Expert Insights from Program Leaders
December 12, 2021
Season 1: Episode 24: George Washington University - Harrison Reed, MMS, PA-C

We speak with Harrison Reed, MMS, PA-C about the challenge for pre-PAs in navigating applications to PA schools as well as the issues around paid consultants and disadvantages to many applicants. We also talk about his social media presence and focus.

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We speak with Harrison Reed, MMS, PA-C about the challenge for pre-PAs in navigating applications to PA schools as well as the issues around paid consultants and disadvantages to many applicants. We also talk about his social media presence and focus.

The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Arizona.


Unknown Speaker  0:08  
Welcome to this episode of the PA path podcast. I'm your host, Kevin Lohenry. We are glad you could join us as we seek to better understand the PA profession.

Unknown Speaker  0:25  
And one of the things I really like about PA school is that it's not part time and it is transformative. You immerse yourself as one thing, you emerge as something else.

Unknown Speaker  0:35  
Well, hello there and Happy Holidays to all of you. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today, Stephen I speak with Mr. Harrison Reed. Harrison graduated from the Yale University Physician Associate Program in 2012. And he has spent his clinical career working in emergency and Critical Care Medicine. He currently works at George Washington University Hospital, and is an assistant professor and principal faculty member at the George Washington University PA program. As always, you may learn more about our guests and their programs or institutions by going to the PA path website, where you can find all of our episodes, the bios for our guests, and additional blog articles that pertain to life as a PA. Today is our 24th episode and Season One will be coming to a close at the end of this month. But we are excited to bring a summary episode at the end. We're Steph and I will highlight some of the cool conversations we had. And also some of the cool conversations we are going to have for season two. Keep an eye on our social media platforms for more information. Harrison, thank you so much for joining us today. Stephen, I've been very excited to speak to you and pick your brain about so many of the things that you've been advocating for on social media. Particularly, you're a strong advocate for CPAs and for our profession. But before we get into that, can we start a little bit with your path to becoming a PA? Tell us what led you to the profession?

Unknown Speaker  2:00  
Yeah, thanks for having me, you know that question is, is tough. I think that we often have answers that sound great in interviews, and then we have the truth. And I've really struggled with how to present that because I do think for me, medicine has always been a calling when I was in third grade, we started adopting pot bellied pigs and I became like the amateur veterinarian of our house and really dove into sort of caring for these other living things. And I thought veterinary medicine was probably my path. And my high school actually had a health careers program where our teachers were RNs. And even in high school, we would put on scrubs and go do clinical rotations. And I rotated at SeaWorld and the local zoo and local hospitals. And so I do feel like I've always been on a path to medicine. But the truth is, is when I was in my early 20s, you know, I was kind of coming out of schooling and into the career at a tough time, I'd been writing I thought writing was a big calling for me too. And then the recession hit and every newspaper in the world started closing its doors and money looked like far from a guarantee. And I really wanted a way to secure a paycheck to be able to support my family, my mom, my brother, my nephew, had a lot of concerns about that. And I didn't feel like I had a decade to become a cardiologist. So you know, it was a combination of a deep passion. But there's practical elements to this that I think we often don't say in our PA school applications or in our interviews, but I think it really is a combination of those things. And I think they're important. And it's important for us to acknowledge our own sort of humanity in some of these decision making processes.

Unknown Speaker  3:31  
And you know, I think you raise a really good point, I think, to me, it's too bad that there's a there's that dichotomy of what applicants think that we want to hear versus what the real story is. And, you know, I'd be curious to hear from both of you, actually, your thoughts on that about, you know, what, really, what's wrong with being truthful, if that's the truth, you know, I can speak for myself and on behalf of my program, I really want to know what really drives people and, you know, the the polished, perfect answer that you know, that someone may coach you to give versus really the true story. You know, I can oftentimes I can tell the difference between those when when an applicant is giving me what they think that I want to hear, versus I really actually embrace somebody who's who's willing to kind of tell the gritty truth about that?

Unknown Speaker  4:15  
Well, I think there's risk in telling the truth. And I only recently have been honest, as I feel very secure in my career, but I think that when applicants walk into the application process, they're fighting against really deeply entrenched biases in the people that are interviewing them. And it's not just, you know, the evil people versus the good people. We all have really deep seated biases. We all really feel like we know what the ideal pa looks like. And the truth is, is whatever images in our head is not good enough. It's not diverse enough. It's not broad enough. It doesn't have enough insight. We have blind spots that we bring to the table. So I do think we often hear the truth and recoil from it. As interviewers. I don't think we're we're so open minded as we think we are So I think when an applicant walks in the room, they do need a polished answer, because they're fighting against not just one or two biases there. They have a whole panel of people that they don't know where those people stand, how they see the world, and what the interpretation of that truth might be. And so yeah, I think there's a truth. And I think there's an interview answer. And I don't mean to be cynical about it. But I think that it's important for applicants to know that not everyone is open minded. Not everyone is as accepting as they should be. And that is something that they're working against. That's a gravity that they have to try to escape.

Unknown Speaker  5:35  
I think there's a real I think there's a real lesson in that for for PA educators and for admissions Commission's.

Unknown Speaker  5:41  
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I think one of the things that we tried to do as a program is we mandated implicit bias training right before the interview, we have a lot of alums who come back and can complete the introduction or the interviews with us, as do some of our senior students. And we found it's been really interesting to watch how people have taken this training, and really started to reflect on their own bias as they're coming into the interview setting. It doesn't make it perfect for by any means. And in fact, even in our selections committee that came up and somebody called somebody else died on that bias, but at least say they were empowered to do so. So I think there's a really good point.

Unknown Speaker  6:19  
Yeah, we often use the career as a vehicle to sort of escape some of the worst parts of our life. I mean, maybe it's just a continuation of a great education and upbringing. But I think for a lot of people, I put myself in this category, the career is a chance to change your life. And I've often presented the PA profession as a vehicle for change more than just, you know, circle, your favorite profession in health care, and the schooling model you'd like the most, I really think that there's a segment of the population that this job represents as a life changing transition point. However, for you to be truthful about that you have to reveal some real trauma. And the way people receive that is often to look for the flaws and you to look for the flaws that that represents. Are you from that kind of family? Are you from that kind of neighborhood. And I think that all the implicit bias training in the world doesn't necessarily help unless we really accept the holistic person, we talked about holistic admissions, but then we don't really look at the whole person in their environment, and not just looking at how tough that was and the struggles you had, but the character that that builds and the grip that it represents. And I think that's the shift we need to see is not looking at things from the perspective of well, why isn't this person the pedigree? We're looking for more? How the heck did they overcome that? And what does that represent? And how are they going to use that for the next 40 years in this profession?

Unknown Speaker  7:42  
So Harrison, what are some of the things that you've done in your role as an educator, as a clinician, as an editor in one of our journals to try to really push that, that kind of concept forward?

Unknown Speaker  7:52  
I mean, I'd love to say I have a long list of accomplishments, but I don't think that's necessarily true, you know, we are frequently walking into well established systems. And I think that that's the challenge with change. And so I'm proud of japa, that journal that I've been an editor on the editorial board, wow, for, I don't know, seven, eight years. Now, I'm proud of George Washington University and the work we do there. But the truth is, is you you first come in and observe and you get a lay of the land, and you try to figure out what the heck is going on with the system. And I think if you come in and don't do that, you're setting yourself up for failure, and maybe worse, maybe you're going to do damage, because you don't understand what you're walking into. So I think first and foremost, you know, trying to understand what had been done up to this point, and what needed to be done and how the system worked and where the levers of action might be, is really important. You know, I think when you look at something like japa, or you look at any platform, where there's media, whether it's writing, where there's ideas being disseminated to the larger audience, there's a huge opportunity for change there. And I've just leaned into sort of my natural talent, I think that I have a natural talent as a writer, I'm trying to grow my natural talent as a public speaker and using other media methods to try to get messages out. But for me, that's just a personal vehicle that I felt like, was a big lever of change. And so I do sometimes write editorials that upset people. And I will sometimes post something on social media that gets me direct messages from people that either, you know, disagree, politely or otherwise. But I think that it's important to lean into something you have. And so, you know, you know, I don't try to just rile people up. I think that you need civility in conversation. But I do sometimes think you have to grab people by the shoulders and shake them a little bit metaphorically and get their attention. Otherwise, it's so easy to just stay in the same mental rut and not really think about bigger ideas. So whether that's with a small group of students at a university, whether that's with the entire profession or the segment of the profession that reads japa I'm hoping that you know, just broaching discussion. Bringing up topics starting conversations has a ripple effect because I don't think there's any one person that can presume to be able to change their entire world.

Unknown Speaker  10:09  
airson, you you developed quite a quite a social media presence. And it seems like you've made it quite a connection with the pre pa community. Talk a little bit about that. And Was that intentional? Or was that maybe just inadvertent? Because because of some of the things that that you've advocated for on social media. And tell us about the evolution of that?

Unknown Speaker  10:32  
Yeah, I definitely did not set out to, you know, no offense to any pre PA, but didn't set out to connect with pre pa specifically. I didn't see myself as operating in that world. For most of my career. I've been in critical care medicine, I see my colleagues, most immediately being people who work in critical care medicine, and then beyond that the PA profession, but typically clinically working PA, when you get an education, your perspective shifts a little bit, I think, and so suddenly, I really had a vested interest in who was walking in the door, and realize that there was a power here, when you're the faculty at a PA program, you are truly standing at the door, you are truly keeping the gate for better, for worse, for good or for bad, that you have an extremely vital role in how the profession is shaped. And so it was probably the combination of those two things, realizing how many prepays were out there looking for information and also feeling a deep investment by moving into that role as an educator. Those intersect at around the same time for me, I've been on Twitter for a decade, but you know, it was mostly to disseminate my own work, promote my own stuff, interact with people that weren't in my backyard. But it was really moving to something like Instagram where the demographic was a little bit younger, a little bit more heavily in the pre pa space that I you know, found that that there was work to be done there. And so it was inadvertent, that connection, but it suddenly became very meaningful to me. The impact is short, because the training path here is short. So we can go from being a pre PA to a clinically practicing pa in three years, you know, from start to finish. So you look at someone and if you just stamp them on the forehead with pre PA, you're fooling yourself. That's your colleague in a few years. And so yeah, maybe I'm a little heavily invested in prepays. But five years from now they're going to be our colleagues. And I think that's the important thing to remember.

Unknown Speaker  12:28  
And Harrison, some of the things that I've seen out on social media with you are some of these applicants are really resonating around these concepts of leveling the playing field, holistic admissions, trying to make the unidentifiable, more palpable, for those that are trying to figure out how to navigate the PA educational process. What are the kind of the themes that you keep seeing come up the themes that keep arising that you're trying to address?

Unknown Speaker  12:51  
Yeah, I think that first and foremost, there's a array of barriers to entry to the PA profession. I've written articles about this in Jaffa, and I've talked about it on my social media channels, and to basically anyone who will listen. But it's no accident, the demographic breakdown of the PA profession. It's no accident that it's mostly white, it's no accident that it's mostly urban or suburban. It's mostly middle class, upper middle class or upper class. It's no accident that it's often not first generation and college students that are in the PA profession. We set up a system in which money, privilege connections, social capital, all of those things make the path to becoming a PA easier, in some cases, make it so significantly easier as to exclude people who don't have those things. And so I think acknowledging those barriers is important. But that's a complex entity. I mean, there are so many things that go into just that statement right there. It goes way beyond just paying for Casbah putting your application in, and then you know, paying off that credit card when you can. There's intangibles, and there's advantages that you and I probably didn't even think about when we were applying, you know, anybody who's maybe been a PA for five or 10 or more years, probably didn't navigate a candidate pool that included people who were hiring private coaches that were getting exclusive information that had a price tag on it that was well above the cost of applying for PA school. So I think the landscape has changed. It's become more competitive, but it's also just become a business. And that to me is a little bit alarming. I'm a little bit worried about how much of a role resources play in selecting a profession. But I'm not naive. I don't think that this is some kind of new thing. I think medicine has been doing this for a long time. But when we see the trend in the demographics of the profession, it's not heading in the right direction. And we are seeing a much lower Representation of Black PA, for instance, right now than we saw 20 years ago. It's not a good trend, and it's something that we have to fix because it clearly will not fix itself.

Unknown Speaker  14:55  
In my experience these businesses that crop up to help applicants make it through the system, or try to at least, you know, they they evolved because the programs have not offered enough information to help applicants get there themselves. So what are some of the steps that you think programs can take to help mitigate those barriers and really break down the need for all these extra services that really only affordable from a small percentage of people? Yeah, I

Unknown Speaker  15:23  
think I want to push back on that premise just a little bit, if you don't mind, I am not sure that those services arose from a place of necessity, if none of those services existed, the playing field would be level, nobody would have an advantage. So nobody would have a disadvantage. So just because the program's not offering a service doesn't mean that somebody has to come in and fill that space for a profit. I think that I hear that all the time from people who run those services, who understandably get upset that I speak out about this. But they say if I wasn't doing it, these people would have no help. And I say, good. Think about it, if nobody had help, everybody would be on a level playing field. And I don't mean that broadly in societal and systemic Lee, right? We know that there are people who have advantages from the system standpoint, but the thing is, is that this extra help is coming in and helping those people who already have advantages from the system standpoint. So what I'm saying is yes, we probably should be putting resources out there, at the most, they should be equally accessible to every single person on the planet. But that's not what's happening. So I just want to I just want to make that point that it's not a necessity, it's not that we had to have a mock interview service. If everybody walked into an interview with no practice, we would just see the person, we would just get their gut instinct, we would just get their first response, I'm totally fine with that. I'm totally fine with them stumbling and stuttering. I don't care about that. But I want them to talk to me about the truth of the question. So I don't need someone to be polished, I'm not looking for the polished human being, I'm looking for the real human being in that admissions process. So I just I think that that's a really key sticking point, because that will always be the counter to the argument that this should be accessible and equitable to counter will always be I am needed, my business is necessary. And I my assistance is necessary. And my time is valuable. So I have to make money off of it. And I hear those things. But my answer is no, you're wrong. That's not true at all. Now, that being said, since that market exists, programs do now have an imperative. Look, we have to react to it. So it's become a bit of an arms race, it's can we put together free materials that are not going to just be as good as those paid materials, because frankly, I don't have any faith that paid materials are any good at all, I don't see any evidence that the people putting these businesses together have some level of expertise. But what they have is excellent branding, excellent marketing, and they are profiting on an anxiety that is very real anxiety that my livelihood in my future might depend on this very short, very selective process, and I might be able to buy an advantage. So now we have people who want to put free resources out there people who want to build equity into the system, having to race against people who are making a profit off of that. And that becomes a really tough arms race. Does every PA program need to have mock interview prep, or does a nonprofit need to come through and like this podcast, put resources out there and not just put them out there, but make them so well known, so accessible, so well branded, that people won't feel in their gut that they have to go and spend money? Because it's fear that does that? It's anxiety that does that. So yeah, we have to now combat that. But the perfect world would be one in which people come as they are. And we can see the person and we judge them holistically. And so I don't even know what to do now that we're here. But we're here. So we're racing, nonetheless,

Unknown Speaker  18:45  
you just kind of forced me to think about something else that we see, which is the anxiety for the NCCPA advance exam. And there's a whole cottage industry that has developed around that anxiety for students who are spending money out of their own pockets to prepare for an exam that, you know, in my estimation, the program should be able to prepare you for yet now the programs are feeling that pressure to also supplement their curriculum by giving students access to these things. So it anxiety is the great view provoker for spending money.

Unknown Speaker  19:14  
Yeah, and what we've done is move the target of what we're trying to achieve, or at least obfuscated it, we can't really see what the goal and the outcome was, it used to be and I think it still is to create a cohort of excellent clinicians who are going to provide excellent care to people, and hopefully, as a side effect or a side product, do other things to hopefully we're selecting for people with altruism and empathy and a need for service. And hopefully, we're going to get some of that byproduct of, you're not just going to do an excellent job at your nine to five, you're going to maybe help the community around you. Maybe you're going to give back to your profession. Maybe you're going to give back to your school, maybe you're going to cut back to the people around you who didn't have the privilege that you had or that you now have. And so that's what we were going before but what we've used to measure it are things like pants pass rates. Same with the admissions applications, we're worried about the metrics more than we're worried about the mission. And if you've done that you've really lost sight of the game. So yeah, we're worried about the pants. But why? I mean, how important is it, I know we have to pass it. But that's all we have to do. We don't have to be jockeying for an extra 1% over our quote, unquote, market basket are other PA programs out there that we're competing against. I think when you're doing that, you've really taken your eye off the ball. And I think you're doing a disservice to your program yourself, your students, your future students, your profession, I would love to see a refocus on mission. And I think that that would solve some of those problems, that's pie in the sky, I get it like you need to have practical, grounded anchored ways of doing that. But I also think the messaging has to change. And it has to be spoken about it has to be discussed a little bit more openly and a little bit more freely.

Unknown Speaker  20:57  
So regarding that anxiety, when we look at this huge pool of prospective pa applicants who are battling that anxiety and looking around at, you know, the advantages that they perceive that others have either real or perceived advantages that others have, what do you say to those folks? What's your best advice to prospective PA students who are trying to make that decision about? Do I pay for the services? Do I do the best I can? What do you have to say to them?

Unknown Speaker  21:26  
Yeah, the answer is multifactorial. And it's a little bit tough to put additional burdens on on these applicants to keep additional things in mind. But I would say you need to keep a few things in mind. First, vet your your sources, not just the services, you might go out and hire if you end up going down that road, but just the people around you. Where is your noise coming from? How well do you know your inner circle? Are you on group chats that are full of other anxious people that are vamping each other up? And if you are those people, people you trust? Do you know them? Are they helping you? Where is your support network? How can you solidify that and stabilize that because part of it is you're going to have to shut out some of this noise. If you're thinking I'm just going to go and soak up every piece of information I can find on every social media platform, every website, every podcast, every blog, I know this is one of them, but you're going to be overwhelmed, you're going to be way more anxious, and you're going to get competing and mixed messages. And when we talk about having too many cooks in the kitchen, I mean, this goes far beyond this is an army of cooks, and an army of kitchens now and so I really think locking down your support, focusing in on that zeroing in finding trusted sources. Sticking with that is probably a good start. I think a lot of that anxiety comes from having so many different ideas in your head at once, knowing you can't satisfy all of them. Because there's too many none of us can and then feeling like you failed. Because you can't meet every single expectation out there, you don't need to, you need to get into one program. Now you're going to need to put a lot of you know, seeds out there, plant a lot of seeds, so something's gonna grow. But you really have to keep in mind, you need to find the one program and the right program for you. And so that might not be based on us World News ranking or program that you've heard the most about, or the program that your favorite Instagram or went to, it might be the program that sees you. And that's what you need to do, you need to be visible, the real you the authentic you. Because you don't want someone to accept a phony version of you, you don't want someone to accept a veneer and then you're in that program for 2428 32 months. And now what you might have each sold each other a false bill of goods there. So I think in addition to closing off the noise, remember that what you're trying to do is reflect the inner part of you that's valuable, that's authentic, that's real. And I talk about this a lot with writing personal statements, it takes a lot of self reflection, to find that to remember it. And then to stay on message. You don't have to compete with the 25,000 applicants out there this year, however many there are no idea. But you just need to compete for that one seat in that one program that sees you and that's hard to do in the sea of uncertainty, anxiety, competition, it really has become a little bit toxic out there. I see people posting on social media, just stats, here are my stats, here was my GPA. Here are the hours I had. I've had people message me you guys. I got accepted to PA school in 2009. I mean, it doesn't even it's irrelevant. Now people still will come to me and say, How many hours did you have? Where did you work? I live in Tampa, where did you volunteer? But what was your GPA? First of all, I can't remember i My brain is shot after a decade of all of this stress. I can't remember that. But also it doesn't matter. You're not me. You didn't walk in with the same advantages but you also didn't walk in with the same disadvantages, the same strengths, the same weaknesses. You didn't write the same essay I wrote, you didn't have the same interview I had Some of you were better some of you were worse, a lot of you were just different. And I think that constant comparison gets really toxic, and it's 100% stoked by this environment. So I think the more you can put blinders on, and just zero in on a few sources. And just remember, like, these programs are motivated to find people that aren't just the cookie cutter carbon copied, I got my GPA, I got my minimum hours, I checked a few boxes, I did the mock interview prep. Now take me, here I am, we're really looking for a broader degree of talent, grit, mission, all of these other things that we talk about in our holistic admissions committees and all that kind of thing, it's going to try to find you, but you have to be real and shine through and kind of cut through the noise.

Unknown Speaker  25:47  
Yeah, one of my favorite sayings is comparison is the thief of joy. And I think that's a really great way to sum up kind of what you just said, it's probably the thief of joy and the stoker of anxiety, if I can add to that add to that saying, so, you know, I see a lot on social media of people doing that same thing, you know, the comparison game, the comparison of stats, and another concerning thing for me is that I see a lot of people say, you know, it doesn't matter where you go, it doesn't matter what program you go to, it doesn't matter, you know, you just have to, you just have to get in, you go to whoever will take you or you go whoever's the cheapest. Talk to me a little bit about that, you know, kind of the that theme that you see the the selection, the program selection process, and the noise that you hear kind of coming from the pre pa realm, and maybe what advice you would give them about doesn't matter what program you go to? And if so, how do you align yourself with a program? I know, you mentioned mission before, but you know, what are? What are your thoughts on that? Yeah, I

Unknown Speaker  26:47  
mean, I guess I have to disclose right off the top that I teach at one specific program. And that program has features, you know, it is a private school, it does not have the cheapest tuition, it's not in the cheapest city. It is highly ranked on us World News and other lists, which I think have questionable value. But I just need to say like, I teach at a program that benefits from a lot of things that I don't necessarily think, are middle of the road, or are accessible to everyone that in and of itself is kind of a problem. To answer your question, do you go to the one that accepts you the one that's cheapest? And when there's no right answer, I think this idea of fit is a really nebulous concept that I struggle with a lot. I struggle with this as somebody who's you know, seeking out employers that I fit with, or social circles I fit with or extracurricular activities, or the journal that I work for, do I do I fit with this environment, and it's very tough, I think you have to keep your eye on the prize at some point. It's great to walk in and think I was born to be here. And this is exactly the right place for me. But it might not feel that way for everyone. And that should not be taken as an indicator to give up. So how do you pick a PA program? I don't know. I mean, I went from a guy that was in public school, my entire life, went to University of South Florida, because in part, it was a school that accepted me. But also it was the cheapest state tuition at the time, or at least the ones that I knew of in Florida. And then a few years later, I'm going to Yale, this private school is ideally placed, totally alien, totally foreign, talking about not fitting in a place going from Central Florida to New Haven, Connecticut, and the place looks like Hogwarts. And it didn't fit me as a person. But it fit what I was trying to accomplish very well. It was a place that had a lot of resources. It was a place that had a lot of opportunities. I was extremely hungry for opportunities, I was willing to jump on anything, and try anything and embrace the possibilities of what my career could bring me in those ways. My PA school was an excellent fit. It was almost a better fit, because I didn't fit there. Because I knew that I would have to shake off some of my insecurities, shake off some of the things that I thought about myself about where I'm from, you know, nobody from Sanford, Florida ends up in the Ivy League like that's, that's not really the the pedigree of that town. But you go to a place and you take what you can from it. And what I was able to take from Yale was a lot of affirmation, because I didn't fit in, but I could hang. I knew that I was as good as anyone around me. And I had opportunities to show that. And so for me, that worked really well. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I have rose colored glasses because I'm looking back on something and I can't change it if I want it to. But I really believe that it was a bit of a turning point for me because it did show me that you're not whatever mold you think you are. You can have a lot of growth through your PA school education beyond just becoming a clinician, maybe that's not right for you, though. Maybe you're not looking for an inflection point. Maybe you're looking for a place that you can land that is a soft, comfortable environment because it's going to be a struggle for you to get through. the academic part of this or maybe you have other priorities, and you need a place that's not going to grate against your family life or is not going to make you geographically relocate, you really have to know what you need, you're not going to need the same thing that 22 year old hair is needed. And you need to accept that. So giving blanket advice here, very tough. But I also think that it with a little bit of introspection with a little bit of self exploration, you probably know in your heart of hearts, what you need to go from being someone who wants to be a clinician, to someone who is a clinician. And one of the things I really like about PA school is that it's not part time, and it is transformative, you immerse yourself as one thing, you emerge as something else. And I think that is an important process. And you should pick the place that will allow you to do that.

Unknown Speaker  30:46  
My last question for you before, I think that's going to ask you for closing remarks is really around this concept of burnout, you've been talking about burnout, you've written about burnout, it's a real issue for some and so as a pre pa who's thinking about this profession, and as I explore the profession, I see all these indicators of burnout and and how contentious it is to be a healthcare provider these days with COVID. I see you're a critical care pa so you certainly have had your share of some of those challenges. How do you guide somebody about the future of our profession and still give them enough of that fire to stay lit throughout the stress of PA school?

Unknown Speaker  31:23  
Yeah, be be real, but don't be scary is kind of what we always try to go for, I think, not to be the constant contrary and or anything like that. But I I often don't even like the idea of burnout as a concept. I'm good friends with a lot of the PA burnout researchers I've worked with a lot of them on projects. They know this about me, they know I push back on the term burnout, but I don't like it because it does center the issue with the individual it centers the issue with the healthcare worker, I happen to think that health care workers are extremely talented, gritty, resilient people just from selection, I mean, all of the things we've talked about make this a really tough place to get to no matter what your profession is, you're an RN, and NP MD, whatever you have shown resilience up to this point. It's very unlikely that was fake. Maybe it was, but I think we have a very gritty, resilient group of people here. So discussing it as a failure of the person. And I know that's not what you're necessarily doing. But in some ways burnout really does centered on that person. And I think that it's a misrepresentation of what's happening. We work in really tough jobs, really stressful places, sometimes that's okay, I often enjoy the craziest days I have in the ICU. But we have to acknowledge that that environment can very often veer off into being toxic into being corrosive. And we need to acknowledge when we see people who are probably, by definition, extremely resilient, starting to break down, we need to look around not just at that person, but what the heck did this to them, and how can we address that. And so that's why most of the writing that I do, even when I talk about burnout, I'm talking about the environment in which we operate, I'm talking about the culture around us. And that is where I think personally, we need to examine where we need to find solutions, and where we need to pressure stakeholders and healthcare to make change. So what I would say to this new person walking in is young person or maybe even not so young person who's going through a career transition or wants to be a PA, you represent an opportunity, because culture is a really tough thing to change. But one thing that does change it is by bringing in people with a different mindset. And having a generational shift, allowing people who know better, who have been taught better, who have learned the importance of things like your environment, like your culture coming in, and one after another, changing the majority, to a group of people that really care about the well being of each other, who really care about the environment in which we work who care because it affects us, it affects our institutions, it affects our patients. And I think that you shouldn't run for the hills. If a toxic environment is something you hate, come here, join healthcare, change the environment, change the culture, let's shift this thing because it's not going to change by driving good people away. That's the problem already. So if you care about your well being the well being of your co workers, the environment in which you work, come here, let's change it. Let's be a voice and and let's be action, and let's see the results.

Unknown Speaker  34:23  
So here's some before we close, we always like to give people an opportunity to contribute anything else that they'd like to speak about was or was there another topic that you're hoping to touch on today or anything else that you would want? Pre PA students or or others to know?

Unknown Speaker  34:38  
Oh, man. Well, I mean, I feel like I've already hit so many of my soap boxes. I mean, yeah, pretty. I mean, prepays. Y'all have a lot on your plate. I don't want to add more to it. But I do want to say, you know, I'm I didn't really get into my whole life story at the beginning of this, but I did mention that one of the things I really cared about was was being a writer and I thought that that would probably be a career path. For me. It hasn't been a career path by itself. But it also hasn't not been a career path. I think that love of writing in my ability to embrace it, my mom for teaching me to be a good writer, all those things have had a much bigger impact on my career as a healthcare worker than my clinical skills ever was just the fact of the matter. So what I'd like to say to prepays if you have other talents, if you have other interests, bring them to the table, there might be a dozen reasons you want to get into health care, but you don't have to give up those other parts of yourself. So if you're a creative person, if you're a skilled person, if you have passions, if you have other interests, explore them, whether that's before, during or after PA school or your healthcare career, whether it's in parallel or intermittently. But I really want to see more people who have essence outside of medicine who have parts of them that aren't just defined by the identity of their job. Because I think once you're deep in this thing, you need that the health care professions need that we need extra ideas, we need extra talents. But also you need to exist outside of your job, at some point to this thing is a great vehicle, this thing of the PA profession or health care, whatever it is, it's a great vehicle, but it's not your identity. So I really encourage people who feel like they're multifaceted to get into healthcare, and to really nurture those other parts of themselves. Because frequently, we don't talk about that. We often stuff those things away and focus on the academics and the medicine and what you can do for your patients. But we really, I think healthcare would be a better place if we nurtured that and saw growth of those other talents, skills, interests. I would love to see that and you see it a little bit right now. But I'd like to encourage more of that.

Unknown Speaker  36:39  
Well, Harrison, thanks so much for being with us today. We really have appreciated the contributions that you've made to the profession and through your through your presence on social media, I personally really appreciate that you are willing to be a voice and to be bold in your challenging people to just think about the way we look at things the way we consider applicants, the way we consider our profession. You You truly are an unabashed agent of change. And I think that that's something that we we need more of in this profession. So thanks, thanks for the work that you're doing. And thanks for spending some time with us today.

Unknown Speaker  37:10  
Thanks for saying that. And thanks for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Unknown Speaker  37:14  
We want to thank our guest Harrison Reed for his time and insights into the challenges for applicants to our profession. Harrison is clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about the nuance of the issues that applicants and programs face when navigating the process. Tune in next week when we speak with Claire Norman and Sarah Diosdado Ortiz from the University of Southern California Primary Care Physician Assistant Program in Los Angeles, California. We thought it only fair to highlight the program I have led for the past 11 years in season one, so be sure to check us out. Our final episode will come out the week after Christmas and Stephen I will look back at the start of this podcasting process. We'll reflect on the themes that emerged in the first season and highlight some of the incredible experts we were able to interview for our audience. Until next time, we wish you success with whatever path you are walking in life. And thank you for joining us. The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Southern California.


Harrison Reed, MMS, PA-CProfile Photo

Harrison Reed, MMS, PA-C

Assistant Professor

Harrison Reed graduated from the Yale University Physician Associate program in 2012 and has spent his clinical career working in emergency and critical care medicine. He is a member of the editorial board of The Journal of the American Academy of PAs and has served as the journal's Clinical Editor, Associate Editor, and acting Editor in Chief. He currently works in critical care medicine at George Washington University Hospital and is an assistant professor and principal faculty member at the George Washington University PA Program in Washington, D.C.