My name is Madeleine Carre. I am a rising senior at Skidmore College, a Health and Human Physiology major, and a Biology minor. For a few years now, I have been certain that I would want to be a health care professional in the future: I just had to figure out which career path interested and inspired me the most.
In the past, I have taken on summer internships and shadowing experiences that have exposed me to physical therapy, athletic training, and even veterinary medicine. This summer, I spent my time at Glens Falls Hospital observing as many different medical professions as I could, such as recovery room nursing, emergency room medicine, surgery, and wound care. At the beginning of the summer, I was rather certain that I wanted to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant (PA). My time at Glens Falls Hospital has confirmed that an orthopedic PA is exactly what I want to be when I grow up.
Most of my summer was spent as a volunteer in the Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit (PACU). I contributed to the Day Surgery unit by cleaning bays and stretchers as patients were discharged, fetching items that the nurses needed, and reporting the status of patients to their loved ones post-operation. While I felt that I was valuable and helpful in the PACU, I also came to realize that I wouldn’t necessarily want to pursue a nursing career. I don’t see this as a negative, however. I believe that learning what I don’t want to do is just as valuable as figuring out what I do want to do with my future after Skidmore.
My presence in the PACU and the rest of the hospital provided me with innumerable learning opportunities. Even though I was primarily stationed in the PACU, I could observe the surgeons and anesthesiologists as they came through the unit with patients, I asked the nurses countless questions about their experiences in various hospital departments, and I found myself in a position of proximity to those professionals whose jobs more closely aligned with my interests. One PA came into the PACU with a patient and sat down to complete his chart. I explained to him that I thought I wanted to be a PA and asked if I could shadow him at some point during the summer. He invited me to watch two of his surgeries that very afternoon. I learned from this exchange never to be afraid to ask someone for help or experience.
Through one of my Skidmore classmates, I was put in contact with another orthopedic PA. In the office, I observed him seeing patients for both first time and repeat visits. We prepared for each visit by examining patients’ x-rays, discussing what we saw, and predicting the complications; he even quizzed me on my knowledge of anatomy and physiology! I was particularly intrigued by how well he taught each patient exactly what was going on in their bodies pertaining to their chief complaints by drawing diagrams and referring to anatomical models. I observed him administer steroid injections for joint pain, cast broken bones, and discuss plans of action with each patient. However, what I particularly enjoyed was the time I spent with him in the operating room.
I attended two joint replacement operations with this second PA: a total knee and a total hip arthroplasty. Orthopedic surgery was the most phenomenal sight I have ever witnessed. I was told to wear a face mask with an eye shield because “things get messy in orthopedic surgery.” That statement was no joke. Joint replacements require saws, hammers, and hardware. I watched flesh and blood flying across the room, a patient’s entire femoral head sawed off and dropped into a pathology jar, and six-inch incisions sewn up with delicate precision! What amazed me most was that such a brutish procedure could recraft the human body in a way that would drastically improve the patient’s function and quality of life. Watching these procedures confirmed for me that orthopedics is exactly where I want to be.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I had to spend my entire summer in various departments of the hospital. My time there was productive and educational. I would recommend the experience to any student who has an interest in medicine but doesn’t exactly know the profession that they want to pursue. A hospital is the perfect place to gain experience because there are countless health care professions at hand for exploration. I achieved exactly what I hoped I would at Glens Falls Hospital this summer: a clear path to pursue, in a field about which I am passionate.