Mary Nguyen is a practicing physician assistant in Urgent Care, former professional figure skater, figure skating coach, and online trainer. She is a blogger, YouTuber, and the creator of BalanceFitnessOnline, geared to connect with, motivate, and educate like-minded individuals. Her goal is to share her fitness journey, health and wellness tips, and fun travel videos to motivate all to “balance fitness, health, and happiness.” Find her on YouTube and Instagram @balancefitnessonline!
How did you hear about the PA profession/What got you interested in the PA profession?
I heard about the PA profession from a friend on mine and it sounded perfect! I really wanted to do something in the medical field, but did not want to pursue medical school due to time, costs, and work-life balance. When I was around 6-years old, my dad had an MRI done and the technician was nice enough to let me watch the whole process and review the images. I was hooked to medicine ever since!
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 have been working in Urgent Care for the past 2 years and love it! I like that you are always on your toes and that there is never a dull moment. You are seeing a variety of ages, cases, and you never know what will walk through that door. Cases can vary from colds, sports injuries, lacerations, and even more serious issues like respiratory distress, chest pain, and stroke. What I don’t like is when people confuse urgent care for an emergency room – you should not be coming here for life-threatening emergencies such as a heart attack or stroke symptoms! Another downfall is that urgent care is also open almost every day of the year, which means working weekends and holidays.
What does a normal day look like?
Most physician assistants in urgent care will work a longer 12 hour shift. We usually get a rush around 4 PM when work and school lets out and around 7 PM right before closing. I see an average of 2-4 patients per hour. During my down time, I call patients back to discuss their lab results, follow up on how they are feeling, and eat when I can.
What is the work/life balance like in this specialty?
The work/life balance is pretty great! I love the fact that there is no call involved. I enjoy working 3-4 longer shifts versus 5 shorter shifts. It means more days off! In my spare time I coach figure skating, which is a long-time passion of mine. Being a PA is great, but don’t forget to spend time doing your other hobbies!
Do you forsee burnout in this specialty?
I do not see a burnout! I really like the unpredictable nature and I am learning something new everyday.
Are you interested in changing your specialty at some point?
For now, I plan to stick to Urgent Care for awhile. I would consider doing orthopedics. This is something we see a lot of here and something I have always been interested in as a former athlete (professional figure skater). I would also love to teach one day. It is so important to give back the knowledge you learned for the future generation of healthcare providers.
If you were to renegotiate your contract with your supervising physician right now, what would you change?
My important tips to negotiating a contract is to make sure you are getting paid appropriately. I am fortunate not to have this problem but be sure to check the AAPA annual salary report – it is a wealth of information. Other things to consider are PTO, insurance, CME, 401K, relocation packages, and bonuses.
Advice to PA students for entering the workforce.
Be patient! Make sure your first job is the right pick. Don’t be quick and take your first offer. Take the time to interview, ask questions, and find the best fit for you. You worked so hard for the past few years and deserve the best job offer out there!