First Year Student Blog: Britta Weed

Friday, February 1, 2019

Britta Weed, PA-S
Britta Weed, PA-S

“You’re shy?” I remember my new freshman college roommate asking me. We were discussing what course of study each of us was pursuing, and the conversation had focused on why I had chosen to study medical laboratory science. In all honesty, I had chosen the major because I liked the idea of working by myself, away from people.

Now, almost 10 years later, I ask myself, “How is it that a shy lab tech is so excited about patient care?” I have worn many different hats in my life, but the one that I am currently wearing, that of a physician assistant student, has been one of the most rewarding ones so far. That is because I am doing the one thing that I was so hesitant to do when I was a freshman in college: work with people.

So, how did the tides change enough for me to decide to pursue a career where you interact with patients nearly all day, every day? The answer lies within the power of human connection. The relationship that occurs when people openly express their vulnerability, in the context of health care, pulled me out of my shell.

There is something so humbling about someone trusting you to heal them. A connection is formed that is beyond description.

I experienced this for the first time when I started shadowing at an oncology clinic. This clinic saw patients in every stage of the cancer process and in a single day we would see a patient in remission who was coming in for their annual check-up, a patient who was on hospice coming in for palliative care, and everything in between. I was amazed at the relationships the patients developed with their providers, especially their PAs. It was not uncommon for their appointments to be focused more on their emotional reactions to their chemotherapy, than their physical reactions. The trust that they placed in their providers touched me deeply, and I began to see that working with patients was not just working with symptoms and diseases, it was working with people, and these people had hopes, fears, anxieties, passions, and an overwhelming spirit of hope. It inspired me to work harder so that I could one day be a provider who was trusted, and a provider who cared about patients as a whole person, instead of as a whole body system. With that, my course was set, and I started preparations to apply to PA schools.

And now, I’m here. Unbelievable as it is, I am at my dream school, where the mission aligns perfectly with what I want to accomplish in the future. In the midst of the eat, sleep, study cycle sometimes I begin to worry that my shyness will prevail, that I will not be able to interact with patients when the time comes. Sometimes it is difficult to see the end goal when you’re buried in studies. But like magic, whenever I feel this way, I have the opportunity to interact with patients at Duke University Hospital and I remember why I fell in love with patient care in the first place.

Even if it’s as simple as taking a history or doing a brief physical exam, I remember that taking care of patients is worth it. It’s worth me not falling back on what’s comfortable in order to pursue something that is more fulfilling and worthwhile. If the ability to connect with and help another human being isn’t motivation enough for me, then I don’t know what is.

Britta Weed is a first-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.