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Henrie back from year-long Texas emergency room training

Professional training a family affair ... Jennifer, Terry and four-year-old Reese are back to Philip and Philip Health Services after a year-long Physician’s Assistant emergency room training course in San Antonio, TX.

by Del Bartels

Terry Henrie and his family have returned from San Antonio, TX, and his year-long Emergency Room training. They left at the end of August, 2007, and returned the end of June, 2008.

"At first, it felt like I was in over my head," said Physician's Assistant Henrie of Philip Health Services, Inc. (PHSI). "I was shocked by the realization of what I didn't know. I don't know it all now, but the training addressed some of the gaps."

Henrie's 12-hour work shifts were busy. The University Hospital of Bexar County, affiliated with the University of Texas, has an emergency room that sees 70,000 patients per year, though it was designed to accommodate only 35,000 per year. "What you see on TV with the circus atmosphere is dead-on," said Henrie. "The doctors and senior physician assistants oversee your work. They stay out of your way, giving you enough rope to hang yourself, but they made sure you don't. They were really good."

Every Friday Henrie and his class of three other PAs would be in a lecture setting. "It was a do or die training and we looked out for each other. We were part of an incredible staff and had incredible instructors, I was under the direct supervision of Dr. Peter Forsberg," said Henrie.

When asked how he kept his sanity, Henrie points to his wife and son. Jennifer, due with their second son in August, and four-year-old Reese were there for him. "Him training at that emergency room program was a family decision," said Jennifer. "We wandered off to see part of the world and we decided it was better here. The minute we walked through this door it felt like we were home."

Terry said, "I've already established a work schedule and routine at Philip Health Services. I was eager to get back to work and the other health providers were eager to relinquish the workload. It's more fun here and you get to actually enjoy your patients, though being there was interesting and worthwhile from a colleague and patient-load point of view."

The Texas not-for-profit county hospital has an under-insured populace. "A part of the population is the seedy underbelly of society. The hospital had armed guards. Drug dealers would hang out in the waiting room. There are a lot of illicit drugs and overdoses, wide spread HIV, gang violence and things that go along with being homeless such as malnutrition, severe mental illness and a desolation of the population. Still we would see guys from the outskirts flown in who were kicked in the head by a cow or thrown off of a horse."

It was not unheard of for someone with, say a sprained ankle, to have waited to get into the emergency room for 20 hours. Often a patient finally coming in would have been sick for days. "There was no familiarity with the patients. There was no knowing that you would ever see them again. In Philip you gain an established relationship and prior history with individuals," said Henrie.

"If you train and get acclimated to that chaotic environment, you can't help but get better at what you do. That was the emphasis of me going and of PHSI letting me go; to help patients."

"I saw something, if not several things, there every single day that I never experienced," said Terry about work. Jennifer agreed about daily life, "You always saw people holding up signs 'Homeless - Help.' We got our pickup broken into once in our driveway. People are not bothered by the insects, including scorpions, and reptiles; that's part of life down there. Though people on our block were good people, they were not a substitute for home."

The Henrie family thought Texas was interesting. They had season passes to Sea World, toured the Alamo several times, were only hours from the sea shore. "We took lots of pictures and, since Reese was in preschool, we have lots of cute things from there," said Jennifer. "Being away was hard on the family, but we decided that this training was something Terry had to do. It was good coming back."

Kent Olson, administrator of PHSI, said, "From a professional and personal perspective, we are extremely happy to have Terry and his family back."

Terry said, "I want to thank PHSI for the leave for me to go down there and for holding a place for me here. There are not many places that would do that. My intention is to repay that by using my experience for our patients. My learning is not over; it will continue here, just in a different environment."