By Kate Hunger
Jennifer Harris is still deciding on what which specialty she will pursue after she graduates from UT Health San Antonio's physician assistant studies program in December. But, by the time she has to make a choice, her decision will no doubt be guided by plenty of practical experience gained in a wide range of clinical rotations.
When Harris discussed her clinical experiences in April, she was assigned general surgery, her eighth of 12 required rotations. She said the opportunity to interact with patients and put her knowledge into practice has been gratifying.
"It's awesome," she said. "In the classroom, you go from having a test almost every week to only having one exam per month. It's great to get up and move around and put things into practice. It's definitely a shift in thinking from reading scenarios on paper to having people right in front of you, seeing things with your own eyes."
Harris shared her perspective with prospective students this spring at the School of Health Profession's first Interprofessional Open House. Held on April 8, the Open House featured admissions information and student panels from the physician assistant studies, medical laboratory sciences and respiratory care programs. Over 100 prospective applicants attended the event - of whom attended specifically for the physician assistant studies presentation.
Harris believes she brings a different perspective to the table. "I am 38," Harris said." I am married, I have kids I had a career before this. My trajectory is a little bit different."
She recalled a patient she encountered during her family medicine rotation. He was extremely stressed because he had not received the correct diagnosis for a group of symptoms he had been experiencing for two years. He told her he did an online search and found a possible answer: Lyme disease. He told Harris how he recalled finding a tick on himself after a hunting trip to Kentucky.
Harris consulted with the PA she was working with. Labs tests later confirmed the man indeed had Lyme disease. Harris said as a student, she is able to spend little more time talking with patients, and in this case, that extra time helped bring much-needed answer and treatment to a patient who had been seeking them for a long time.
"I think it's important that point of listening to your patient and not just going in and shooting from the hip," she said.