• Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C, is a physician assistant at Orthopedics Northwest in Tigard, Oregon. Her blog revolves around contemporary and everyday issues relating to professional life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best feedback provides opportunity to change, contemplate

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

Most physician assistants pride themselves on being good communicators. That is why it is always such a surprise to stumble across situations that work out to less than stellar results. We think about how it may have happened. And when we start asking around, we inevitably receive some form of feedback and it becomes clear that at least part of the responsibility lies with us.

You would think by the time we have made it through physician assistant (PA) school and into practice that we would have also successfully navigated other communication challenges – like relationships with employers, peers, significant others, the public and our patients. Yet when something goes amiss, we can often track it back to a communication gone awry. Then the feedback process begins.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Standing up, standing out

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

Is standing out in a crowd a good thing? Ask a group of adults and you will get varied responses, usually followed by an example or two that supports the answers given. Ask a group of children, however, and you will get a very passionate response.

Children learn from a young age that it can be risky at best to stand out. If you stand out in a “cool” way, in a mainstream way, you are adored. But if you happen to stand out for a reason out of the mainstream, which is often gender driven, you can become the target of envy, jealousy, spite, criticism, challenge and sometimes outright dislike. And children, in case you don’t remember, can be cruel. Whoever coined the rhyme “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” was never teased and taunted by their peers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vulnerability and shame can work for you

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

Brene Brown, a shame researcher of TED Talk fame, operates a blog website, www.ordinarycourage.com. There, she chronicles everyday situations related to issues blocking our growth as individuals — and by extension, in my opinion, as professionals. Her research has shown that there is a direct relationship between vulnerability and innovation, creativity and imagination. The more vulnerable we are the more innovative, creative and imaginative we become. However, she discovered this connection not by researching vulnerability, but by researching shame.

Shame can be expressed as, “look what I did — I’m bad, I’m a failure.” Interestingly, shame is inversely related to the amount of innovation, creativity and imagination expressed in our lives. Shame thus appears to be a stumbling block to vulnerability and by extension our growth and success. Why is this?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Keeping the 'social' in social media

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

Are you a Facebook fan? How about a Twitter fan? If so, I’ll bet you have plenty of thoughts on the current push to use social media for professional marketing agendas.

I am a fan of supporting businesses and organizations that might not otherwise get much national exposure for a good cause or a great product (like the incredible beers of Four Saints Brewing in North Carolina). But how likely are you, personally, to return to the Facebook page of a business or an orthopedic practice you’ve recently “liked” just to stay current on their social posts?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Take ownership of prevention

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

A recent article on prevention caught my eye. It made the bold statement, “All PAs should take ownership of prevention, which is often considered the province of the primary care provider.” Does that include me? Probably. After a few minutes of contemplation, I came up with the following short list of health maintenance/prevention areas that influence orthopedic care: obesity, inappropriate narcotic use, smoking status, psychological health, aging concerns, environmental considerati...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Obesity in our patients

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

How many of the patients you see are obese or morbidly obese? And how do you measure this? Eyeball them? Body mass index (BMI)? Weight?

Friday, February 10, 2012

What gives your work significance?

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

Most of us, when asked, “Any regrets about going into the PA medical profession?” Would give a resounding, “No!” But sometimes we don’t realize directly why that is. Sometimes it’s important to take a second look at just exactly why we continue to do what we do. In other words, What gives your work significance? Here are a few of my own responses.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When accusations tear your group apart

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

It has happened — accusations are made, everyone is in denial, staff are caught off guard, patients are cancelling, nobody knows how to respond. The media gets involved, the circle widens, someone is arrested. Pause.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living with the dinosaur

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

It’s not that I’m so old (God forbid) or nerdy (ditto) , but over the last 6 or so years I’ve had occasion to seriously dig in to four to six different electronic health record (EHR) systems — both major and minor alike. With my primary medical group’s current EHR, I am thoroughly convinced that we as a profession embraced technology in medical records long before technology was truly ready for us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Would a PA help my practice?

Jennifer Van Atta, MS, PA-C

If you’ve ever tossed this question around with your partners, your spouse or your buddies, you are not alone. I am frequently asked this question by CEOs, COOs, HR directors, and Medical Directors — not to mention physicians, surgeons, and even other mid-level providers. I am a PA-C, licensed by my state medical board, certified in general medicine by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, and specializing in orthopedics.