Should I Trust a Physician’s Assistant? The Case for a Growing Field of Health Experts
Dr. W, an orthopedic surgeon, leaned towards me and launched into a lecture.
“We can’t determine what you need without an x-ray,” he barked, cutting me off in mid-sentence.
I leaned back, smiling. Here we go.
Only 90 seconds past hello and now, this.
My left hip has an impingement. For the time of this appointment, however, I hadn’t been able to get a copy of an x-ray report, much less a disc. Now this Doc was steamrolling me, criticizing me for not bringing him what he needed, stating that my research was “useless to us without films.”
I know that. Also, I have no control over how slow the Veteran’s Administration is in getting me critical medical data.
The VA had scheduled this appointment, the Doc’s office had dictated the only time available, and I’m leaving for a month in Indonesia in a few days. I had done everything humanly possible. Now Dr. W was haranguing me about having wasted his time.
And that after he’d made me cool my heels for 45 minutes after arriving early for my appointment. Of course he had.
I was in no mood. At the very least, I needed to clarify that my symptoms lined up with the impingement diagnosis, and to be given instructions on what to do while in Indonesia to prevent further injury. Can’t get that advice when your doctor isn’t listening though.
When the good Dr. W showed no sign of slowing down, I leaned forward. “Are you going to keep right on talking or are you going to let ME talk for a change?”
Dr. W sat bolt upright. The PA, Wayne, sat on the exam table, watching. He put his hand over his mouth. Waited. His eyes twinkled.
Wayne’s a long-time athletic trainer, and he’s accustomed to strong-willed, assertive women. He simply covered his mouth and watched.
I crisply outlined my situation. Given the proper information, Dr.W put the wheels into motion.
We got films ordered. Requested specific additional x-rays that I could get done the very next day. Necessary and important progress – especially since I have another adventure trip in mid-summer.
Not a waste of time whatsoever.
Dr. W huffed out. I grinned at Wayne. We spent the next 15 minutes discussing symptoms and what I needed to avoid while in Indonesia. Then I said, “PAs are my favorite medical providers.”
He laughed and said, “You’re fun.” We shook hands.
I’ll take Wayne, the PA, over Dr. W, the orthopedic surgeon, any day. Any day. When I’m facing anxiety- inducing procedures, I need someone who can help me laugh not lecture me like a two-year-old. I am done with doctors who only see me as a body part or a procedure instead of a whole person.
Americans are increasingly frustrated with their doctors, says a NY Times article. My experience with Dr. W is a perfect example. In my opinion, the PA is the perfect go-between. They attend, listen, and do what the specialist surgeon should be doing but no longer does. The PA is where I now put my trust.
A Growing Field
Many of us don’t realize how well-trained and skilled PAs actually are. The PA either assists or actually performs our surgeries in some cases, always with supervision. They are multiplying through our health care system, although, on occasion, may be met with prejudice.
“I want to see a real doctor,” some folks say. You might want to reconsider.
When a pair of VA neurosurgeons gave up on me over my constant migraines, a neurology PA prescribed the one cure that worked.
He offered at least six options that those neurosurgeons never considered, including nutrition. One reason is that the average physician gets less than 24 hours of nutrition training.
So, what is a PA? This Times article explains it very well, “The Physician Assistant Will See You.”
In my case, if I choose to stay with this surgeon, I’ll probably spend most of my time with Wayne the PA.
Is a PA as Good as a Doctor?
Those of us long accustomed to a DR might be wary of a PA. Don’t be. They may well offer you far more options than the ones provided by traditional medicine. I have found them to be focused on health and prevention as opposed to pills and procedures.
As many Americans lose faith in the medical profession, more of us are finding proactive health partnerships in physician’s assistants.
For women, and aging women in particular, the traditional medical community tends to disregard or dismiss our symptoms. Pain is one symptom that’s often mocked as being “all in our head.”
Most doctors’ God complex leaves no room for humility, to deal with the unique issues that you and I face as we age.
But I sure have met a few PAs who are, in fact, near angelic.
When it comes to managing my health, I’ll take a guardian angel any day.
What is your experience with PAs? Can you compare to your experience with doctors? Would you trust a PA with your treatment? Please share your thoughts, positive or negative, on the topic.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.