Happy Physician Assistant (PA) Week! There are more than 100 PAs who work at Texas Children’s Hospital. From Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Urgent Care, to the emergency centers, to our operating rooms, chances are you’ll run into one of us during your time here at Texas Children’s. Below are some frequently asked questions about PAs answered by myself and fellow colleagues.
What is a PA?
PAs are nationally-licensed medical professionals who are able to practice medicine under a supervising physician. Training includes both PA school, which last two to three years on average, and on-the-job training after graduation. It is a master’s level degree that allows you to see patients, make medical diagnoses and prescribe medications as part of the medical care team.
Alexandra Borden, PA-C
Surgical Physician Assistant Fellow
What can PAs do?
PAs can practice in all areas of medicine. Their scope of practice is determined by their supervising physician. To begin with, a physician assistant practices within the scope of their supervising physician’s specialty (ENT, general surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, etc.). Procedures, complexity of patients seen and other limitations are further decided on between a PA and their supervising physician. As a PA in pediatric ENT, I see inpatient consults in the acute care setting and in the emergency department; help manage patients who are followed by our service while they are in the hospital; perform flexible nasopharyngeal and tracheoscopes, frenulectomies and tracheostomy tube changes; bedside incision and drainage; and very occasionally assist in surgery when needed. A large part of my job is dedicated to providing education and continuity of care to our patients who have tracheostomy tubes and their families.
Jennifer Brown, PA-C
Department of Otolaryngology
Why did you chose to go to PA school?
I wanted to help patients, specifically sick children. Prior to PA school, I shadowed multiple types of providers and noticed PAs were usually able to spend more time with their patients. I sought to become a provider who forms relationships with her patients. I knew PA school would allow me the opportunity to learn how to diagnose and treat patients in the medical model and provide me the resources to talk effectively and counsel my patients and their families. The education I received in PA school prepared me to be the provider I am today.
Jackie Guarino Broda, PA-C
Department of Urology
What is the Surgical PA Fellowship and why did you apply?
The PA Surgery Fellowship is a unique opportunity for a PA who desires a career in pediatric surgery. The fellowship is a one year program that allows additional pediatric training and exposure to a variety of subspecialties. I applied to the fellowship because I was unsure of what specialty I wanted to work in and I knew the exposure to different specialties would allow me to make the most informed decision. I also thought the structured, pediatric-specific education would be beneficial to me as a provider.
Tara Harkins, PA-C
Surgical Physician Assistant Fellow
What is your favorite thing about being a PA?
I love being a PA in congenital heart surgery because it is a field I feel passionate about. I enjoy the complexity of the field and progression that has been made in the surgeries and treatments for the defects. As a PA, I am afforded the opportunity to care for these patients and families through their course before, during and after surgery.
Being a provider in this field is challenging, but incredibly rewarding as I’m able to be a part of the lives of these patients and their families, whether it is during a time of joy or sadness. Our patients and families are resilient, which inspires me to always continue learning and working for the privilege to be a PA.
Catherine Vu, PA-C
Congenital Heart Surgery
What is your favorite things about working at Texas Children’s Hospital?
My favorite thing about working at Texas Children’s is the high acuity of patients we care for and the availability of every specialty imaginable to provide optimum care for severely injured children. From their initial presentation and stabilization in the emergency room, to operative management, then to the intensive care unit and onto rehabilitation, we can provide a full spectrum of care for kids and guide them through their entire recovery. Working at Texas Children’s, and being around other providers and staff who are just as dedicated to taking care of children, makes work more enjoyable and meaningful.
Brain Whitaker, PA-C
Pediatric Trauma Service