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Meet a real Physician Assistant, Yvonne Vigil
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Yvonne Vigil, Physician Assistant, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston, Texas
Yvonne Vigil, Physician Assistant, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston, Texas

1. I chose to become a physician assistant because...

2. My typical workday involves...

3. What I like best/least about my work…

4. My career goals are...

5. When I’m not working I like to…

6. My thoughts on a career as a physician assistant…


1. I chose to become a physician assistant because...

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Yvonne shakes hands with a patient after completing a wellness exam.
Yvonne shakes hands with a patient after completing a wellness exam.

I chose to become a physician assistant (PA) because I always wanted to be in medicine, ever since I volunteered at hospitals during my high school years. I was also inspired by my family. My sister had cerebral palsy and required a lot of care. She was in and out of hospitals a lot, but mostly my parents cared for her at home.

I chose to become a physician assistant when I was doing my undergraduate work. I was taking courses to go into another medical field and ran into a friend of mine who was a PA. He let me tag along with him for a couple of days. That is when I realized what I wanted to do. As a PA, I would be able to practice medicine and help people. PA school was a 2.5 year program as compared to the 4 year program for medical school. I was older when I went back to school, so it sounded like the perfect plan for me.

Education

2. My typical workday involves...

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Yvonne chats with a colleague as they walk around the medical center campus.
Yvonne chats with a colleague as they walk around the medical center campus.

My typical workday involves seeing female patients at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical CenterExternal Web Site Policy. Most of our patients are veterans, their wives, or those who are actively serving in the armed forces. I really enjoy seeing the female veterans. They are unique group of ladies and it is a real honor to work with them.

Major Tasks
  • Seeing patients for annual physicals, specific complaints, or for urgent care needs
  • Completing a comprehensive health history for each patient
  • Performing a physical examination
  • Ordering appropriate diagnostic tests and interpreting results
  • Recommending treatment and/or other services as appropriate

I have many of the same skills and responsibilities as a physician. I see my regularly scheduled patients for their routine wellness exams or annual physicals. During these visits, I take a comprehensive history, recording past medical, surgical, social and family histories and their current health concerns. I also perform a physical examination, which can be either a complete physical or a more focused exam depending on the complaint.

After the history and physical are complete, an assessment and plan is done. This entails ordering the appropriate lab tests, x-rays or other imaging techniques. I then interpret those results and make recommendations for treatment, preventative screenings or other services/referrals.

I also see urgent care patients for a variety of problems including lacerations, broken bones, infections, pain issues, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung disorders and mental health issues.





3. What I like best/least about my work…

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As depicted, Yvonne sees many female veteran patients for routine physicals or specific complaints.
As depicted, Yvonne sees many female veteran patients for routine physicals or specific complaints.

What I like best about my work and what makes me feel really good is when I have a patient come back and say, “you really listened to me and helped me. You really made a difference in my life.” One thing that is great about being a physician assistant is that you never know what you might see, because it changes from day to day. Its always fun and challenging.

What I like least about my work is the time restrictions. It is sometimes very difficult to take care of a patient in a short period of time. Patients may come in with a laundry list of problems and you want to be able to address them all, but you have to prioritize.

4. My career goals are...

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Yvonne questions a colleague about the schedule of patients for the day.
Yvonne questions a colleague about the schedule of patients for the day.

I am actually very content where I am in my career at this time. I have 2 young children that require a lot of attention. I need to focus on them in the evenings. When they are older and more independent, I would like to become more involved in the educational side of the field. I would also like to do more in other specialized fields, like gastroenterology or surgery. The learning is never ending.

5. When I’m not working I like to…

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Yvonne and her children enjoyed a trip to Disney Land, and posed for a picture with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Yvonne and her children enjoyed a trip to Disney Land, and posed for a picture with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my family. I am recently married and my children keep me very busy. My biggest focus is helping my 8-year-old son who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) to do well in his studies and activities. My 12-year-old daughter is in junior high school, and enjoys ice skating and cheerleading. I also like to walk, run, bike and lift weights. In addition to these things, my new husband loves to plan all kinds of fun things for us to do.

6. My thoughts on a career as a physician assistant…

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On a trip to Washington D.C., Yvonne visits the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On a trip to Washington D.C., Yvonne visits the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A physician assistant can work in any sort of practice that they find interesting because the training is broad. To get ready for physician assistant school, you need to focus on math and sciences. Basically, the same classes that you need to get into medical school, you need for PA school. Baylor College of Medicine has a master’s program and many PA schools are now requiring a bachelor’s degree to get in.

For someone who is thinking about becoming a physician assistant, I think there are some qualities that will help you. You need to be a people person, have patience, and be willing to listen. You will be interacting with different kinds of people on a daily basis. Many of them are sick and can sometimes be difficult.

You have to be willing to work hard because it’s a tough program, but it’s completely worth it. It is a wonderful career for someone who wants to practice medicine and help people, but wants a shorter time in school. You can either start working and earning a living immediately after graduation, or you can do a residency. There is so much flexibility with this career. I can’t imagine doing anything else.


















































     
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