Q & A: A Day in the Life of an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant

Emergency Room Physician Assistant

Image Credit: Ken Jarvis

Why did you choose to become an Emergency Medicine PA?

Growing up in a family surrounded by medical professionals I found myself becoming more and more interested in the health care field. There were two specific instances that drew me toward becoming a PA and specializing in Emergency Medicine. The first moment was in high school when my brother sustained a large laceration. He had to be rushed to the Emergency Room where he was treated not only professionally but respectfully by an Emergency Medicine PA. I was able to see her expertise by her poise and calmness throughout the whole ordeal. The fast paced environment didn’t prevent her from taking a step back to make sure my brother received the best possible care. Another instance was when my dad’s brother was involved in a freak accident lacerating his radial artery. He was air lifted to a nearby hospital where once again, an Emergency Medicine PA acted quickly once he arrived to her hospital. Without her thoughtful and quick decisions who knows what would have happened to him. These two scenarios increased my interest in Emergency Medicine and pursuing a career that would impact and save peoples’ lives. After these experiences, my decision to become a Physician Assistant was clear and definite.


 What is a day in the life of an Emergency Medicine PA like?  

Well, a day in the Emergency Room is often unpredictable. Most days start slow and end very hectic. Throughout the day the volume of patients is constant and overwhelming but always manageable and rewarding. Working three 12 hour shifts a week is not made for everyone, but is perfect for someone looking for a challenge. It’s a constantly changing environment which keeps you on your toes. My responsibilities working in the Emergency Room range from evaluating and treating simple head, eye, ear infections to more complex scenarios including managing strokes, acute abdomens and addressing complex lacerations/fractures from trauma. The sky is the limit - the more experience you have the dirtier your hands can get!


What is it like collaborating with physicians in the Emergency Room?

Where I work, the attendings do not directly oversee us, the autonomy is fully placed on us. Once trained, we are trusted to make medically sound decisions. My colleagues and I are aware of our limitations and consult the attendings for more challenging cases.


Do you and your colleagues find it easy to communicate with the physicians you work alongside?

There is a lot of camaraderie in my department and mutual respect between the PAs and physicians. Although, there are some attendings that can be difficult to approach because of their negative reactions to us not knowing an answer. I’ve learned not to take it personally and it doesn’t stop me from doing my job. Before approaching these doctors I simply remind myself that without questions I would not be able to learn and enhance my skills.


How do you find balancing your personal life and work life as a PA?

I am able to achieve a great work life balance. After recently getting married, I have found working 3 days and having 4 days off a week is wonderful! I don’t allow my career to impact my personal life and vice versa. Working longer hours can be stressful and overwhelming at times but certainly worth it since I have more than half of the week off. I have been working in Emergency Medicine for nearly 10 years and couldn’t imagine it any other way. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’m excited to see what the next 10 years have in store for me!


PA Shah is a board certified Physician Assistant.

Interested in sharing your experiences? Email me at info@pasrise.com