Stephanie (Ridgway) Hudson, who became a physician assistant in 2012 in the Rocky Mountain College Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, works in a general surgery practice as the first-ever PA among seven surgeons. Her coworkers say uniformly, “Why didn’t we do this before [have a PA]? It’s so much easier!” she said.
In June, she spoke to the class of 2015 before they begin their year of clinical rotations for their PA certification. “There are not enough primary care providers,” she said about the first years of her career. “More and more patients are coming in with the ACA [Affordable Care Act] – people who’d put off surgeries.”
She is in the operating room three days a week, usually for thoracic surgeries. “Wednesday is Whipple day,” she said, for the extensive surgeries that deal with cancers at the head of the pancreas. “What we can take apart and put together to create a functioning digestive system is just amazing.” Hudson is the first assistant and does teasing apart of blood vessels, cauterization and tying.
Being on call is the greatest opportunity, she said. “The first line is the PA. We decide ‘When does the doc need to be involved? Does the patient need to go to the OR now? What will they need, a central line?’”
“You guys are so much more prepared than the other guys out there,” she reiterated to the Rocky Mountain College students.
RMC President Bob Wilmouth taught Hudson when he directed the RMC MPAS program. He told the first-years, who head to rotations in August, “When you guys go out and knock it out, they see you guys and want a Rocky grad. It’s a pay-it-forward model, and it has worked here.”
Hudson and her husband, Jeff (’10 MPAS), found dual PA careers in Vancouver, Wash. He joined a private practice in orthopedic surgery and trauma after a one-year Chicago residency in which he worked 80 to 100 hours a week. A surgeon in his current practice had endured the same residency, so they hired him for a job he might not have otherwise qualified for.
Back in the RMC classroom, she did not hesitate to rapid-fire quiz current grad students. “What are the indications for a cholesystectomy [gall bladder removal]? What are the most common complications [of the surgery]? So what would you do in that case?” she asked.
Her questions all came from her experiences. Students’ faces brightened as they saw the parallel thought processes of their revered instructors and of an alumna. “Offer to take call on all your rotations,” she said, because RMC students learn as much as anyone can.
Hudson’s advice for clinical year? Without any notes, she rattled off “Always be early and always dress professionally, even before surgery. Prepare before exams. Always wear the white coat. Be willing to document fully. Enjoy the specialty. Find an answer before anyone asks you again. And don’t hesitate to share questions – they’re all waiting for you to ask.”