Why I’m Glad I Took My First Job In General Medicine

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Whether you’re certain about the specialty you want to go into or if you’re unsure where to get your first job, I’d recommend starting in general medicine to anyone! I took my first job as a hospitalist physician assistant. I am so happy about my decision and here is why.

1. Knowing what a sick patient looks like

In any specialty, you may run into critically ill patients. The ability to pick up on these patients’s need for medical attention is crucial. The scariest part of medicine is wondering if you’ll miss something major and harm your patient. When you’ve spent time in general medicine, you are more confident about your ability to recognize a problem.

When I walk into a patient’s room I know within a few seconds whether or not I need to be concerned about that patient. I know if I need to call my supervising physician or if I can manage the issue alone. It is a great feeling.

2. No fear of abnormal lab values

When you run tests, you’re bound to get back some abnormal results. Whether these results are concerning or not requires looking at many sets of lab values, many patients and many outcomes. Eventually you develop a comfort with some abnormal values.

I often do consults on patients under the service of another specialty because tests were run that revealed abnormal lab values. I know when these findings are something to worry about and require management, when they can be worked up at a later date or ignored all together. Due to my training, I rarely panic about test results.

3. It’s easier to start broad and narrow than start narrow and go broad

Switching from a highly specialized field into another highly specialized field or general medicine can be challenging because you often forget a lot of basic principles when you specialize. When you start in general medicine, you can more easily transition into a specialty because you’ve had a lot of exposure to many diverse problems. One of the best things about the physician assistant profession is your ability to transition from field to field, so don’t handicap yourself.

I welcome a new field with open arms without fear that I won’t be able to pick it up. Instead, I think it’d be easier for me to get into a highly specialized field now with my experience than I did when I graduated from school. Many of my fellow physician assistant colleagues are unhappy with their current positions, but don’t feel comfortable switching specialties.

4. Working alongside with many specialists

If you aren’t sure which specialty would suit you best, general medicine is a great place to start. By working in general medicine you work with specialists who can shed light on their field. It’s a great way to tease out specialties you may be interested in. It is also a great way to learn medicine. When you don’t know what to do, you can find comfort and answers by calling the specialists.

I sit side by side and call specialists multiple times a day about my patients. I know what they do to manage different conditions. I know what they think about their jobs. I know I can count on them when I don’t know what to do. I love working alongside these experts.

5. Reaffirming all you learned in PA school

You spent at least 2 years training in PA school. There is tons of information that gets stuffed into your head in a short amount of time. As soon as you pass your boards, it is only natural to start forgetting that education, especially if you jump right into a specialty. When you work in general medicine, it is your job to constantly reaffirm all that you learned in PA school and stay up to date on new recommendations.

I know many people who come across uncommon cases and say they cannot recall what they learned in medical or PA school. I rarely have this problem. I am constantly using what I learned in PA school. In fact, I think I understand more information now that I learned in PA school than I did when I graduated.

6. Never a dull moment

When you work in general medicine, you literally see it all. All different types of patients, all different types of diseases.

In a typical day, I may treat patients just out of surgery, patients with a simple infection, patients with heart attacks and strokes and patients who are critically ill and crashing. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Almost every day I want to scream, cry, and laugh. I know that I am making a difference.

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