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.
With every opportunity, I recommend my school to anyone who will listen long enough for me to boast. There are positive qualities and areas where the program can improve upon, but one factor that makes them different from most Physician Assistant (PA) program is how diverse each cohort is. Each class is an example of what the world looks like, with students from various ethnicities, beliefs and practices. Unfortunately when I talk or see students from other programs, there is a lack of diversity among the cohort.
It is important to have diversity. Numerous research has conclude that quality of care for racial/ethnic minority patients improve tremendously when they share a ethnic, language or even religious similarity with their provider. Also, it is known that health care experience and outcome for minorities are much more different than the results of their counterparts in both medical and surgical specialties.
In 2017, less than 20% of PAs were minorities and less than 4% were Black. Attending my school, I often forget that students from other programs do not look like my classmates. There is usually just one or two Black students among the cohort. There are many reasons why minorities make up such a small amount of the percentage and it is up to us -the current students and clinicians- to change those numbers.
How do we start?
ADVOCATE. We must encourage others and create a future where we matter. We must also take up positions as administrators when opportunity presents. Use social media as a tool. Social media is much more than a pretty collection of our best looks, it is a place that can inspire the next generation to believe in themselves. It is important to note that you don’t have to be Black or a minority to advocate for diversity. We all share responsibility in creating what we hope to achieve.
So each day going forward, do your part to diversify the field of medicine.
Exactly 2 years ago, I was graduating from undergrad and worrying about PA school. When I woke up that morning, I felt like sh!t because the last school who had me on a waiting list was hosting the incoming class orientation the same day I was getting my B.A. On my way to the ceremony, I got a call from the Administrator asking if I still wanted to be on the wait list. I was shocked cause I thought the class was completed. Ofcourse I accepted and she promised to get back to me later that day. I checked and rechecked my phone all day. This was worse than waiting for a reply after sending a guy a lengthy or risky message. By the end of the day no phone call came. That night, after beating myself up mentally, I opened up CASPA and started entering my data for another application cycle.
2 days later – spongebob voice
On June 1, I got another phone call. The person asked if I still wanted to join the class. I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me. I was a few seconds from cussing someone out! After he explained that he was part of admissions committee, he asked the question again. My initial thought was to say “No”. I had chucked up the cycle as a lesson and that I’ll do better the next time around. I asked my cousin who was laying next to me, what she thought and she looked at me as if I was crazy!!
Maybe I was…
I mean who turns down what they had been praying for?? I almost did because I was scared. I was scared that just maybe, I wasn’t ready, or that if they took that long to get to me, it wasn’t meant for me yet. I know you’re probably like “girl are you mad?”. Obviously you know I ended up accepting because I’ve shared the journey over the last two years with everyone who will listen but I wanted to share that the road to your dream may not happen as you imagined it. I surely never imagined that I’d be starting PA school 2 days after the whole class started but it happened. Your journey will be different from mine, at your own allotted time stamp according to God. And when that time comes, don’t let fear or doubt win.
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