career profile - Andrea - physician assistant - pediatric ICU

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

Name: Andrea Arnold

Age: 32

Hometown: Athens, Pennsylvania

Current city: Austin, TX

Undergraduate with major: University of Delaware, Neuroscience

Physician assistant school: Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

Website: LifeasaPA.com

Social media: @lifeasaPA (snapchat, instagram)


Take me back a decade, what did you want to be when you grew up? In high school and college I had my sights set on being one of 200 female neurosurgeons in the US. I’ve always been intrigued by neuroanatomy and neurophysiology which is why I decided to major in neuroscience.

 

What do you do now? I work in the Pediatric ICU managing, assessing, admitting, transferring, doing procedures, and thriving in the chaos of critical care medicine.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

undergraduate studies


Tell me about your college application process? How did you decide on a school and major? I was enticed by the University of Delaware’s excellent reputation, their thriving party scene (Don’t judge. I wanted the true college experience), as well as their Neuroscience program. I fell in love with the campus as soon as my parents reluctantly allowed me to visit it.

 

What did you do between undergrad and PA school? Nada. I actually had to take my final exams a few weeks early and start PA School before I officially graduated from college due to Lock Haven’s early start date.


physician assistant training

"I had some initial reservations about giving up my neurosurgeon dreams, however the ability to change specialties throughout my career resonated with me more."

 

"I previously practiced in Primary Care, Cosmetic Medicine, Stem Cell Transplant, and now Pediatric Critical Care. "

When and how did you decide on physician assistant (PA) as a career? What other careers did you consider? In high school and college I had my sights set on being one of 200 female neurosurgeons in the US. I’ve always been intrigued by neuroanatomy and neurophysiology which is why I decided to major in neuroscience. As college progressed I realized that I have considerable commitment issues and started to have concerns about remaining in one specialty for the rest of my career. Around that same time I started to hear more about the PA profession and decided to investigate further. It was love at first sight. I had some initial reservations about giving up my neurosurgeon dreams, however the ability to change specialties throughout my career resonated with me more. 10 years and three specialties later I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

What's the difference between a nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and physician? Unfortunately this question has been plagued with significant controversy on youtube, KevinMD, and numerous other outlets so I have made it a point to avoid attempting to articulate it and instead show everyone a behind-the- scenes look at what each profession does on a daily basis on the snapchat account, MEDtakeovers. I’ve always been more skilled at “showing” than “explaining”. I host nurses, PAs NPs, MDs, and DO for the day so they can provide to those interested a HIPAA compliant, behind-the- scenes look at their individual professions.

 

Talk to me about the application process for PA school. The application process is a bit arduous and involves submitting a completed application to CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) as well as any individual schools you are interested in attending that do not utilize CASPA.

 

What makes a strong applicant? The ability to showcase your love for medicine and exude important qualities such as maturity and strong work ethic makes you a very desirable candidate. What made you a strong applicant? I personally think they mixed up my application with someone else's. Just kidding...Kind of. Honestly I live and breathe medicine and i think it’s undeniably evident during interviews.

 

 

Why did you choose your PA school? Lock Haven University puts significant emphasis on developing excellent physical exam skills which I wholeheartedly agree, one of the PAs I look up to graduated from there, and Lock Haven is fairly close to my hometown.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

How long was your post-undergrad training? Two years.

 

Did you do a residency? N/A

 

How and when did you decide on pediatric ICU? I was intrigued by critical care medicine when I was practicing in stem cell transplant in Salt Lake City, UT. Stem cell transplant has a very high acuity patient population and I soon realized that my favorite patients were the ones that I took care of in the ICU so when I moved from Utah to Texas I searched for ICU positions, knowing that I love the pediatric and adult populations equally.

 

What other specialties did you consider/previously train in? I previously practiced in Primary Care, Cosmetic Medicine, Stem Cell Transplant, and now Pediatric Critical Care. In terms of other specialties I’ve considered? All of them. Different specialties appeal to me more at different stages of my life. I am in a high stress, high mortality, high acuity position now but I may transition to a less stressful specialty if I decide to have a family.

 

What does your typical day look like? I start my day by throwing my alarm across the room (I am not a morning person), arrive at the hospital by 7am, pre-round on all of my patients, start official rounds with the multidisciplinary team at 9am, then spend the remaining part of the day managing the patients, adjusting the treatment plan, addressing the concerns of family members, reassessing, reexamining, and ordering any additional labs or imaging studies that may be required if their condition changes, admitting patients, transferring patients, and cuddling adorable babies as much as I can before I sign out to the PA or resident covering for the evening shift at 7pm.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

Tell me about a case or two that made you think “this is why I do this!” Honestly, I think in 95% of cases the body heals itself, we just assist. So I never credit my own skills in this awe-inspiring process. But everyday I find myself astonished by the complex physiologic processes of the human body that I get to witness and I’m reminded how amazing a career in medicine really is.

 


life outside of medicine

"Less meat, more fruits and vegetables"

 

"My motto is embrace the filters but keep the content authentic :)"

What does work-life balance look like to you and how do you maintain it? Work-life balance is of the utmost importance to me which is why I am so thankful for my career. I work approximately twelve 12 hour shifts per month and can arrange them however I want which leaves a considerable amount of time for travel and editing videos and content for ‘Life as a PA’.

 

Per snapchat, fitness is a big part of your life. In general, how often do you work out? Usually about three times per week.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

What's your diet like? I strive to be strict vegetarian in opposition of factory farming but I fail frequently.

 

Have you always been very healthy? Yes. I think I accidentally stumbled upon a Dr. Andrew Weil book at an early age which opened my eyes about how important the food and products we put in our bodies really are. Luckily, my mom was willing to drive me 45 minutes to the closest health food store in Ithaca, NY to appease my quest for locally grown organic fruits and vegetables in early high school before I could drive myself and I’ve been eating that way ever since.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

Do you have any tips or rules to keep you healthy with such a demanding career? My personal

rules I live by are:

  1. Less meat, more fruits and vegetables
  2. Never eat late
  3. Large breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner
  4. Avoid processed sugar at all cost.

 

Tell me about lifeasaPA.com. Life as a PA’s predominant purpose is two-fold.

  1. It strives to provide interested premeds a more raw, candid, and accurate representation of what it's like to work in medicine
  2. Educate the public about what a Physician Assistant is since most medical practitioners will encounter a PA during their professional career and most patients will be taken care of by a PA at some point during their lifetime.

 

 

How do you balance being a blogger with a full time job? I don’t. I’ve never been good at doing anything in moderation. Luckily, I have four days off per week so I spend most of those days filming or editing new videos for my Youtube channel, responding to comments and emails, arranging snapchat takeovers, blogging, curating MEDtakevoers, etc. It leads to very late nights and early morning but the feedback has been incredible so it is totally worth it.

 

You’re a social media whiz BTW. I could use some snapchat pointers. Do you ever find yourself thinking “this is so stupid.” I have that struggle with social media sometimes, but I think it’s because I don’t feel 100% authentic with a filter (but I love a good filter). Haha it’s all thanks to youtube and podcasts lol. I have no innate social media knowledge. Yes, I definitely find it hard to balance authenticity and rawness in this heavily edited world of social media which is why snapchat has been so appealing. My motto is embrace the filters but keep the content authentic :)

 


big picture

"My ideal career is one that conforms to the stage of my life that I am currently in."

 

"I lived out my 20s (I have the wrinkles to prove it), traveled the world, dated a lot, tackled most of my bucket list, met an incredible guy who tolerates my idiosyncrasies and crazy antics, and am lucky enough to spend my days working in a career that I absolutely love."

What does your ideal career look like? My ideal career is one that conforms to the stage of my life that I am currently in. One that would allow me to practice in high acuity now but then slow down when I decide to have a family. And one that allows me to use my talents to improve the lives of others.

 

What does your ideal life outside of medicine look like? I don’t think it’s possible for me to have a life outside of medicine lol. Even if I am on vacation I find myself investigating what their healthcare system looks like and how they practice in that particular country. My only saving grace is netflix and the fact that my fiance works in finance which keeps me from talking about medicine 24/7.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU
 Andrea - Life as a PA with her fiance - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

 

Where do you see yourself in five years? Maybe with kids. Maybe not. Possibly still practicing in PICU but definitely involved with telemedicine. Whether we like it or not it is coming. I prefer to embrace it and find ways to ensure that patients continue receiving high quality care as opposed to fighting the inevitable.

 

What sacrifices have you made for your career? None that I can think of. I lived out my 20s (I have the wrinkles to prove it), traveled the world, dated a lot, tackled most of my bucket list, met an incredible guy who tolerates my idiosyncrasies and crazy antics, and am lucky enough to spend my days working in a career that I absolutely love.

 

 Andrea - Life as a PA - Career profile - Physician Assistant - Pediatric ICU

Love it?

Follow Andrea @lifeasaPA (her snapchat is insane) and check out much, much more on her website - lifeasaPA.com


more awesome peds people