Mar. 5 2019
Have you ever wondered what your friends actually do for work? We’re not talking about the description in their LinkedIn bio, but what they actually do in their 9-5. As part of our mission to bring you more girl boss content, we’re investigating job titles to get the low-down on exactly what they really entail. Curious to know what being an account executive even means? Wondering what a VP in finance does in the afternoon? We’re creating more transparency around different jobs, and the salaries and duties that come with them, to help you figure out what you’re interested in. Today, read how a Trauma and Critical Care PA living in Phoenix spends her workday.
City: Phoenix, Arizona
Job Title: Trauma and Critical Care PA
What does your job title mean? What does your job entail?
Being a physician assistant (PA) can mean a lot of different things, depending on the setting. As a PA in trauma in a major metropolitan hospital, it means that I’m spending my day bouncing between taking care of admitted patients on the floor, running down to the ER to assess and treat incoming trauma patients, and assisting the trauma surgeons in the operating room with anything they need. Throughout the day, I am checking in with the trauma surgeon and running anything by them that I feel unsure about but do have a ton of autonomy when it comes to making medical decisions for my patients.
When do you wake up?
For day shifts I generally wake up around 6am. This gives me enough time to meditate, drink tea, read some favorite blogs or a bit of a novel and make breakfast before my shift. We start at 8am so I’m usually out the door by 7:30am to give me enough time to change into surgical scrubs once I get to the hospital.
At 9am I am…
Just finishing up morning sign-out with the team. Each day shift starts with everyone sitting together in the conference room, out-going night team and on-coming day team. We discuss every patient that we have on the trauma service, brainstorming treatment ideas and reviewing important imaging (X-rays, CT scans, etc.). After the meeting, the trauma surgeon and I head up to the floor to begin rounding on our patients (medical speak for the daily check-in where we examine each patient, see how they’re doing, come up with a plan for the day).
At 11am I am…
Doing any number of things. I could be in the ER taking care of a new trauma that just came in. I could be finishing up rounds on the floor and starting to write progress notes. I could be in the operating room assisting the surgeon (which could mean anything from closing a simple laceration to manually squeezing a heart while the trauma surgeon tries to patch up a bullet hole in the lungs).
What does lunch normally look like for you?
Some days this does not happen. Some days we get lucky. The hospital has a separate lounge (which makes it sound fancier than it is, I promise) for doctors which serves lunch on weekdays. On a day when we’re not running around, the surgeon and I will grab lunch there. On days where there isn’t a minute to sit down, I’m usually shoving almonds down in between consults and patient visits.
At 1pm I am…
Probably finishing notes from all of our rounds from the morning. Each patient we see needs a note in their chart each day. Which is totally do-able when there are 5-10 patients on the floor. Once we start to have 15-20 patients, the notes start to stack up and it’s important to be super efficient in the middle of the day because you need to be free to see traumas towards the evenings when people start to get off work and get in car accidents.
At 3pm I am…
Seeing new trauma consults in the ER, answering phone calls with questions from nurses, finishing notes (they never end), or maybe eating finally! Hospital saltines can be a life-saver when you’re desperate.
At 5pm I am…
Starting to get the evening rush of people who have been in car accidents on the crowded freeways. Typically the trauma team gets called to the ER if there’s a concern for serious injury (broken bones, internal organ damage, bleeding on the brain) so a lot of times the ER physicians will do a first assessment and if there’s something they’re worried about then we’ll get called down. We also get a lot of elderly fall patients with head trauma (unsteady gait + blood thinners is a bad combination). I would say that and car accidents (and motorcycles! Stay off motorcycles people, please) are our 2 major sources of trauma patients.
How does a workday end for you?
At 8pm, the incoming night PA will come on and we will spend 30-60 minutes going over all of the patients that we’re taking care of. We’d talk about things to follow up on at night (x-rays, phone calls to consulting doctors, etc), things to watch out for (patients with breathing issues, etc.), and things to have ready for the morning (lab results, x-rays, etc.). Then I pass off the trauma pager (yes, we still use vintage pagers to alert us to traumas, just like Grey’s Anatomy) and change out of the surgical scrubs and drive home.
What do you do after work?
Decompression is important so I’ll usually cook something with my husband, cuddle with my cats, and watch something light and funny.
What time do you go to bed?
If I have work again the next day (we work 3 days per week), I’ll make sure to get to bed early. If I’m off the next day, I’m less strict and will stay up reading or watching a movie. My night routine is pretty minimal: I shower, wash my face, apply a calming lavender body oil, throw on my face mask and fall asleep to repeats of The Office. There might be wine in there somewhere if I don’t have work the next day.
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