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The Physician Assistant Life

Ding! My phone’s email rang out across the room at my patient’s house as I finished up my 12-hour shift as a CNA. Not thinking much about it, I reached to see who contacted me, thinking it was probably spam. My heart stopped. The PA program I had interviewed at 2 weeks ago got back to me. This was not just any PA school, but my top choice. I took a deep breath and clicked on the e-mail.   “Congratulations, you have been selected to matriculate into the class of 2018…” read the first line. I dropped my phone and shrieked in excitement. I could not believe it! In a moment, my life’s goal had become a reality. I was going to be a PA!

Yet, this is not where my story began. As a young girl, I was fascinated about the world of science and health. Unlike many youngsters that groan over upcoming science exams, I genuinely looked forward to taking my exam, as I knew as soon as I was done I would learn new material. Moving into high school, I began to look into what professions the health field offered, as this offered a unique blend of human interactions, problem solving, and science and medical information. I shadowed doctors, dentists, nurses, and a PA. When I shadowed my first PA, I knew this was a profession I had to find out more about.

This PA had such a unique way of connecting with patients. He sat down and really worked through what the heart of the issue was. He was extremely focused on the fine details of the diagnosis, spending extra time to take a thorough history and do an extensive physical exam. More importantly than that, it struck me how the patient responded to the PA. Yes, there were moments that the PA was stumped on an issue and had to run an idea by a colleague or refer to one of his many medical texts, but the patient never expressed frustrations or were demeaning to the PA.  They actually admired him for double-checking his diagnosis and being thorough. Needless to say, my hours spent shadowing not only this PA, but also many others, increased my understanding of the PA profession and increased my desire to pursue a career in this field.

Fast forward to college. By now I knew the PA profession was a career I was serious about pursuing. I obtained my certification to become a CNA and by sophomore year of college I began to gain healthcare hours. Little did I know my career as a CNA would be the single biggest factor in me becoming a PA. I found work doing in-home care for patients who suffered spinal cord injuries. I had such admiration for their spirit, because even though life had dealt them an unfortunate hand, they continued to stay strong and have a positive attitude.

One patient in particular, really changed the way I viewed patient care. This man, who as a young adult was involved in an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, continued to smile and be happy about the little things life gave him. Every day, this patient felt significant pain, yet, without fail he found something positive each day to be thankful for. He was also genuinely a good person and took an interest in my life. He made an effort to get to know me, and I did the same for him. We spent countless hours talking about everything and anything. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders during the PA application process, and was absolutely thrilled when I found out I was going to UW-Madison. He taught me so much about being a future PA.

From him, and many others, I learned that you are not simply treating the symptom, nor should your profession ever become a job. No, you are treating a living breathing human being who has needs and goals and desires. When a patient comes to me as a PA it is not simply putting a Band-Aid on the problem, but diving a little deeper to get to the root of the issue in order to correct it while also respecting what the patient want to get out of the experience.  

My aspirations to become a PA have not faltered since starting PA school. There have been moments of frustration and being overwhelmed from learning material at such a fast pace, but those emotions have never been outshone by the privilege and honor I feel at being able to provide patients with medical knowledge and care. I know that I need to go through this hardship, because at the end of the day it may end up coming down to life and death for my patients and that it will be determined based on my knowledge. My clinical year experience has taught me to become “comfortable with being uncomfortable”, meaning I am throwing myself into a variety of new situations and people that are incredibly knowledgeable about their specialty, and trying to study fast enough to keep up. Clinical year has affirmed my choice of profession. To see practicing PAs interact with their patients in such a compassionate and effective way makes me incredibly excited to hopefully follow in their footsteps within the next year.

The end goal to becoming a PA is drawing near, and it has been a whirlwind of an adventure getting to where I am today. Yes, there has been lots of hours spent with my nose in a book studying, lengthy hours spent working nightshifts during college and picking up hours to gain healthcare experience, and lots of emails sent tracking down PAs to shadow. I’ve had to navigate a whole new world of applying to PA programs including CASPA, GREs, and interviews. Looking back now, every single minute was worth it. When you find a career that not only helps you reach your professional ambitions, but also your personal ambitions to have family-work life balance, give back to the world through a career of helping people, and gives me the ability to network and branch out to a community of brilliant and caring healthcare professionals, well I think that is a career that is worth fighting to have.  

In less than 7 months I will be sitting for my PANCE exam, which if all goes as planned, will end with me adding a couple extra letters to the end of my name. I cannot wait to be Jourdyn Mootz PA-C!

About the author:

Jourdyn Mootz is a current PA student at UW-Madison, where she is embracing her true passion for the field. Jourdyn's favorite thing about being a PA student is the ability to learn and grow from all the valuable resources around her. Her notable acheivements include being head student leader of a medical mission trip to Belize, student speaker at her undergraduate commencement ceremony, and membership of one of the only rural based PA cohorts in the US. In Jourdyn's free time she enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, friends, and wonderful boyfriend, running, taking pictures, and drinking coffee in local coffee shops.

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