Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm not a doctor but...

The first thing I do when I walk into a patient's room is introduce myself as a physician assistant.  Some family members hear that and understand that I am not a physician but that I will be handling their care and am competent to do so.  Others think I'm a doctor, despite introducing myself as a PA.  And then there are a few that understand I'm not an MD and think I am not qualified to see, touch or treat their child.

Luckily for myself and the patients, the last set of parents I described are few.  As in, I've only had one mom make a comment regarding my non-physician status.  Now, I don't mind when parents address this because I'm not a doctor and I don't want people to think I am.  That would be misrepresenting myself and I'm not all about that.  This particular mom asked for me if I was a doctor and when I told her no, she said "Oh well, you'll be one soon, right?"  I kindly told her "No, I have no plans to go to medical school and I'm very happy with what I do."  She then sheepishly asked me if a physician would be seeing her child or "just you."  I kindly told her that my attending would be by to say hi, ask questions and examine the patient.  That soothed her anxiety.  

Much more common are the parents who are talking on the phone when I peek my head back in to re-check the patient.  Nine times out of 10 I hear "Let me call you back the doctor's here."  I usually don't proactively correct them in this instance, but every other time they refer to me as a doc, I try to gently remind them I'm a PA.  

The most common person calling me "Dr. S" is other PAs/NPs, physicians or nursing staff.  They call my mobile phone asking for "Dr. S", return pages asking for the same or chart in the computer that MD S is at the bedside with the patient.  When it comes to these whenever I introduce myself I say I'm a PA but beyond that I don't waste my breath correcting them, they'll figure it out eventually right?

In summary, I am a PA-C, not an MD and I'm perfectly happy and content with that title.  

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