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Career Story: Physician Assistant In A Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit

Physician Assistant In A Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit

Job Title: Physician Assistant

Type of Company: I work for a public hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

Education: BS, Biology, University of Scranton •• graduate degree, Physician Associate, Yale University

Previous Experience: I was injured in my research position and was treated by a PA and decided that was the career I wanted to change to.

Job Tasks: I work in a cardiothoracic intensive care unit where we care for patients after open-heart surgery as well as overflow of trauma, medical and neurosurgical ICU patients. I am in charge of eighteen patients at a time. I administer medications to keep the patients' hearts and blood pressure stable, wean them from the breathing machines and treat cardiac arrhythmias; I partake in family meetings, and I respond to cardiac alerts. As a cardiothoracic mid-level practitioner, I also care for heart transplant patients and patients with 'artificial' heart machines. I insert large intravenous lines to administer heart medications, float dialysis catheters for those patients whose kidneys are not functioning, remove staples from surgical wounds, remove the tubes that drain extra fluid after the operation, and sew wounds on trauma patients. I also order and review x-rays. I read electrocardiograms to see if patients' hearts are pumping properly.

After surgery, when the patients are off heart medications and breathing without the ventilator, I brief them about getting better and taking care of themselves. I help them with breathing exercises, encourage them to adopt good nutrition (a big part of healing after a major operation), help them get out of bed and start doing things again. I help coordinate physical therapy for them and do discharge planning so the they will have somewhere to go for rehabilitation after leaving the hospital.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is seeing a patient do well in the operating room and come off the breathing machine within a few hours of getting to our unit. The worst part is when the patient doesn't do well, and by following the patients wishes, the family chooses to stop all life support and the patient passes away.

Job Tips: It's a great career. I can go to any field of medicine at any time because of my broad scope of training. As a mom, I can find jobs to fit the hours I need, whether part-time or full-time. As well, PA's are recognized internationally, so I can go to another state or country and always find a job. It's satisfying to see someone so sick get better, and knowing that you were a part of that.

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