Day in the life of a physician assistant
Susan Anspach, physician assistant who works at MedWest Haywood urgent care centers, took the time the answer a few questions about her profession.
Anspach retired from the U.S. Air Force. She became a physician's assistant at a time the Air Force had a critical shortage. She applied, got into the program and did her residency at the Air Force Academy. She then served as a PA for the next decade in family practice. After retiring, it was a line of work she missed it, so now can be found working with patients at Med-West Haywood.
Can you talk a little about the role of a physician assistant?
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are pretty close in terms of scope of practice. Most are trained in family practice and rural care medicine. These two healthcare professionals are designed to augment the physician’s practice and essentially work in partnership with the physician. I consider it a big team. Most of what we do is 70- 80 percent of what a physician can do; histories and physicals, order labs, etc. We take the more routine work, which frees up the physician to see the more complicated patients. Basically it creates more efficiency, to gets patients in and out. It also increases access to care. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners augment and increase availability in healthcare.
What kinds of things do you see on any given day?
In terms of ages I've seen anywhere from newborn to 102. We are considered ‘full scope,’ so I've had chest pain patients, relocated fingers and rashes. Really whatever walks in the door, I'm ready."
Why did you become a PA?
I was torn on what I wanted to do, looking for something that would give me flexibility to be with my kids and be with my patients. Everyone has such a unique story — what they’ve done, and where they’ve been and one of the great things about medicine is getting to be a part of that story. I think healthcare is like a calling, you are there for people, going in and treating everyone like you would like to be treated. And going in and listening is the best thing I can offer patients. To try to find the best thing between the two of us that will work. As a preceptor I used to tell my students that the most valuable thing you can give your patients is your time and listening. They don’t always know the name of what’s wrong with them but just listen- just give them the time.