As today’s health care system grows more complex, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the process. From clinic visits to hospital stays, we see, and are seen by, more professionals than we can remember or count.
Concern about the outcome of a diagnosis can be as unsettling as worries about extended treatment. We have allies in this maze of uncertainty, and their medical training is complemented by a natural ability to communicate through the noise of the system.
These individuals chose to become physician assistants in order to bridge the gap between doctor and patient. On October 6, Physician Assistants’ Day, we recognize them with handshakes of thanks.
These skilled professionals would probably redirect those handshakes to Dr. Eugene Stead. In 1965, Dr. Stead originated the concept of physician assistants at Duke Medical Center. He created a fast-track educational program based on his experiences training doctors during World War II.
Today’s physician assistant follows two to three years of intensive post-graduate study with the completion of a master’s degree in one or several fields of health or medical science.
Whether the specialty is surgery, emergency services or assisting in doctors’ offices, the physician assistant is a welcomed member of staff and an invaluable part of the team.
We have come to know them as trusted go-betweens who have the expertise and time to communicate, using words that lift the veil of unfamiliar terms and intricate medical care. Part educator and part advisor, they take the time to answer questions and discuss issues.
They perform our examinations, hold our hands through procedures and prescribe our medication. They talk with our family members, give us good counsel and help us map roads to recovery.
On our next visit, we should return the goodwill and kindness we’ve been shown. We need to tell them that we are glad they decided to become physician assistants. If they asks why, we’ll shake their hands and tell them they’ve made very important differences in our lives.