfort or pain. And you MUST do all of these things with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity, fully recognizing that it’s usually much more uncomfortable for the patient than it is for you. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying you have to enjoy all of these things, but you must be comfortable enough with and willing to properly perform an adequate exam for what each case demands. The potential repercussions of failing to do so are too enormous. So ask yourself, am I capable of doing these things? Frequently I am asked why most PA Programs require admission candidates to have hands-on patient care experience. One of the most important reasons includes making sure you know you’re comfortable with the human body, in all shapes, sizes, and conditions! For those of you who can never see yourself being able to do these things, no need to read on. For those of you who can, move on to Post #3: Genuinely Caring About and Having Compassion for Patients, by clicking here.