The Starfish Story

The Starfish Story

When I became a Physician Assistant 10 years ago, I had to go through a year of "clinical training."  Basically that meant, that every 6 weeks, I would move to another clinic or hospital with another preceptor (PA, Nurse Practitioner, or MD) that would teach me and let me follow them around.

Most of the time, I didn't know a soul, had no idea how to do anything, or where anything was, and felt generally lost.   By the time I started feel like I had gotten my bearings, it was time to move on to the next rotation. 

Some of my preceptors were willing to teach me, but some were not as willing or happy to have me around.  I was young and ready to learn.  I imagine they were not happy to have me following their every step.  I try to remember this each time a take on a PA or NP student.  

It's a rough year.  It's like having a brand new job every 6 weeks that you are not paid for, and you are rarely wanted.  Most of the time, you are offered little to no training, because you are not someone who is going to be around for the long-haul.  It was probably one of the roughest and most rewarding years of my life. 

I got very lucky.  My very first preceptor was an very sweet man, and he took the time to teach me how things were done.  Although I had spent the entire first year of PA school studying hard, I came out of school with not the slightest idea of how to write a hospital progress note or many other basic skills.   Late one evening, he sat down with me and showed me the correct way to write a progress note on a scrap piece of paper.  

I still have that scrap piece of paper.   I have spent the last 10 years working in internal and hospital medicine, and since that day, I have probably written thousands of hospital progress notes.   I will never forget the kindness of those 10 minutes it took him to sit down and explain to me something that I would use for the next 10 years. 

At the end of my rotation, I wanted to give him a gift.  I didn't have a lot of money at that time, but I framed a picture of "The Starfish Story" and gave it to him.  I glued a small starfish to the frame.  

The Starfish Story

Then I made one for myself.   Looking back, it looks like something an elementary school child might have made, but that's okay.  


If you have read "The Starfish Story," you realize that what I was trying to tell him is that


 As a teacher or healthcare provider, you spend a great majority of your life trying to reach people that seem unreachable. It is frustrating and hard, and there are days where you wonder if anything you do makes a difference at all.   There are days I still come home and wonder why I chose to do this profession.  Those are the days that I come home and read the story that I framed over 10 years ago to remind myself that my job is worth it, even if I only help one person. 

So, thank you Dr Adams. You are a kind man with a good heart.  You threw me into the water when I had washed ashore. You made a difference to me. In turn, I have spent my life trying to make a difference to others. 

~Tiffany Bailey PA-C 


"The Starfish Story" 

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
Adapted from the original story by Loren Eiseley

Comment on this post (1 comment)

  • Mikah says...

    I love this!

    June 11, 2017

Leave a comment