GV Alumni Use Their PA Credentials for Good – Grand Valley Lanthorn
A degree from GVSU’s Physician Assistant (PA) program allows alumni to work alongside other healthcare workers, while diagnosing and treating patients in their chosen area of interest.
Andrew Massar, a 2008 undergraduate alumnus of GVSU, recently graduated from GVSU School of PA in December 2020. However, he did not always plan to enter the medical field.
“I first got a bachelor’s degree in business administration because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do and thought it would be versatile,” Massar said.
After graduating, Massar worked in fields ranging from finance to logistics.
“In high school, I thought about doing medicine, but I wasn’t really sure,” Massar said. “After I graduated and worked for a while, I became more curious about it.”
In response to this curiosity, he followed two of his friends, a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner. These experiences sparked an increased interest for Massar, who began working part-time as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in addition to his full-time logistics job.
“Working in the hospital, I got to rub shoulders with physician assistants, doctors and nurses and I got to see hospital medicine,” Massar said.
During this experience, Massar realized that the medical field was where he wanted to be.
Following his decision, Massar began completing the necessary prerequisites for PA school at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and GVSU.
Eventually, he quit his job and became a full-time nurse at Spectrum Health. Being a father of two while working two jobs, it took Massar five years to complete his prerequisites and apply for GVSU PA School.
He said he would recommend that students gain extensive outside experience in the field.
“I think it’s really important for people considering PA school to go through and get as much valuable experience in a medical setting as possible,” Massar said. “If they can spend time in a hospital and see what the labor is about, they will understand better.”
Currently, Massar works as an internal medicine assistant for Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. In the hospital, Massar acts as the main service that manages the management of a panel of 13 patients.
This management involves ordering tests and images, consulting other specialties based on patient needs, and other things involving a patient’s treatment plan.
“I wanted to go into a specialty where I could practice a wide range of medicines and seeing a lot of different patient conditions and really using my training,” Massar said.
While this work is exciting for Massar, he said he wants students to know that the media portrayal of doctors and nurses is far from complete.
“You work within a system, so there’s a lot of documentation and a lot of social media issues that arise when it comes to dealing with patients,” Massar said. “We have patients who might be medically stable, but they might be homeless or have security issues at home or need psychiatric help. Often these people have nowhere to go, so we end up holding them in the hospital.
Despite the presence of social workers on site who devote their time to helping people in these exceptional circumstances, the need for a particular placement often exceeds the availability. Massar said that COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem.
“When you launch, for example, a psychiatric diagnosis where someone needs inpatient care, there are very few inpatient psychiatric facilities, especially those that are available,” Massar said. “Social issues like these dictate how long a patient will stay in hospital.”
Jordan Wilson, a GVSU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Sciences before attending GVSU PA School, now works at Spectrum Health Psychiatric Urgent Care.
“I’ve always been interested in medicine, but I knew I didn’t want to spend eight years finish medical school, so PA school was a good middle ground,” Wilson said. “It’s good medical training in less time. It’s also very flexible, there’s a lot of variety in what I can do.
During her clinical rotations at GVSU’s PA School, Wilson was exposed to a variety of different practices, including surgery, emergency care, internal medicine, and psychiatry.
Psychiatry is a readily available position for Physician Assistants in the Grand Rapids area, not only because of high demand, but also because Spectrum Health Psychiatric Emergency Care is one of the few psychiatric emergencies in the country.
“I assess patients with psychiatric issues to determine a level of care for them,” Wilson said. “For example, do they have to come to the psychiatric hospital? Are they safe to handle outpatient care? Can we start some medications and schedule follow up with psychology or therapy? »
While working in psychiatry requires a lot of independent documentation, there is also a lot of hands-on work like observing patients and initiating treatment plans with them.
“As a psychiatric childminder in an urgent care facility, I am the provider someone sees on one of the worst days of their lives,” Wilson said. “Outpatient and inpatient providers typically see their patients while they are in some form of stability, so being someone to work with a patient on one of their worst days is very rewarding.”