Meet Sublette County’s newest provider

Physician Assistant Brad Lindstrom, joined the Sublette County Rural Health Care District in June.

Brad Lindstrom, physician

assistant, leapt at the chance to join the

team of providers at the Sublette County

Rural Health Care District when a position

came open this spring.

Lindstrom spent most of his career working

in urban areas including Chicago, Flagstaff,

Ariz. and Cheyenne. Pinedale seemed

like the perfect location to combine two of

his passions: making an impact on people’s

health and a love for the outdoors.

“I wanted something a little more rural,”

he said. “We’d come up to the Wind Rivers

to go backpacking and camping when

we lived in Cheyenne. The job (in Sublette

County) sounded like a dream job.”

Lindstrom is already at work serving

the health care needs of people across the

county. He works clinic hours at both the

Pinedale Clinic and Marbleton-Big Piney

Clinic along with covering on-call emergency

hours.

The path to medicine

Lindstrom graduated from Northern Illinois

University in DeKalb with a bachelor’s

degree in biology and a minor in chemistry.

A professor in a cellular physiology course

during Lindstrom’s undergrad years really

sparked his interest in the field.

“This professor really made science come

alive for you,” Lindstrom said. “He taught us

to see the bigger picture.”

Following graduation, Lindstrom knew

he wanted to go into a health care profession.

His love for science and desire to help

people and “make a positive influence on society”

seemed to lead to medicine.

Lindstrom considered medical school,

but was unsure about making the financial

and time commitment to become a doctor.

According to the Association of American

Medical Colleges, the median debt for

medical students in 2018 was $200,000.

After four years of medical school, medical

students endure years as residents working

brutal 24-hour-plus shifts.

Lindstrom heard about becoming a physician

assistant, a career choice requiring

less time and money than medical school.

Lindstrom entered a physician assistant program

at Midwestern University in Downers

Grove, Ill., and graduated in 2010.

Following graduation and certification,

Lindstrom went to work as a PA in emergency

departments in the Chicago area,

including a stint in the city’s South Side, a

neighborhood with a tough reputation.

“We saw all kinds of stuff come in the

emergency room – gunshot wounds, stabbings,

car accidents,” he said. “It was always

interesting.”

After five years in Chicago, Lindstrom

Physician Assistant Brad Lindstrom, joined the Sublette County Rural Health-

Care District in June.

Meet Sublette County’s newest provider

By Robert Galbreath, [email protected]

In a rural health-care setting, the range of

what the doctors are required to do is broader

than in a specialized setting. As a result,

Lindstrom said PAs have more responsibilities

in the district, from diagnosing strep

throat in an office visit to handling trauma

and life support in the emergency room.

Physician assistants are “trained in a

similar model to physicians,” Lindstrom explained,

yet at a “more accelerated rate.”

“In (PA) school, we cover 80 to 85 percent

of what they cover in basic medical

school,” he said. “We receive a primary

relocated to Flagstaff, Ariz. where he

worked as a primary care PA. Then Lindstrom

moved to Wyoming and returned to

the emergency department with a job in

Cheyenne. He also did a brief stint as a travelling

and emergency PA in rural Maine.

Lindstrom’s years of experience in emergency

rooms and with primary care have

prepared him for work in a rural health-care

setting where providers have to do everything

from treating patients in trauma to

working regular clinic hours.

“My emergency medical background has

benefitted me the most,” he said. “In emergency

rooms, you see everything – anything

can come through that door.”

What is a physician assistant?

The term “physician assistant” can be

misleading for people who are not familiar

with the profession. The word “assistant”

can conjure up images of a subordinate who

follows a doctor around all day, taking notes

or dictating patient histories.

Physician assistants are actually medical

professionals who see patients on their own,

diagnose illnesses and other conditions and

write prescriptions. PAs are also trained to

perform “minor surgeries” in trauma settings,

Lindstrom said, like intubating patients

or helping to stabilize a heart attack

patient.

Physician assistants are required to work

under the supervision of a doctor, and their

“scope” is limited by the specialty of their

supervising physician, Lindstrom said. For

example, a PA practicing with an orthopedic

surgeon cannot perform psychiatric care.

care-based knowledge.”

Prospective PAs spend between two and

2.5 years in school. The first year is devoted

to classroom learning, Lindstrom said, with

the remainder of the time spent doing handson

learning in clinical rotations that cover all

medical specialties.

While doctors become residents after

graduation, PAs go straight into the workforce,

Lindstrom continued. He did add that

some PA programs are starting to offer residencies,

though.

During the first six months, particularly

for PAs working in an emergency setting

like Lindstrom, doctors “watch us pretty

closely” as PAs absorb their knowledge.

Once a PA gains more experience, they require

less supervision.

PAs can spend their entire career in a specialty

like psychiatric medicine or pediatrics.

Some, like Lindstrom, choose to switch specialties,

like moving from primary family

care to the emergency room.

Working as a PA can be challenging.

Sometimes a patient problem does not have

an immediate medical solution.

“There is not always a good solution

medically,” he said. “That can be frustrating,

when we can’t help people right away.”

Yet the job also has a lot of rewards

“You learn something new just about

every day,” said Lindstrom. “My favorite

part is when we can help someone in an

emergency situation and get them back into

their life. That’s pretty rewarding. It’s also

nice to establish relationships with patients,

follow them, and help them get better control

over their medical condition.”

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