As part of the physician assistant process, you will be asked to spend some time doing some shadowing. This is where you follow around a professional in this field to observe them perform their daily tasks. This will usually be scheduled in a fashion where it is convenient for them and you should ensure that you do arrive on time and remain professional. With that, keep in mind that you are only supposed to observe and not actually participate in any patient care. At the discretion of the office, you may be permitted to observe some of the conditions and to listen through the stethoscope.
During your course of study, you will most likely be required to completed forms that touch on HIPAA and Protected Health Information. Be sure that you take the time to complete these forms and ask any questions you may have. When you are in the office, you will be expected to maintain a level of professionalism and anything you see or hear will need to be kept to yourself. Even though you are not employed by the office, you are still legally responsible for protecting any health information you are privileged to.
Ensure you arrive in the office dressed in a professional manner and introduce yourself to those you encounter, ensuring they understand you are there to shadow. As you go through the period of shadowing, make sure you keep track of your general questions and ask them at appropriate times. Some PAs will allow you to ask questions at any moment, others prefer you keep in the background and will answer questions you have at the end. Ensure you don’t overwhelm or ask repetitive questions that may have similar answers.
As you leave, ensure that you thank everyone who allowed you to shadow in the office. What you will need to understand is that your presence doesn’t just affect the PA you are working with, but everyone that is in the office. If additional sessions are allowed, make sure you schedule them with the PA and ensure that they will be at times that are going to work for both of you in the future.
For the time that you had patient contact, ensure that your PA signs off on you having patient contact. This is going to help you when you are looking to build the hours of interaction you are required to have with patients. Just make sure that the school you are attending will allow you to count these hours in advance.
There is no doubt that the physician assistant program can be a rewarding one. What you will find when you shadow a PA is that there is quite a bit more than just doing simple paperwork and assisting doctors. This is a complex position that will give you the feeling that you have done something good and have a true place in the medical community that you will be working in.