Denisonians in Health Professions: Physician Assistant

Denisonians in health professions: physician assistant - tiffani-dorn-294x300.png image #0Tiffani Dorn ’12

Role: Physician Assistant 
Professional School attended: Ohio Dominican University, graduated 2014           
Fun Fact: I am a youth leader and also lead mission teams to Honduras annually.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I initially decided on going into medicine when speaking with a gentleman who ran a mission organization in Haiti. I asked him for advice as someone who wanted to do mission work. He said one of the best things to do is to learn a skill that I could use on the field. That was the summer before starting college, so I started looking into medical school at that point. However, in the back of my mind, I was concerned with the amount of time and money it would take before I could practice on my own.

In 2009 after my sophomore year, I went to Haiti for 3 weeks for a medical mission internship. Fortunately, that summer there was a PA from Kentucky working there with his family for 2 months who mentored me. After learning about the PA profession and that PAs can do almost everything that a physician can with a much more condensed schooling and tuition cost (though still a huge commitment), I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I did a medical mission internship in Ghana in 2011 to get more experience in healthcare and serve the underserved.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
The best part about being a PA is having the knowledge and skill set to really help people. As compared to other healthcare providers (MDs, DOs, and NPs), PAs do not have to specialize in a certain field so we can transition between specialties. So far, I have worked in urgent care as a solo provider and in orthopedics seeing patients in the office and first assisting in surgery. I also like having the autonomy to see my own patients and do what I think is best for their care, while also having a physician who I can consult if I see something I have not seen before.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Any job in medicine is challenging. It is mentally challenging (in a good way!) to assess patients and come up with the best treatment of care for that unique person. It also has its social and bureaucratic challenges in both the work setting and with patients who may think differently than you or may not be compliant with their healthcare. Also, the paperwork is my least favorite and most time consuming thing.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.       
In my orthopedic job, my typical day consists of seeing patients for follow-up, post-op, or walk-in appointments. I do a history and physical exam of each patient, order and interpret testing (x-rays, MRI, CT, labs, EMG, etc.) when needed, give joint injections, fit braces, give rehabilitative exercises, place casts and splints, and whatever else is needed. In surgery, I work as a “first assist”. This includes helping prep the patient for surgery, retract tissue, suction, close the incision (suture/staple), dress the wound, and help get the patient back to the post-op area.

In my urgent care job, I was the only provider on my days there. I would see each patient that came in, diagnose them or order proper testing, and prescribe medication. I would also do any procedures and perform physicals.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
I would advise you to shadow in the field to see if it is something you really enjoy! I have had multiple students shadow with me and love answering any questions and showing them what a PA does! I would also advise you to really think about your motivations for wanting to be a PA (or whatever you decide) and use that as inspiration when times get tough or stressful.