Sometimes when seeking medical care rather than seeing a doctor, patients are treated by a physician assistant. Physician assistants (PAs) have an important role in healthcare as medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.
Often confused with nurse practitioners, PAs are trained to practice medicine using a curriculum modeled after medical school, which offers a comprehensive view of all aspects of medicine. They are trained in the advanced practice of nursing as well. PAs hold both bachelors and master’s degrees and are required to complete 2,000 hours of structured clinical education to receive their PA degree.
NPs must choose a “population focus,” such as a pediatric nurse practitioner or a women’s health nurse practitioner. NPs are trained in advanced practice of nursing.
October 6 through 12 is National Physician Assistant Week. We’d like to introduce you to five NCH physician assistants.
Maureen Castaldi, PA-C Occupational and Employee Health/Immediate Care Centers Nearly eight years at NCH Maureen’s birthday falls during PA Week, so one year her colleagues brought her a crown to celebrate.
Tell us about an NCH employee who inspires you. “I am inspired every day by my coworkers at the ICCs and employee health, with their courage, flexibility and ability to persevere during this time of unknowns we have faced with COVID-19.”
Why should someone pursue a career as a physician assistant? “Physician assistants are an essential part of a collaborative healthcare team that promotes delivery of the best patient care possible. This career has allowed me to do what I love, which is giving back and making others feel better.”
Kaitlin Knippel, PA-C, MMSc Schaumburg Immediate Care Center Six years at NCH
Tell us about an NCH employee who inspires you. “My collaborating physician, Dr. Sindhu Perumal, is someone I admire and continually look to for guidance and inspiration. She exemplifies hard work, is kind, empathetic and encourages critical thinking. (She does this while somehow maintaining a work-life balance with two daughters at home e-learning!)”
Why should someone pursue a career as a physician assistant? “Medicine is fascinating! Physician assistants have the ability to practice in virtually every specialty, allowing for a broad range of opportunities to continually challenge oneself, all while making a difference in someone’s health and quality of life.
“If the inherent joys of medicine are not enough, the PA profession is continually ranked as one of the top careers in the U.S., and is projected to only increase in demand.”
Stephanie Metevelis, PA-C Occupational and Employee Health/Immediate Care Centers Eight years at NCH
Tell us about an NCH employee who inspires you. “I am inspired by all of my colleagues in OEHS and the Immediate Care Centers, and consider it a privilege to work with them. Thanks to each of them for all they do! I am also inspired by Occupational and Employee Health/Immediate Care/Wellness Executive Director Holly Badal and Medical Director Dr. Neil Shah, whose leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has been exceptional.”
Why should someone pursue a career as a physician assistant? “Physician assistants are versatile healthcare providers who help improve access to medical care. As a physician assistant, you can make a difference in someone’s life every day!”
Allison Soward, MPAS, PA-C NCH Medical Group – Surgical Division 11.5 years at NCH
Tell us about an NCH employee who inspires you. “All NCH employees inspire me; this hospital truly works together to give patients the best possible outcome whether they are here for a routine well visit or needing advanced care.”
Why should someone pursue a career as a physician assistant? “There are hundreds of reasons to become a PA, but for me the number one reason is the amount of time I get to spend with my patients while they are in the hospital. On average I see 12 to 15 patients a day, and first assist in the operating room on all cases with my collaborating physicians. I feel like my schedule allows me to take the extra time with my patients to really ensure that they understand why they need an operation and what the recovery period will look like.”
Emily Starr, M.S., PA-C Post-Acute Care Six years at NCH
Tell us about an NCH employee who inspires you. “I am inspired by all the physician assistants and nurse practitioners that I have worked with, both inpatient and with the post-acute team. Each of them are so dedicated to their patients and their professions. It is definitely people like them that give the advance practice providers a good name!”
Why should someone pursue a career as a physician assistant? “A person who is interested in the world of medicine should consider being a physician assistant for many reasons. Your education will model that of a doctor, but in less time, which allows you to enter the work force sooner. Also, you are helping to improve access to affordable medical care for a growing America.
“Being a physician assistant allows for flexibility in your own career. You can work in almost all specialties or in primary care without being required to get additional degrees. The best part of being a physician assistant is that I get to help people feel better every day.”