It’s National PA Week! Whether serving as part of the surgical team in the OR, or providing post-op care, our surgical PAs play a vital role in how we are raising the standard of health care. Read their stories.
Variety isn’t just the spice of life. It’s also a day in the life of a physician assistant (PA) here at Northwell. Whether it’s working alongside surgeons in the operating room, making bedside rounds, reviewing lab results or staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and treatments, PAs play an integral part in patient care.
For Melissa Hoerning, a cardiothoracic critical care surgery PA at Southside Hospital, workdays include formal rounds with the multidisciplinary team, prepping patients for surgery, assisting surgeons throughout thoracic and heart surgeries, and providing post-surgical care for patients in the ICU.
“We’re truly an extension of the surgeon,” says Melissa. “There’s a lot of trust from the surgeons, and that leads to great outcomes.”
Scott Shukri, a PA at the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at North Shore University Hospital agrees that autonomy and variety are a daily part of his work. His day includes making bedside rounds in the CTU with intensivists following surgery and helping patients with recovery after surgery. Because he’s on the frontline with patients each day, he is often is the first to flag signs or symptoms that require further attention.
Scott also serves as a first assistant to cardiac surgeons during coronary bypass and other cardiac surgeries. In February of this year, he assisted in the operating room for Long Island’s first heart transplant, and he was recently involved with the rollout of “Code ECMO,” to provide extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – the use a of a machine to circulate and oxygenate blood outside the body— to patients who require emergency cardiac and respiratory support.
“The things we’re doing are groundbreaking and exciting,” says Scott. “We’re providing a lot of mechanical support, while continuously making sure that patients are progressing as they should be.”
Becoming a physician assistant
Both Melissa and Scott learned about the role of PA while working on their undergraduate degrees. Melissa shadowed PAs at Southside Hospital to determine if it was the career path she wanted to take and “fell in love” with cardiac thoracic surgery. Scott was drawn to the amount of face-time with patients that PAs have when deciding on his profession.
“There’s so much I can do as a PA,” says Scott. “The surgeons I work with encourage me to perform at my full potential – in and out of the operating room. I value the time the surgeons spend with me honing my skills, and also the direct impact I can make in the care my patients receive.”
Celebrating our physician assistants
National PA Week runs October 6 – 12. During this week and throughout the year, we honor our team of PAs at Northwell who exemplify working Truly Together. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a PA, explore our open positions.