Q&A with SCOTT P. SHERRY, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care Physician Assistant and Faculty Member at Oregon Health and Science University
Scott P. Sherry, MS, PA-C, obtained his BS in Emergency Health Services in 1995 from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scott is certified as a National Registry EMT-Paramedic. He received his MS in Physician Assistant Studies at Chicago Medical School/Finch University (now Rosalind Franklin) in 2002. Before he became a PA, Scott worked as a paramedic for five years. Now, as a trauma/surgical critical care physician assistant at Oregon Health and Science University, Scott feels like he has found a career that fits him.
Q: What motivated you to become a physician assistant?
A: Before I became a PA, I had been a paramedic for five years, and at that time, there was not a significant career ladder in my position. I wanted to learn more about medicine, so I researched and learned about PA schools and the PA profession, and felt it was a good fit.
Q: When and how did you start working at OHSU?
A: I started at OHSU in October of 2005. I had an opportunity to do a Physician Assistant Fellowship in Critical Care with the Anesthesia Department. I had a strong interest in surgical critical care and this was a great opportunity to learn in an academic setting. Since then, I stayed on as faculty and recently moved to my current position as a PA in the Trauma ICU with the Trauma/Surgical Critical Care Division.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
• Rounding on patients in the intensive care unit;
• Implementing care plans;
• Performing procedures as needed;
• Ventilator management;
• Following up on labs, radiology, and other reports;
• Providing continuity in the service, as we have fellows, residents, and students rotating through and attending staff changes weekly.
I treat patients with brain injuries to patients with trauma, including multiple orthopedic fractures, blunt trauma, and respiratory failure, predominately. Also, I help provide care for other services whose patients are admitted to the ICU, such as our general surgery specialties and emergency general surgery services.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as a physician assistant, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: I am interested in PA roles in trauma and critical care, education of paramedics and other pre-hospital providers, critical care transportation, trauma systems, and reimbursement for trauma and critical care.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face?
A: Flexability and adaptability. I think this is very challenging. I need to be an advocate, caregiver, and also help progress care. I need to try to work to help get the patient taken care of in the best manner. Communication is also a challenge, as I have to work to help the staff understand what we, the trauma team, are doing and how our plans will impact the patient and give them the tools to provide good care.
Q: What is the best part about working in trauma?
A: I like the variety, not knowing what is coming. There is lots of variety in patients. I enjoy the trauma patient population and the issues.
Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects?
A: I am currently working on analyzing flight transport times compared to ground transport times in trauma patients.
Q: How do you feel that the role of PAs has changed since you've started?
A: PAs are more prevalent and have an increasing role in healthcare. PAs are also more accepted in the medical establishment and are more involvement in hospital and national organizations.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to PAs today?
A: Continuing to have a seat and input in the ongoing healthcare delivery structure is a concern.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I enjoy being part of the team and helping to provide good care to the patients.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned so far?
A: I have increased my sense of humility and respect for the fragility of life.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of becoming PAs?
A: There is a long and sharp learning curve. You must be patient and continue to work at learning what you need. You must be proactive and take initiative to learn and be a part of the team.
Q: How has working in critical care allowed you to grow professionally?
A: I became part of organizations such as the Society of Critical Care Medicine, which is very open and accepting of PA profession and as a multidisciplinary organization welcomes the input of PAs. I have joined many committees, which has led to more opportunities in shaping how PAs are used in critical care.
Q: What do you like about working in trauma/critical care?
A: I enjoy the challenges of dealing with severely injured and ill. It requires a lot of knowledge. Also, I am challenged intellectually with the certain procedural skills I have attained. There is a good degree of reward in helping patients through a significant illness and helping their families as well.
Q: What's different about this specialty compared to other specialties?
A: I think there are more challenges to this field as it is a 24/7 operation and patients can present and become sick/sicker at any time. Also, with trauma there is the unexpected and unanticipated, I personally like not knowing what is coming next.
Q: What advice do you have for those thinking of entering a trauma/critical care specialty?
A: Knowledge takes time. I would advise to get as much experience and exposure as you can. It takes a good five years to get the basics down and begin to feel comfortable. Take as much time to read and learn as you can. Passionate people will find time to learn and educate themselves.
Q: What do you see for yourself in the future?
A: I see myself staying in the trauma/critical care arena for the rest of my career. I would like to do more research and more with fire/EMS organizations in terms of training and education. I would also be interested in working with the state and national trauma organizations in the future.
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