Medical Oncology

Hello everyone, and happy Thursday! Today’s specialty interview questions are answered by @hashtag_frizzle. He is currently working as a Medical Oncology Physician Assistant!

How did you hear about the PA profession/What got you interested in the PA profession? 

I first heard of the PA profession when I was an undergraduate student at Mississippi State University. However, I became much more interested in the profession when I was graduate research assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The profession was a much better fit for my career goals, so I slowly made the transition from biomedical researcher to healthcare provider. Best decision ever.

What specialty are you in right now, how long have you been in it, what do you like about it, what don’t you like about it?

I currently work in medical oncology in the Atlanta Metro area. I mainly help treat patient who have gastrointestinal cancers, which include pancreatic, colon, gastric, esophageal cancers and so on. I also help treat patients who battle breast, prostate, lung, and other cancers a well. I love my role as medical oncology PA because cancer has played a significant role in my career change from a researcher: my mother had Stage IV pancreatic cancer and died after a 5-month battle. Her battle with cancer served as a catalyst in becoming a PA. Each day, I am blessed to play an active role in the fight the devastating disease named cancer. I am able to share my personal story and provide my patient with words of encouragement that my mom wanted to share with other cancer fighters. As time passes by, I develop relationships with my patients, and they become a part of my family. Thus, it definitely is heartbreaking when cancer takes its toll on patients’ lives, which can lead to several complications we try to manage. I have spent many times in tears when patients get bad news about progression of disease with no other treatment options or they pass away. Oncology can definitely be a challenging field because of this, but we do our best to provide supportive care so the patients can have the best quality of life during their battle with cancer.

What does a normal day look like? 

Currently I work outpatient medical oncology services. The outpatient services allows us to review of the patients’ laboratory results, review patient’s signs/symptoms, do a physical assessments, and determine If they able to receive their treatment for their cancer. In addition, I am able to help treat any abnormalities that may have come up during treatment, which may require additional tests, imaging, or referral to another specialty for further investigation. After my clinic, I take time out to follow up with patients while they are getting treatment to answer questions they may have had during our meeting in the clinic. During this time, I also answer any questions my medical team or other providers may have about a patient’s care.

What is the work/life balance like in this specialty? 

With my work schedule, I am able to have some work/life balance because I am to be done with clinic in early afternoons, and I also have weekend free time. In addition, the advanced practice providers at my clinic work very well together, and they are always to help whenever unexpected emergencies occur.

Are you interested in changing your specialty at some point? 

The beauty of the PA profession is the ability of to change specialties as you see fit. Currently, I am enjoying medical oncology, but I would like to venture into another specialty. I love to learn so I would definitely keep my options open.

Advice to PA students for entering the workforce. 

Please make sure that you are able to talk to any other PAs or NPs who are currently working in your specialty to get a true of field of your daily obligations. Next, it is very important to make sure you establish a good working relationship with supervising physician. Ultimately, you two will be collaborators who both want the best for the patients, so it would be ideal to make sure that this type of relationship is developed. So, you need to work together to provide the best care. My last piece would be the following: just because it is your first job, does not mean it will be your final one. Take every opportunity to learn all you can because it will make you a much better provider who provides top quality care for your patients.

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