7 Different Jobs to Help You Get That Patient Care Experience You Need To Be a Strong Physician Assistant Applicant
One of the vital parts of the application process for Pre-Physician Assistant Students (Pre-PAs) is to have direct patient care experience (PCE). The time spent providing treatment, obtaining vital signs, assisting patients are small but crucial steps that help you gain confidence, be a part of the team and understand how the healthcare system operates. PA school is accelerated, taking 24 – 36months to complete and most schools require at least 1000 hours when you apply. You will need to work at least 6 months to gain 1000 hours and proper planning is imperative so you can have your requirements by the time you’re ready to apply. When making the decision on which job to get, do not be discouraged by the lenght of time it takes to complete. Time will always move forward, but you don’t want to be where you were last year because you’re afraid of how long it will take to finish something.
EMT – An emergency medical personnel who helps to stabilize and transport patients. Completing an EMT training will expose you to a variety of population and complaints. You also get to interact with different providers, which helps to improve your teamwork experience. Most EMT programs take as little as 3 to 6 months to complete.
Certified Nursing/Medical Assistant – CNA/MA assists patients with direct needs, often taking vital signs, assisting with medication and working under the supervision of nurses. Most programs are weeks to few months long and usually inexpensive. If you do this course, try to get a position in a hospital or acute care setting, where you’re going to have more hands on experience as compared to a home care setting.
Pharmacy Tech – Works closely with pharmacists. This certification program usually takes one to two years and an externship. This experience will be very beneficial in pharmacology and pathophysiology. Trust me when I tell you that having prior knowledge about the mechanism of actions and ability to group medications saved me while in school.
X Ray Technician – Works by using radiographic images to help diagnose patients. Programs offer certificates as short as 6 months or an associate and bachelor’s degrees that can run for a year or more.
Occupational/ Physical Therapist Assistant : Work with OT or PT to help their patients recover or improve activities of daily living. The program ranges from 18 month to 2 years and can provide an excellent introduction into anatomy.
Phlebotomy – A person who draws blood and complete blood transfusions. The program can be completed in as little as 48 hours.
Licensed Practical nursing – Nurses who care for patients with scope of practise similar to an RN by administering meds, placing IVs, etc. The programs are usually 24 months, more expensive than the previous listed ones but afford you more direct care experience. Working as a LPN was very helpful in pharmacology, honing my skills of interacting with patients, completing procedures and writing notes.
Volunteer : You may be able to volunteer in clinics, shelters, hospitals and acquire patient care hours, but this can be difficult because you might be limited to just observing rather than providing actual care to the patients. When you observe, your hours will be categorized as “healthcare experience”, so be mindful about this.
All of these jobs are some of the ways to get into the healthcare field but are not limited to just these. Obtaining these certificates or licenses are some of the sure ways to guarantee that you will not have to wonder if your hours will count. Through these paths, you will discover what you like, where you need improvements and help you gain the patient care experience you need to take your application to the next level.
PA school has evolved from the first class at Duke University 50 years ago. PAs today can now hold a masters degree in the profession and students as young as high school graduates begin their journey toward earning the most expensive “C” of their life. A lot has changed and will continue to. Prior to applying to programs, I did alot of research, like many people do. The initial part of my research focused on my transcript. I knew I wanted to be a PA from high school, so I tailored my classes toward meeting my prerequisites as well as taking classes that I had interest in, although not neccessary for PA school (i.e African American Lit, Drama & Women Fiction). As of 2016 when I sent in my applications, schools began to increase necessary classes to have, such as requiring and not recommending biochemistry on your transcript. This pattern of requiring more from applicants would only increase as schools tries to create a more competitive pool of applicants.
So how can you create a competitive transcript?
Start early and be patient. Check out requirements for multiple PA schools. If you’re just starting college, that’s great. You have a blank canvas, so create and plan accordingly. Anatomy, Physiology, General and Organic Chemistry, Psychology, Statistics and/or Calculus, English Composition and Microbiology are the most common basic requirements for the program. Work with an advisor to anticipate when you will take these classes if you’re still an undergrad. If you’re a post grad student, check your transcripts and make sure you have the most basic requirements the school ask for. If you don’t, enroll and give yourself enough time to get those classes before applying. Most schools accept one or two prerequisite to be in process if you’re applying for the current cycle. If you’re going to be a PA, don’t put a time stamp on when you must achieve it.
Advance science courses such as Biochemistry, Histology, Molecular Biology, General Physiology, Genetics, Embryology, Analytical Chemistry should be considered. Schools look for students who have more than the minimum requirements. Some of these classes are going to be part of your curriculum if you’re a Biology or Chemistry major anyways.
Take classes outside of your major that can help to reflect a well rounded student. Take an additional psychology class that you find interesting, or an advance writing class. It helps to add character to your transcript.
Check if your prospective PA schools have an advisement committee for incoming students or open houses. Some schools hold advisement during open houses for students to see if they do have the correct requirements and allow their staffs to give advice. Some schools will look through your transcript, so inquire if you need to.
Seek help with your classes. If you’re struggling with a class, ask for the help of tutors. Putting in your best effort in each class will yield great results at the end of the semester. Most undergraduate school have learning centers and since you’re already paying tuition, might as well make use of your money.
If you’re a post graduate student and you need to re-take a class because of a low grade, do so. Retaking the class & working hard to earn a better grade is important. It shows that you’re determined and learn from your mistakes. I don’t recommend withdrawing from a class if you’re in progress, but if you need to, do it. Life happens and you must always make a decision that will benefit you. Better to retake the class and give it your all, than to finish half baked.
Look up your professors prior to taking their class. I used ratemyprofessor site while in undergrad and it saved me from alot of heartache. Ask your seniors about the professors, tips to help with the class. Remember a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
Bonus : Make sure your classes are still within the time frame for your perspective program. Some schools have limited course life, some up to 5, 7, 10 years since you took the class. Check with the schools you’ll like to attend to make sure your courses are still in good standing. Applications are expensive and you don’t want waste your time and money.
PA school applications are much more than your transcript and grades. They’re looking at the overall student, but making sure you are solid on areas that may easily be fixed prior to applying is crucial. Double, triple check your transcript and plan ahead. If you’re not prepared for the long journey of PA school, you’ll be frustrated and discouraged very easily.
If there are other tips or ideas to help someone with creating a competitive transcript, share!!!
And don’t forget to share and comment if this post was helpful.
In everything that you do, be it as a student, volunteer or liscensed professional, do it with grace. I have had the opportunity to be each one in my short life and while each role has different responsibilities, I always try to give do my best. While you’re applying to schools, you’ll have to be a volunteer shadowing a PA/MD. Your responsibilities are very limited and the day may seem to drag. It can be tempting to not pay attention to what is going on because your job may seem meniscal to that of the preceptor but it isnt.
Use the time in the clinic/hospital start learning your History & Physical skills. Get comfortable with asking questions, performing physicals and learning how to evaluate the lab results. Some people are not as social as others and struggle with this. It takes a few tries to really know how to direct a question and get the information you need from your patients. I’m still learning how to take a great history and I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ll still go over these skills in school but knowing how to interact with your patient is a skill that takes time. Starting early only gives you a great advantage and gets you out of that awkward few encounters
By now as a Pre-PA, you’ve researched all sort of questions and tips to help with the application process of getting into Physician Assistant school. While I hope every advice you’ve come along helps to make your journey a little easier, my most important advice is to trust yourself & your instinct. I read through a lot of posts myself when I was applying and 3 things I gathered, which helped to go the extra mile were my : recommendation letter, personal statement and the selection of school I applied to.
Recommendation letter: While you will need an average of three letters, & atleast one of them from your supervising PA or MD, make sure they put great effort into writing a letter that reflects you. You do not want a generic letter where they just spout basic adjectives. Tell them to include why they think you’ll make a great PA, why you are ready to begin the journey, what strengths & weaknesses, as well as the capacity have they seen you work in. If you have an opportunity to give them a sample recommendation letter that reflects who you are, do not hesitate to take the chance.
Personal Essay: This is one place you get to shine aside from your grades. You should write about something that reflects you and not what you think the reader may like/want. Ask other PAs, PA-C or admission faculties at your school to review your work. Write multiple drafts & continue to stay true to your story. Once your gpa gets you through the initial screening process, personal statements can make or break you.
School of choice: Pick schools that support your best interests. Do you have safe & reach schools within your list? Will you actually want to attend the school? What does their support system in the school look like? What is their passing rate? Research schools close to you and those very far. Do not be afraid to look into schools across the country and if they fit you, apply. Some people only apply to one school while others apply to 20 schools, but I always advice a wide range within your budget ofcourse. Don’t apply to schools that you won’t meet their minimum requirements by the time you submit your application or finish your degree. No one has got money to waste.
If you notice a theme in these tips, it was on purpose. Your application should be a true REFLECTION of who YOU are. Not of an idea of what you think the admins are looking for. They go through thousands of apps yearly and can smell B.S a mile away. You got this⚡⚡
Good luck with your application and may the odds ever be in your favor.