Physician Assistant Laura Lundgren supports and educates her patients on their path to good health
By Scott Hutchinson
Many of us have seen mid-level or advanced practice providers, either a physician assistant (PA) or a nurse practitioner (APNP), at various points in our lives. PA Laura Lundgren admits there are times when she enters the exam room and catches an apprehensive glance from the patient, who may or may not hide the fact that they were “expecting a doctor.”
“I just use it as an opportunity to explain our roles,”
Plenty of people aren’t sure what a physician assistant is.
That’s okay. When Laura Lundgren began her college career at Marquette University, she wasn’t sure either.
“My freshman year roommate was going to an info session about the school’s Physician Assistant Studies program and she asked me to tag along,” said Lundgren. “After the presentation, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Lundgren applied to the PA program at Marquette, which currently accepts only 55 students per year, and she was on her way. (According to a recent survey of the Marquette PA program, the class of 2018 had a 100% job placement rate.)
So, what is a PA? According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, PA’s are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal health care provider. And with thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are both versatile and collaborative.
After earning her undergraduate degree, Lundgren completed Master’s level training and embarked on a year of rotations in different specialties: internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, OB-GYN, general surgery and orthopedics.
Lundgren now has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a PA. She’s worked in urgent care, neurosurgery and orthopedics, joining Dr. Kenneth Schaufelberger’s team at the Orthopedic & Sports Institute in 2018.
Lundgren admits she’s drawn to specialties, like orthopedics, that highlight an educational component.
“I really love educating patients,” she said. “I have such an opportunity to teach my patients about the issues they are dealing with and the best treatment options available to them.”
Another passion of Lundgren’s is surgery.
“I love being part of the surgical team,” Lundgren said. “You’re a part of a change, a plan, addressing something that needs to be fixed. I like being able to see the end result of that.”
Lundgren feels fortunate to be working with Schaufelberger, the fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon.
“Dr. Schaufelberger told me I should be more than just an extension of him,” said Lundgren. “From the start he has encouraged me to bring my skill set to the table and think independently, while continuing to collaborate on our patients’ care.”
The surgeon and the PA provide a formidable one-two punch for their orthopedic patients at OSI.
“Patients need to build a relationship with the surgeon,” said Lundgren. “I feel like I am the bonus part: Often I get to spend a little more time with patients and help them unpackage something they might not fully understand.”
Role in surgery:
“I’m an extra set of hands and eyes, and I know what is needed next so things run smoothly.”
An outdoor family:
“My husband and I just got the kids snowshoes for Christmas, but where’s the snow to try them out?”
Advice for someone entering the profession:
“Be a sponge, and never be afraid to admit you don’t know something.”
Key to communicating with patients:
“Taking time to listen.”
If you weren’t a PA:
“Yoga teacher, or a travel writer.”
Last good non-medical book you read:
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
Last movie you, your husband, and three children sat down to watch:
Swiss Family Robinson