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Alumni Spotlight: Shaina DePaul '16, PA-C

March 9, 2020

Where were you born?

I was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Pittsford, one of the suburbs of Rochester.

Why did you choose the PA profession?

I always knew I wanted to go into medicine, but I didn’t know exactly what I was looking to do. My aunt is a nurse at Rochester General Hospital in the Emergency Department and had always been someone I looked up to, so I got my first job in medicine working as a patient care tech there. That’s where I was first introduced to the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants and got to see how they worked with the rest of the team. I loved working with the PAs there. I got my undergraduate degree in biology from Villanova University, and while there, our medical advisor put me in touch with a number of PAs in the Philadelphia area who I got to shadow. I think that kind of solidified my plan!

Why did you choose Drexel University’s PA program?

It was clear that Drexel’s PA program was one of the best and one of the oldest programs in the country and it seemed like a very prestigious program. When I went for my interview, the people I met and the way they spoke about the program really resonated with me. Everyone was so passionate about the program and had such great things to say. I know it was an interview, but it was different from the other places I looked at. So, it was not only the history, but the people that I met that made the difference for me.

Where do you currently practice?

I work at New York Presbyterian Hospital at Weill Cornell Medical Center in the pediatric intensive care unit. I always knew that I wanted to work in inpatient pediatrics specifically. This was my first PA job after graduation, but my position has changed quite a bit since I started. At first, the position was divided into half pediatric ICU and half in the well-baby nursery, which was a unique split but one I loved right out of school. I’ve been here almost four years, and I’m now the senior PA working solely in the PICU. Our team of pediatric PAs is still continuing to expand—we’re hiring!

Describe a day in your clinical practice.

We work 12 and a half hour shifts three days a week— days, nights, weekends, holidays— so generally our shifts in the morning start with rounding out our patients with the whole clinical team. We work closely with attending physicians, fellows, residents, nurses and all of the consulting services in the hospital. Throughout the day, we field admissions, transfers and discharges as they come. Those are the basics of what we do every day, but we see the sickest kids in the hospital. Truthfully, no day is really the same, every day is a little bit different and presents a new challenge. Some days are calm, some are very busy, some are very sad and some are very happy. We never know what we’re going to get but that is what makes it such an exciting place to be.

Our team currently has a bit of a focus on postoperative cardiothoracic surgery patients and ECMO patients, but we see a little bit of everything. We’re some of the only permanent people in the unit, since the residents and fellows rotate through, so we have a lot of responsibility. It’s a great feeling as a PA to have a place where you’re well respected and have a lot of responsibility; our colleagues really do a good job of acknowledging how hard we work and how much education goes into working as a PA in the PICU and taking care of our kids.

What’s an item on your bucket list?

Outside of work, my favorite thing to do is travel. I can’t narrow it down to a specific place. There are so many places I want to see. In the short term, my husband and I are looking at going to Morocco, Thailand, Turkey, Paris and Amsterdam in the next couple of years.

What advice would you give a student just starting the program?

It’s definitely really tough. The biggest thing I liked about the program was having such a big class and other people going through it with me. It allows you to find people who are similar to you, but also different. Your classmates are your biggest supporters through all of this, and they’re the ones doing it with you every step of the way, the ones who truly understand. Keep an open mind and use their experiences, insights and different ways of thinking, learning and doing things to help you. That helped me more than any other study tactic. Having one another and learning from one another was amazing.

What advice would you give a student who is about to graduate?

The people you work with make such a big difference in your happiness and success at work. When you’re looking for a job you love and are dedicated to, pay close attention to the other people who work there and pick somewhere that employs the kind of people you’re looking to work with. My coworkers and the physicians I work with are immensely talented and inspire me every day, drive me to become a better PA, and improve my practice. Surrounding yourself with people who elevate and inspire you is important.

What do you do to relax and take care of yourself?

I love going outside and experiencing New York City. I’m not originally from here, so any chance I get to go out and explore something new or see something new, whether it’s trying new restaurants or work out classes, really helps me clear my head and reset on my days off. Even on days that I work, my commute to the hospital is a walk through Central Park. I love being in a big city that’s new to me and being able to have these experiences.

Do you have a personal philosophy or mission statement?

Patient care comes first. The environment I work in is very high stress and has high stakes. The people I work with are very passionate all of the time, and it’s not always the best day, but remembering that we’re all there for the same reason every day helps bring me back and makes the end result extremely rewarding.

What are you happiest doing when you’re not working?

Traveling to new places with my husband, my family or my sister. We go away almost every weekend if we can to keep ourselves busy. Recently, I went to South Africa. I was blown away. It was more amazing than I could have ever imagined, it was such a cool trip.

What are some causes you care about?

There are two organizations, rather than specific causes, that come to mind. The first is the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We, as a hospital, have worked very closely with them for a few of our patients, and they are an incredible, life-changing organization.

The other is actually another hospital whose work I really admire, the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, specifically their burn care, is amazing. We have encountered a lot of families who don’t have sufficient insurance coverage for the awful situation in which they find themselves, and we’ve referred patients to Shriner’s for ongoing care. The fact that these children can get the care they need without worrying about insurance is incredible; they are an incredible organization and go above and beyond.