"In my life, family will always be my greatest priority. I love my patients like I love life itself, but I love my family even more than life itself." - Stephen Pasquini PA-C.
Years ago, I dreamt of being an MD.
Since I was a small child, in fact, to me, this would be the pinnacle of life. Stethoscope around my neck, working in the trenches, saving lives!
This was my childhood dream and my young adult dream, all the way through college.
Not even Organic Chemistry could stop me. I just pushed through it, head to the grindstone, determined to reach my goal.
Then one year away from finishing all my pre-med training, something happened: I met a physician assistant!
To me, life has always been more than my job. The reason I created this website is that I love art, photography, and technology. I love kids, the outdoors, and my family. I love to surf, bike, and take my son and daughter for long walks. I like to make shapes out of the clouds, go on long weekend getaways, take my wife out dancing.
I love life!
If you don't know already, being a doctor requires a TON of sacrifices.
If you are not prepared to give your life over to medicine, then I encourage you to take a long deep inward look at yourself and decide if what you want is really MD.
Before many hours working at the University of Washington Medical Center, I thought to be a doctor was fun like Michael J. Fox in the movie "Doc Hollywood" or rugged like the doctors on Mash. I wanted to be like George Clooney in the TV show ER.
This is an illusion. Being a Dr. means long hours, late nights on call, missed birthdays, missed anniversaries often second marriages. That last one is the part that is like the movies.
Wants vs. Needs
I realized that what I wanted most out of life was to help people be healthy. I love the human body, I love anatomy, and I love science.
I liked the thought of propping a young child upon the exam room table, making a funny face, and treating their ear infection.
I loved the idea of sewing up a wound, setting a fracture, being there when another human being needed someone to hold onto.
Helping someone come to terms with death while helping another come to terms with life.
I didn't want MD; I wanted all of the above. There was no other way.
I have met more doctors who want to be PAs than PAs who want to be doctors.
Why? Because there is more to life than medicine. PAs have the unique opportunity to live this.
It is not about being lazy; it is not about a lack of dedication. PAs tend to be some of the most dedicated and hard-working people I know.
PA is the sweet spot! Where life and medicine meet in the middle.
I honestly believe you can be better at compassion when you are more grounded. Having a life outside of work justifies life. It makes for a happy person, which translates to better patient care.
After quite a bit of soul-searching, I realized that I never really needed to be a doctor, but I wanted to feel like one.
If you are on this journey to being a healthcare provider, know that life exists beyond MD. It is a beautiful life, and it has fulfilled every single one of my dreams of being an excellent health care provider.
And every time I prop a small child up on the exam room table and write the script to make their ear feel better, I smile. Then I go home in the evening and give my kids and my wife a big hug and a kiss.In my life family will always be my highest priority. I love my patients like I love life itself, but I love my family even more than life itself. Click To Tweet
I don't think I could have found this balance as an MD, and I thank my lucky stars that life, or God or whatever directed me to UMDNJ, to PA School, to the job of my dreams.
Being a PA is truly where life and medicine have found the perfect balance. I hope you, too, will give the physician assistant profession consideration as you go about life and pursue a rewarding career in the field of medicine.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
Often the decision between PA and MD is considered a difficult one, but should it be? Click Here.
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I am currently considering PA as a career due to the shorter schooling and work life balance, more knowledge of physiology than an RN (although they are amazing and so necessary) and the ability to ultimately help others. However, I was wondering what you all think about the future demand for PA’s. Between NP’s and PA’s there has been a large number of midlevel providers being produced at high rates. What will the jobs available be like in 10 years, or 20 years? Will someone be able to find a job as a new grad then?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
YES and YES! Both NPs and PAs have a bright future when it comes to job prospects for at least the next 20 years. In fact, I predict that PAs and NPs are better positioned to some degree than MDs when it comes to advances in AI and automation in medicine.
David Lyon says
My name is David. I was a PA for 7 years before going to medical school. The first thing I learned in medical school was how much I DIDNT know as a PA. I’m a Board Certified Primary Care Internist. It took me 8 years of training beyond the BS degree to get here. I have the same 2 years of training as a PA plus 8 more years as a Physician; (4 years med school + 4 years residency). There is no comparison. I respect PA’s but they are not physicians. I emphasize again that PAs have 2 years of medical training. I think that speaks for itself. As salaries increase for PAs they will eventually outstrip their economic advantage.
Some PAs are getting “secondary” doctorate degrees such as DHS, EdD, etc. these degrees don’t even come close to a medical doctorate. The MD/DO are the toughest doctorate degrees to earn and if you don’t believe me research it. I support the PA profession but be careful not to get ahead of yourselves.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi David, I am afraid you are right about salary outstripping our economic advantage. But, I suppose we are also subject to the economic forces of supply and demand. My wife is an RN and salaries have outpaced what I make as a PA. But, there is no alternative for an RN in many settings. There are alternatives to PAs, and if PA salary becomes close to what it would cost to hire another MD, then I guess, something will have to give. I appreciate your experience and insights.
Agree 100%. PA’s are not MD’s and personally I think the PA profession is joke. A quick “cheating” way to wear a white coat and act like a doctor. NP’s are also turning into jokes with RN’s barely certified before jumping on a NP bridge program. Nurses should be required to do at least 10 years as an RN before being allowed to be an NP. And PA’s should be doing an RN’s job, cause God knows that’s all the training they’ve had.
At the hospital where I work. PA’s are hated. There are RN’s who have 10 times more knowledge and experience but are having to follow out-of-the-diaper PA’s orders who strut around in white coats after an Associates Degree masqueraded as a Master’s Degree.
Brandon Murray says
Hey, I respect what you have to say. But it’s attitudes like this that make you look arrogant, I respect that you were a PA before being a Doctor and that’s great but you put the whole profession of being a PA down. You made sure to flex that you are a doctor and that no one is smarter than you. Well, it’s just a title and at the end of the day when you leave work, you are just like everyone else. There are people out there that might want to be a medical professional but don’t want the debt or number of years it takes to become a doctor. Not to mention you are stuck in a specialty and you don’t have room to go or change. I will say that I have worked with PAs that were far more experienced than a Doctor and made more than them. Depending on where they worked. Doctors and PAs work together and really the only difference you have over a PA is you work autonomously and you might make more than them. But if we are going to be serious PAs play an important role in medicine and I think you went into this game for the wrong reason and worried more about letters behind your name than patient care. If you were my doctor I would probably drop you and see a different doctor altogether or a PA. You have more time to gather to become humble.
Deciding between being a physician and a PA – the problem with this at that high level where you’re just comparing work hours and patient interaction time and job satisfaction, that means nothing. Go look at somebody who has the best job satisfaction who’s only working 40 hours a week and has great interaction with their clients. You can’t choose your career based on job satisfaction, ratings, work hours per week, or patient interaction. If that’s how you’re going to choose your career then you’re not going to be happy in the long run depending on if you made the right choice or not.
Dan Murray says
Found your article while trying to understand the whole MD vs PA vs PA-C phenomena.
I’m a patient, not a Medical Practitioner. Middle-Aged.
First, I really enjoyed your article; and appreciate the benefits you see as a PA vs MD.
Second, I AM warming, slowly, to the concept of PA’s.
I must confess, however, that for me, the idea of going to a Dr and getting an ‘assistant’ is… Unsettling. I feel like I’m paying for a Dr, not his/her assistant, and thus somewhat ‘cheated’. After researching PA’s and the qualifications required, I understand that this feeling is less than logical (or justified?), yet the FEELING persists, although like I mentioned earlier, it is diminishing — albeit slowly.
I don’t know enough about the ‘PA’ arena:Granted.
I believe the title itself is somewhat prejudicial; denigrating the profession to a lesser status than it probably deserves. It certainly impacts my emotional response, in spite of the fact that cognitively I know better.
There’s a saying that when I go for medical assistance, I don’t want to be used for medical “practice”; rather, I want someone who KNOWS what they are doing. The PA title does little to imbue that confidence. (… Just sayin’)
I’d also like to better understand PA ‘specialties’. When I go to a specialist, like my cardiologist, I want a SPECIALIST, not a GP .. or a PA, which by the very title comes across as a lower grade GP. Perhaps there ARE means of specializing within the PA arena, but I’ve not seen them. — Then again, I don’t run in those circles…
I’d love to see a companion article addressing my concerns.
Thanks again for your dedication to medical practice, best of luck going forward.
Dear Stephen, I left a question for you few days ago, looks like it had been removed/ lost. Is there any chance to ask you a question? I would like to hear your input about Hofstra, Arcadia and Albany Medical school Accelerated PA programs. Looking for smooth ride as long as you maintain all the requirements. Any detailes are appreciated.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Elena, I am not really able to comment on individual programs. But the best things to do if you are interested in a particular program is to visit (if you can), do your research, and try to speak with faculty and previous students. By then you should have a good idea if a school is going to be a good fit based on your criteria.
I am currently a junior in college and I am in my second semester of nursing school. I started out as a biology major my freshman year and decided to switch to nursing after doing some research. I decided nursing was a better degree than a biology degree for my situation as I could get a job with it, and it would be a good stepping stone towards NP or PA. The financial aspect, demanding time, and stress that is necessary to become a doctor was more than enough to scare my 18yr old self away from med school. As I have gotten older; however, med school is still in the back of my mind and I wonder if I am making a mistake by not pursuing that. I have no intentions of stopping at nursing, I definitely want some type of post graduate education. I have the utmost respect for nurses (as my mother is a nurse) but I just feel that I want something more challenging in other ways, and I feel that just being a nurse would not be fulfilling my full potential. Also after learning about NP and PA careers I thought those would be a better option than med school, they would allow me to get the same fulfillment of science, helping others, etc. without incurring all of the debt and spending so much time. Family, friends, and having a life outside of my career is important to me as you were saying as well, which is why I am worried that if I decided to purse MD I would not be able to be the mom I want to be, have the marriage I want, or lifestyle…although I know this is not true for every doctor.
So my questions are if I want the more free time in life for other things such as family, hobbies etc. is PA a fulfilling route as MD? Do you feel as satisfied with being a PA as you think you would being an MD, do you feel you are reaching your full potential? Is med school worth all the money and time? Are PAs respected like doctors? Also would you recommend PA over NP, and why?
David Lyon says
Ali, my name is David and I was a PA for 7 years before becoming a physician.
I can answer your question honestly if you want.
Qays. P. says
I would like to email and talk to you about your experiences as well. I am a Linux Engineer but always wanted to do medicine. Parts of life prevented me from doing this initially. Now I am looking for more information and volunteer work to see if this path is right for me. If you can share your experiences I would be humbled and grateful.
I’m most curious about the work/life balance as an MD versus PA. From your experience with both fields, do you believe that it would have been challenging to have a similar work/life balance if you were an MD earlier? I see many people commenting that PAs actually end up having similar hours and stresses as MDs, so to me it makes sense to be an MD instead.