Health Professions

PA professor began her career as a respiratory therapist


By Kate Hunger

Tiffani Burgin, MPAS, PA-C, worked as a respiratory therapist for 10 years before deciding to go to school to become a physician assistant.

“Medicine has its own language, and it’s not easy to learn a new language as you are learning new information, so I had the advantage of having most of the medical language under my belt prior to PA school,” said Burgin, now clinical coordinator and assistant professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies—the same program from which she graduated in 2006.

Working as a respiratory therapist gave Burgin, who comes from a family of respiratory therapists, another advantage in her clinical training.

“As an instructor, I see people who come directly from whatever undergraduate program into PA school, and if they have never worked with patients, a lot of times they are just scared crazy,” she said. “Because I have worked with patients, including deathly ill patients with the ventilators in the ICU, none of that fazed me at all.”

Burgin’s move from one health profession to another is not uncommon, she said. The Physician Assistant Studies program typically has one or two respiratory therapists in each class, she said, as well as a few international medical graduates, nurses and other health professionals.

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