Second Year Student Blog: Chrissy Roualdes

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chrissy Roualdes, PA-S
Chrissy Roualdes, PA-S

“Hey! Good mornin’! How’re you doin’?”

Every morning for three weeks while on my internal medicine rotation, one of my patients would greet me this way. I would arrive to the hospital before dawn, look through morning labs, and then head up to the floor to see how his night went.

This patient and I had established a little routine within the first few days of his admission to the floor. I would always happen to walk into his room as he was eating breakfast, he would offer me some of his food, and I would politely decline, stating, “No, thank you, I want you to eat it!” I would ask how the night went, take a listen to his heart and lungs, and perform an abdominal exam. Then, before I headed to the next patient’s room, I would open the blinds so he could watch that beautiful North Carolina sunrise.

When I first met this patient, he was in the ICU sitting underneath a giant pile of blankets so high that you could only see his big smile beneath a red- and gray-striped beanie. What I knew from his chart was that he had been admitted for complications of chronic pancreatic insufficiency. What I did not know was that he suffered these complications secondary to alcohol dependence. He opened up to me about various stressors at home that pushed him toward this unhealthy coping mechanism. He expressed motivation to be healthy again, and his hospital course was reflective of his determination. Each day, I would witness his health slowly improve as he regained his appetite, participated in physical therapy and became steadier on his feet. Being an integral member of his medical team and witnessing his progression throughout his hospital course was a special reminder of why I had chosen to be a PA. 

I will admit that there were times during the first year of PA school that were so challenging, I wondered if I had made the right career choice. My anxiety overwhelmed me at times, and my mind constantly raced. “How could I possibly learn all of this material by next week? Are the long days and stressful nights of studying worth it? How will my patients trust me if I’m not even sure if I trust myself?!” Then clinical year started, and all the stress and worry of the first year subsided. I had been so consumed with books and PowerPoint slides that I missed the one thing that drew me toward this profession in the first place: working with patients.

Now as I sit here and write, three months into my clinical year, I can happily say that the highs and lows of PA school have been entirely worth it. The past year has redefined my choice to pursue a career as one that, at the core, is founded in my passion for patient care. Nothing compares to that connection you build with your patients, the happiness you feel when your patient tells you he feels stronger, or those moments when your patient smiles as you open the blinds for him to enjoy the sunrise each morning, still sporting that same red- and gray-striped beanie. Learning medicine is fascinating and exciting, but the art of medicine, the part that involves not only managing your patients’ care but also showing your patients that you care … that is the part that fuels my drive to keep studying at the end of a long day. To keep pushing through those long shifts. To keep learning every day so that, in less than a year, I can provide the best care for my own patients.

Chrissy Roualdes is a second-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog twice a month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.