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Hill County Health Officer explains her work as physician assistant

 

March 29, 2019

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Northern Montana Health Care's Jessica Sheehy gives a presentation Thursday at Havre-Hill County Library in Havre.

Montana State University Hill County hosted Extension Health in the Hi-Line Thursday, featuring Hill County Health Officer Jessica Sheehy, PA-C.

Sheehy, a physician assistant at Northern Montana Hospital, earned her undergraduate degree at Carroll College in Helena, and her medical degree as a physician assistant at the University of Saint Francis in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"Growing up in small town Montana, I began to realize, everyone I knew were becoming PA's and nurse practitioners," said Sheehy, as she talked about the work it takes to become a physician assistant and what they really do in hospitals.

The application process usually begins June or July and lasts about a year which includes applying and plenty of interviews.

They want people who have undergraduate degrees but "they don't really care what the degree is in, as long as you have taken classes like biology, chemistry and other medical-related classes," Sheehy said

In the United States, 238 programs are running, with 1,200 applicants looking to fill a small number of positions. Sheehy said she chose St. Francis because it worked with Carroll many times. The average program at the school was two-and-a-half years, and it included one year of intense classroom work, as well as requiring hands on work. She spent time working at a children's hospital as well as working as a pharmacy tech.

Sheehy said that the government is working at dispelling the myths of what physician assistants do.

"Physician assistants provide services that include performing examinations, ordering tests, diagnosing injuries and illnesses, administering treatment, prescribing medicine and monitoring progress," she said.

She likes the independence that Northern Montana Family Medical Center provides.

"We're pretty independent if we want to be," she said.

"Montana is very liberal when it comes to what PA's can do," she added. "I'm able to write prescriptions among other things."

Sheehy said she also offers her time at the clinic at Montana State University-Northern. It's not a full fledged clinic, but it provides basic services like physicals and routine screenings. These services are free for students, as they pay a student health fee.

The Health in the Hi-Line event was funded by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Pacific Northwest Region. The goal of the event was to highlight traditional and non-traditional health care fields in the community, such as PA-'s.

"I'm very glad I attended this event," James Hoffa said, "to hear what these medical professionals do is admirable, and I thank them for their hard work. Everyone I've had to visit for medical needs has been courteous and professional."

 

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