October 10, 2022

Answering the Call: My Journey to Making a Difference

April Burke, PA-C, VP of Advanced Practice Providers

Many healthcare professionals, including myself, pursued a career in medicine with the desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. From childhood, all my potential career paths involved service in some capacity. My initial dream was to be a marine biologist, largely due to my fascination with dolphins. Then for a short time, it was to be a veterinarian due to my love for animals; and after receiving physical therapy for sports-related injuries in grade school, I knew that healthcare was the path for me. While working as a physical therapy technician during college, one of my patients, an orthopedic PA, told me about his career and offered to have me shadow him for a day. After spending the day with him, it was clear to me that becoming a PA was the direction life was taking me. It was amazing to see how he touched the lives of so many people in just one day, and I felt compelled to make a difference too.

During PA school, I was lucky to have great clinical preceptors who introduced me to all various areas of medicine. For my last rotation, I spent time with a hospitalist. During those five weeks with them, I fell in love with inpatient medicine. It was fascinating to me to learn the process of making a diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, and improving the clinical condition of the patients over a hospital course that was often only a few days in length. The moments when I made a difference in the lives of others while working at the bedside as a hospitalist PA over the past 14 years will stay with me forever. Those moments range from discharging a patient home after treating them throughout their stay; to providing reassurance to patients/families in their moment of need; to being in the right place at the right time to save someone’s life. And all these moments were things I hoped I would get to do throughout my medical career, but what I did not anticipate were all the other ways I would serve the community as my role changed over time.

My first position as a hospitalist PA was in a new APP model where I had the opportunity to respond to the growth of the incoming PAs by training “new hire” PAs and precepting students. It was great to give back to my profession by sharing the knowledge I had gained with students and those who were newly graduated into the profession.

I started my tenure with Sound Physicians as a bedside clinician seven years ago. Within that time, I was promoted to the honor of serving as Vice President of Advanced Practice Providers in Hospital Medicine. As I transitioned away from the bedside, I was concerned I would lose the fulfillment I gained by helping others. However, the core values of Teamwork and Service are repeatedly demonstrated at many levels within Sound. Because of this, I am inspired and motivated to continue to positively influence the lives of others in each role I take on. While working as a bedside clinician, I got the opportunity to participate in a task force to develop and implement training and onboarding programs for our new hires. It was so exciting to see the new APPs successfully develop over time; to become autonomous team members. As I grew in my leadership role, I worked with the APP leadership team to assist in facilitating initiatives that provided opportunities for more APPs across the country. In my current position, I have established a new team of APP leads that will work together to continue to support our APP integration efforts at Sound. I love that I have come full circle to again mentor APPs that are taking on a new role!

My advice to other physician assistants is to embrace every opportunity that comes your way; the smallest act can lead you on an amazing journey. Happy PA week! Thank you for all you do!


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