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On the Job with Physician Assistants

On the Job with Physician Assistants

Wendy J. Meyeroff, Monster Contributing Writer

The Adrenaline Rush

PAs can be generalists or specialize in areas such as cardiology, pediatrics, psychiatry or trauma.

Mahaffy, who is president of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants, is a surgical PA specializing in cardiothoracic procedures. He’s harvested arteries for cardiac surgeons, put in dialysis catheters and inserted feeding tubes. Today, as a hospitalist (another specialty), he works anywhere outside the OR where surgical expertise is needed. For example, one of his duties in the cardiac-care unit is providing chest drainage to patients with congestive heart failure.

Mahaffy works five days on, five days off, starting at 5:30 or 6 a.m. for what are supposed to be 10- or 12-hour shifts, but he stays as long as he’s needed. His specialty can be “a young man’s game,” he admits. “You can live on adrenaline and caffeine.”

In a Family Way

Charlene Morris, MPAS, PA-C, offers another look at a PA’s life. A former lab tech, Morris has been a family-practice PA for 24 years. While she has been employed at major medical centers, she now works alongside a family-practice physician at the B.F. Taylor Medical Arts Family Medicine Clinic in the small town of Burkesville, Kentucky.

She describes the relationship with the doctor she supports as “very complementary” and says she loves the versatility of family medicine. “I’ll handle everything from colds and rashes, to sports injuries, to people with diabetes,” says Morris, past president of the Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants.

Earlier last year, she widened her work’s scope by dividing her time between the clinic and the Cumberland County (Kentucky) ER. “I’ve had to go back and expand my suturing skills, and we have to be up on advanced cardiac life support,” she says.

Morris and Mahaffy emphasize the flexibility in their careers and agree that they could move into other areas, from neonatal to aerospace medicine. “PAs can work in any and all settings with their physician colleagues,” Mahaffy says.

This article originally appeared on Monster Career Advice.

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