First Year PA Student Blog: Maria Trescony
Friday, April 5, 2019
I couldn’t help but think of the great irony I was embarking on during my first day working as a nursing assistant in a nursing home during college. The residents that wheeled and shuffled around before me were a far cry from the young, healthy athletes I dreamed of working with as a physical therapist when I started college. I chose the field of health care because I looked forward to seeing sick people get healthy again, and, being an athlete myself, I couldn’t think of a better way to help people than to see injured athletes healed and returning to their active lives again.
Yet, after shadowing several physical therapists throughout my first year in college, I realized I was much more interested in the inner workings of the body than I was with physical rehab. After several months of trying to convince myself otherwise, I finally acknowledged I needed to change career paths and decided to pursue a career as a PA. Within the matter of a few months I changed my entire class schedule at school, took a nursing assistant certification course, and got my first job at the nursing home to start gaining patient care experience.
And here I stood, looking at the patients I would be taking care of for the rest of the summer. I likely wasn’t born the last time many of these residents were as active as the patients I had always dreamed of treating. These patients weren’t going to “get better” in the way I had imagined for so long. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself.
Little did I know I was about to discover a whole new definition of health care, and find one of my biggest passions in life along the way.
As my elderly residents let me in to their lives to care for their most basic and vulnerable needs, I soon discovered these patients were treasures hidden under the shroud of poor health. As I cared for them, I learned to slow down and listen as they shared with me countless stories from their lives. These patients had triumphed over numerous challenges, lived through trying times in history, raised families, traveled around the world, and so much more.
As patients shared with me about their greatest joys and failures, I saw a change in them. Each patient had incredible lives and passions and when they got a chance to connect with those again through their stories, I saw them re-engage with life. Even the “grumpiest” residents couldn’t help but show their excitement when they spoke about the things they were passionate about in life. I realized that caring for these patients didn’t look like making all of their sickness go away, but instead it looked like caring for their need to be seen and valued as people.
My elderly patients taught me that health care isn’t simply getting rid of disease in a person’s body, but caring for the deeper needs in a person’s life, as well. I learned that health care at its best means seeing the tremendous value in each patient sitting before you, and providing care that allows that person to continue connecting with the things that bring them life.
Now being in PA school at Duke, I’m grateful for the way our program teaches us to constantly be thinking of how we can care for all aspects of our patient’s lives. We ask questions about what is most important to the patient in their life, what outside circumstances might be affecting their health, and how we can empower the patient to make their own health care decisions. By doing this, we’re learning to be PAs who care for people, not just disease.
Although caring for elderly patients is the last place I thought I would end up when I started college, I completely fell in love with caring for such wonderful people, and I can’t wait to work with them again — this time as a PA.
Thank you to the patients of all ages who allow us the opportunity to care for you. It’s YOU who make us better clinicians and, more importantly, better people. It’s one of the greatest honors in life to care for you.
Maria Trescony is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email email@example.com 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 Family Medicine and Community Health, or Duke University.