Tzafra Tessier, PA-C
Primary Care, Maine
I’m a primary care PA (physician assistant) in Maine. When I first started practicing here, I saw a lot of patients in the winter months who told me that they weren’t feeling well and wanted an antibiotic. They told me that each year when they got a cold, runny nose, or a cough, they’d take antibiotics – and that the antibiotics always made them feel better.
For me, this was a good opening for a conversation. I see 18 to 20 patients each day, and part of my job is to educate them. When you can give patients valuable information upfront, it prevents other problems down the road, like potential trips to the emergency room. So to me, this was an opportunity to explain that colds and runny noses are often viruses, and that antibiotics don’t combat viruses. I also always tried to give my patients some suggestions of things to do at home to feel better faster, like trying Robitussin or Tylenol, along with some home remedies.
At first, many of my patients were reluctant to believe me. They reiterated that in previous years they had always gotten an antibiotic – and that it worked. So we talked some more, maybe for five or 10 minutes. I would explain again that antibiotics don’t work for a virus, and that we’re seeing more and more people who are resistant to antibiotics, meaning that the drugs just don’t work for them any longer.
I used to work in oncology, and I had patients who needed bone marrow transplants and were immunocompromised, meaning simple infections could be life-threatening. At times we had to use antibiotics for them that were far more toxic than the current antibiotics that we prefer to use, but we had no other choice – bacteria are very smart and resistance to antibiotics is growing. If you have a bacterial infection, I explained, you want to give your body the biggest chance you can to fight whatever’s coming your way – and you don’t want to jeopardize that by taking antibiotics when you don’t need them.
Eventually, my patients were starting to understand it, but not all of them completely bought in.
Then we started putting the Consumer Reports Choosing Wisely brochures about the risks of using unnecessary antibiotics in our waiting and exam rooms. We also hung up posters from Consumer Reports. And patients started looking at them.
I can’t say for sure what’s caused it, but in this past year, I’ve noticed a huge difference with my patients; fewer are requesting antibiotics. Patients are actually coming in and saying, “I don’t really want an antibiotic, but I just want to make sure that I’m going to be OK and that all I have is a virus.”
It’s winter now in Maine, and I have not had one patient push to get an antibiotic this season. It’s been shocking to me and really surprising, but in a way that I’m happy to see.
Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with this healthcare provider and does not endorse products or services.