The team at AB Staffing is always eager to hear from our travel medical professionals. Physician Assistant Matt offered his story of how he got started as a PA, why he took a crisis contract, and what he enjoys while on the road and at home. Thanks, Matt, for your service and for taking the time to share about your experience in New York City these last weeks.
Let’s start with what inspired you to take a crisis contract. Knowing the risks, being a husband and father of three, what made you decide to go to the biggest COVID-19 hotspot in the nation?
Over my time as a PA, I have had a desire to give back and serve the United States. I have met with military recruiters and the national guard a few times. I just did not feel like it was the right time or the best decision for my family. When my full-time position with an Orthopedic Trauma group slowed due to self-quarantining and isolation, I remembered that I had contacted a recruiter at AB Staffing a while ago, so I explored the option again.
Once I was in touch, I expressed my desire to serve in New York City. In high school and in college, I had visited there on mission trips and wanted to go back. The first trip was before 9/11 and the second was after 9/11. I wanted to go to see the city in the face of adversity again and use my medical skills to assist the people of New York.
What has the overall experience been like?
The experience has been incredible. The people are like-minded, and we have all answered the call and sacrificed to come here. Everyone has their own story and I love learning about who they are both as medical professionals and outside of work. I honestly believe they will be lifelong contacts after all we have experienced.
What has been the toughest moment in New York City?
The toughest part is being away from my wife and three daughters. They are my comfort zone. I also enjoy outdoor hobbies which take me away from the hustle and bustle when I am home. In New York City, I am working 12+ hour days, seven days a week and am constantly around people. I retreat to my hotel room to decompress but usually, I am sleeping! While I enjoy the chaos and being able to help people, I miss being in the quiet of the outdoors. Decompressing in the middle of New York City is challenging.
I have started a blog to keep family and friends in the loop about what I am doing here. It is also good to reply to emails, text messages, and social media comments as a source of positive energy and reassurance. Nothing beats being at home though!
Where did you work before this contract? Did you have experience with Locums work?
Over the past 4 years, I have had two and a half full-time jobs. I have always done shift work and had days off that I would fill with Locums work. I started about a year after graduating from school and have continued to do three to five shifts a month with Locums. I primarily have worked in critical access hospitals but have also worked in large metropolitan hospitals. It has been a great mix. With the critical access hospitals, some shifts are busy, and some shifts you do not see a patient at all. To keep my knowledge base and skills sharp I enjoy working at the busier emergency rooms.
How long have you been a Physician Assistant in crisis care and what made you want to be one?
I have been a PA-C for four years. I love the medical field and being able to care for people when they need it most. I have never felt quite fulfilled or that I was using my full knowledge, my passion, and my skills while working my way up the ladder as a CNA and Paramedic and always wanted to do more.
I decided that going back to PA school would give me the ability to practice medicine, but not spend the next seven years minimum in medical school. I had shadowed physicians and PAs in college and knew that being a PA would give me the ability to live and work wherever we wanted and to do what is best for my growing family.
What advice would you give someone interested in taking a crisis contract?
The best advice that I can give anyone doing this is very, very, very, very flexible. We built a 470-bed hospital in seven days and everyone had an opinion about how to do it. We have people with a wide array of skills and talents. The name in and of itself crisis is truly what you are entering. We are trying to help in a time of crisis and things constantly change. If you are a rigid person, and do not adapt to change easily, then a crisis contract is not for you. It has been a great challenge and learning experience in teamwork, going with the flow, and enjoying the journey.
What advice would you give to patients/the public about how to stay safe during COVID-19?
All we can ask is that you follow the recommendations that are given. Everyone is in the same situation as far as isolation, self-quarantining, and nowhere to go. We all need to follow the recommendations and guidelines set in place so that we can get back to normal life sooner. Rules, recommendations, and guidelines are set up for a reason. Let us all do our part to follow them so that we can return to regular life sooner than later.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us or other locums?
After doing Locums for a while, I have learned that you must keep exceptionally good records, details, and receipts. Also do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. Know your value and your absolutes. Do not be afraid to say no to poor companies, poor contracts, or poor recruiters. There are plenty out there that will treat you fairly and as a person, rather than a warm body filling a contract. Locums is a great way to have flexibility and work and see the United States. I would highly recommend getting involved.
Do you have any routines or rituals you do before going to work?
I have zero routines, rituals, or superstitions before or after work. I get back from shift, sleep, wake up and eat, and go back to work. My only regular ritual is at about nine o’clock every night, I Facetime with my family and tuck the kids into bed. I do this when I am back home and am trying to keep a sense of normalcy for my children, so that when I return home, we can continue the same routine.
Before we leave you, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and when you are not a PA-C, what do you like to do?
I was born and raised in Orange City, Iowa where I went to college. After college, I moved away and have worked as a CNA, EMT, Paramedic, Phlebotomist, and now a PA. I married my wife Lauren in 2012 while a firefighter/paramedic in Kansas City, Kansas and we decided to move to Tennessee for PA school. Lauren went back to school to get her teaching license.
We had our first child, Stella, in Tennessee, she is now five years old. We moved back to Omaha, NE, where Lauren grew up, and I started working emergency medicine right out of school. We subsequently had two more daughters, Penny who is two years old, and Holland who is six months old.
When I want to get away, I go out to hunt quail and pheasant with my Vizsla named Dutch. I also referee men’s college basketball during the winter months. My goal is to referee Division 1 basketball and hopefully make the NCAA tournament.
Thank you, Matt, for the time you took for this interview. We deeply appreciate your time and your service during this unprecedented time. We wish you and your family the best.
If you’d like to learn about Matt’s COVID-19 response experience, visit his blog here.