Posted 3 days ago
I recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in art history. I have no desire to pursue that career track and wish to go back to school to study more science. I took an EMT class in college and it was overall my favorite class. I am thinking of taking the long journey back to school (I have no prerequisites except chem) and then possibly pa school. I guess my question is do you have any advice for someone just about to start the medicine track?
Anonymous asked

I would say to just always keep your eyes on the prize. Taking all that science at once is going to be rough but the bonus is that it will all be fresh in your mind for PA school! It may help in your case to work part-time in medicine to keep you interested and reminded in what you’re going back and doing all that work for. I can’t say that the extra bio and chem are going to seem very career-relevant in the moment, but once you get to anatomy and physiology then you can really relate it to your work in medicine. Also, aspiring doctors is a good Tumblr about a fellow arts major now going to medical school that you may like to follow.

Posted 6 days ago
Hi I'm only a senior in high school but I'm really interested in shock trauma/ emergency I was just wondering what you get to do before the MD steps in or takes over?
Anonymous asked

It seems a lot of us practicing in medicine have our interests initially piqued by something adrenaline-junkie-ish such as trauma surgery, emergency medicine, etc. Until we really experience it. Just keep in mind that the ideas you have in your mind about trauma and shock situations are probably the TV glam versions. In real life, you have no idea what’s going on and what to do. You have to make rash, quick decisions and assessments that may or may not be right and the lifeless body you are doing things to in front of you is a real person, someone’s family, a dad, someone’s child, etc. It is a really awful experience until you desensitize yourself to it, which you must do in order to do this kind of work regularly, because people die frequently. People who shouldn’t, who really should get second chances in your judgment. It makes you kind of crass sometimes and seem really unempathetic to the rest of the world that judges you in your less than finer moments. A lot of people that work in these areas develop a kind of PTSD after time.

But I digress into crustiness (I can feel my hairs graying)… To answer your question, it depends. If you’re a seasoned PA and you’ve been around the ACLS block a lot, you’re more than likely working right alongside the physicians and nurses in a collaborative effort to revive someone. Lines are being placed, blood drawn, EKG leads stuck on, chest compressions done in turn, respiratory is intubating, and you and the physician are doing your quick physical exam and shouting which meds to draw up. There is no “takeover” in a resuscitation effort because there are more jobs to be done than one person can handle. If you are a new PA and don’t know WTF you are doing (or in my case a PA-S who didn’t know WTF they were doing), then you’re hooking up the vitals monitors and taking your turn with chest compressions while stealing glances at your ACLS pocket cards…

Posted 6 days ago
I'm only a freshman in college majoring in biology. It's my life goal to be a PA. I don't see myself doing anything other than that. What scares me is the plethora of topics student PAs have to learn in such a short time. I tend to retain information pretty easily especially when it comes to anything relating to science but the whole rigorous PA program makes me doubt that I won't be able to do it. Do you have any advice?
Anonymous asked

Meh, you learn a plethora of stuff in biology, too. Once you get your study habits for that down pat and figure out what works for you, likely the same will do in PA school as well. I also found it difficult in PA school to reign in my expectations that I would/should be able to retain 100% of what was spouted in lecture. In undergrad I felt generally prepared for my exams and like I knew all the material. In PA school, you won’t, so be easy on yourself. It helped that our exams were pass/fail rather than grades. What matters is the big picture. In real life, the little stuff you can look up to refresh your knowledge as needed.

Posted 1 week ago
What is the difference between a PA and a RN? They sound very similar to me am I right or wrong?
Anonymous asked

kimmarysleepy:

rnratched:

proveitmakemefightme:

populationpensive:

pa-in-progress:

digiti-minimi:

therunningpa:

Oh naw you didn’t! …

Sorry, you probably are asking this question very innocently but PAs get very disheartened by sentiments like this. No, we are not the same. PAs are educated and trained to diagnose and treat diseases. We are trained to take complete medical histories, do physical exams, order and interpret lab tests and imaging, write prescriptions, and know how and when to ask for further help from specialists, therapists, etc.

Could a good, proactive, experienced RN eventually figure out how to do many of these things? Probably, but it would be based mostly on protocol-type knowledge gained and algorithms vs well-rounded, organized medical training. This is why some RNs choose to become NPs, they want to expand on their on-the-job knowledge and fill it out more formally to fit the provider role.

Don’t get me wrong, RNs have an extremely important job. They are the ones who take care of all of the patient care orders I’ve requested, call me when I screw something up or when they know something is just not right with our patient, and deal with the real life poop, vomit, and tears situations in health care. In the inpatient world, they spend far more time with my patients than I do. I would want them to be the ones to insert your Foley catheter, start your IV and check for compatibilities, and know just how to give you your meds, because those are skills that RNs are much better trained on than I have been.

But the bottom line is that our roles and training are completely different.

I admire therunningpa so much for explaining things so well without ever being a jerk about anything. Thank you!

(Also, totally laughed out loud at that gif usage because it’s exactly how I was feeling when I read the question.)

Yes yes and yes.

Well stated!

Further, the role of the provider is to treat the medical diagnosis, and the role of the RN is to treat the human response.

I know the response to this anon wasn’t meant to offend, but I get frustrated with the sentiment that people (MD’s, PA’s, DO’s, and even NP’s alike) get offended when they are compared to an RN.

 My background in my nursing education was solidly based on the hard sciences (loads of chemistry and biology), evidence-based practice (as in practice based on research), and sharp critical thinking skills. With that background, our role demands that we know how to anticipate a diagnosis- so while we don’t make a medical diagnosis, especially in the ER when they don’t have one, we are supposed to assess the condition of the patient and do so accurately. We take that information, formulate our own care plan, and make suggestions to inform the patient’s treatment. We anticipate what procedures, labs, tests, and diagnostics will be performed, and we are trained to interpret those results and understand them, as well as what those results mean for our patients. Most importantly, we are the patient’s advocate. Not that providers aren’t concerned for their patients, but we are the implementer and observer of the care plan, and when we see changes in a patient we need to be skilled enough to recognize that and address those changes accordingly. 

That means we don’t just give medications and understand compatibility- we know what those medications do, how they interact on a chemical level in the body, what adverse reactions are, what therapeutic results we should anticipate, and how to titrate those medications according to the patient’s condition.

We have to think critically about implementing provider orders. We don’t just do tasks, we weigh the pros and cons of those tasks with consideration of our observation of the patient condition, and if we feel that the patient is unfit for any particular order set we will say so and ask for either clarification or a change.

We are also expected to be top-notch educators, and are tasked with taking the medical diagnosis and making it understandable to the patient. We teach the patient how to manage their diagnosis, their medications, and what lifestyle they should expect in relation to. 

We hold hands, we clean up urine, and we wipe some ass. When I hold hands, I use myself therapeutically and I carefully consider the art of conversation and being with that patient-even empathy and emotional support have a significant amount of critical thinking involved. When I change the incontinent patient I assess the skin of breakdown, look for signs of irritation that could be potentially hazardous, take care to clean the skin, and work carefully to prevent skin tearing when I pull out the depends.

When I start IV’s, I weigh the considerations of what that patient needs- will they need a contrast CT? CT loves 20 gauge minimum in a big ass vein, but I have this little old woman with tiny veins and technically they should be able to do IV contrast on a 22 in the hand.

When I insert a foley, I first weigh the pros and cons - is it necessary to put in the foley? Why? Is this a critical patient that needs output monitoring? Is this for the sake of convenience? Are there better alternatives that have a lower chance of a urinary tract infections?

Even my simple tasks that I do regularly are done with great care and consideration, and I always, always look at my patient before I implement a single thing. In simple terms, as Florence Nightingale said, if you cannot assess you cannot be a nurse. Even the most experienced nurse can suck if he/she lacks the ability to critically analyze and assess his/hers patient’s care plan and response. What I listed above are skills and abilities required of even entry level nurses, and the demands for our critical thinking ability are like never before. Even though entry level can be obtained through an associates, we are seeing a shift in the curriculum nation wide where the standard in comparison between the requirements for the ADN and BSN degrees are virtually the same.

Nursing is a practice developed from unique theories that stands apart, but not separate from medicine. Bottom line is nurses could not survive without providers, nor providers without nurses (nor nurses and doctors without techs, CNAs, respiratory, imaging, lab, etc).

I am by no means suggesting the original post author is being condescending or discrediting towards nurses. I’m just merely making an observation of an attitude where people are offended by being compared to a nurse, and I felt some of the sentiment here. It feels to me just the same as when someone says “you throw like a girl!” 

(Insert Americas next top model slow clap .gif here to that last statement)

The first real description I have ever seen about nursing

None of this touching your heart, changing your life forever, holding your hand and a million butterflies fill the room horseshit

That’s not what I do. Nurse is a KNOWLEDGE profession

Hoo guys… clearly I have touched a nerve here but I think it was a misunderstanding… I did NOT mean that nursing school prepares RNs to make decisions based on algorithms and protocols vs real knowledge. What I meant was that once one IS an RN, that their additional on the job training that furthers their knowledge towards that of a provider (IE being able to pass a comprehensive test a provider takes like MD/DO, med students, NPs, PAs, etc) is too patchwork to fill in all of those decision-making gaps. And thus even a senior RN with tons of experience would not be guaranteed to have learned what is covered in an organized medical curriculum (especially given that it’s patients of all ages and nurses tend to work with a specific age group). For example, an experienced adult hospital RN would know a lot about treating DKA. They learned about it in nursing school, know the pathogenesis of diabetes and the pharmacology of insulin, etc. They’ve had enough patients with this to know to expect unexplainable rip-roarin’ abdominal pain and that the patient isn’t just being whiny. They’ve managed the pumps enough to know that there is generally a bolus to cover that high high sugar, that fluids get started with potassium even if the K is normal on the labs, and after a certain point dextrose must be added. This is what I mean by knowledge based on algorithms… And I don’t mean the insulin titration flowsheet, I mean like algorithms you develop in your head around an idea that you understand very well but may not have learned the vagaries of. If this, then that is usually what happens… What even the experienced RN might not know is the rationale for the dextrose fluids (which might seem counter-intuitive, if the person has high sugar why are we giving them more?). And how it’s linked to the anion gap. And what a gap means. And why to care about whether its normal or increased. And how to calculate it. And what kinds of anions are unmeasured.

Do you get what I mean? This is why I said some RNs choose to go back to school to become providers themselves. They want to do more provider-y things and comprehensively learn more about medicine: history, physical exam, workup, and diagnosis or referral.

I understand that RNs learn a lot of chemistry, anatomy, physiology, psychology, nutrition, etc. I took a lot of my undergrad classes in these subjects with nursing students. And I know nursing school teaches you a whole lot of shit that I know not much about, hence why there are many things in patient care I would defer to a nurse’s skills or judgment. And I also know that RNs assess constantly and have a lot of knowledge and intuition, so that’s why I said that I appreciate it when they call me when they know I’ve screwed something up or give me a heads up that they feel the patient is not doing well. Yeah, you guys treat the person and all their problems. Believe me, I know. I worked as a CNA. Most days I think that you guys have a harder job than I do.

So why the chip on my shoulder when I am called an RN? It’s not because I’m offended because I’m too good for that or above that or something, it’s because I took all those classes alongside nursing students. I did a whole undergrad degree. And then I worked some more. And then I chose to go back to school and learn even more about all of those things. A&P PA school edition was wayy more in depth than undergrad. The amount of knowledge and PowerPoints thrown at me every day was mind-boggling. It was like finals week in undergrad every single week. Don’t get me wrong, nothing gets harder exam-material wise than an undergrad physiology or organic chemistry exam. PA school or med school is not HARD. RNs don’t avoid med school because they are less smart or can’t handle it. The material is not any harder than nursing school. It’s the amount. Tons and tons and tons. You have to build a giant encyclopedia of knowledge in your head that you must add to every day of your life. Babies, adults, old people, pregnant ladies… It’s that formal encyclopedia that graduates you to a provider role. And yes, I’m stinking proud of it! I worked incredibly hard for it. I passed my tests with flying colors. And when someone says wait, you’re basically a [insert non-provider role here] it is really disheartening for me because to me it dismisses all those abilities that I trained additionally for.

So I apologize if I offended anyone. I know all you RNs out there are rock stars and the world would stop without you. Please just know that, especially as a relatively new role in the medical field, for PAs and NPs it really smarts when our additional training as providers is not recognized.

Posted 1 week ago
What is the difference between a PA and a RN? They sound very similar to me am I right or wrong?
Anonymous asked

Oh naw you didn’t! …

Sorry, you probably are asking this question very innocently but PAs get very disheartened by sentiments like this. No, we are not the same. PAs are educated and trained to diagnose and treat diseases. We are trained to take complete medical histories, do physical exams, order and interpret lab tests and imaging, write prescriptions, and know how and when to ask for further help from specialists, therapists, etc.

Could a good, proactive, experienced RN eventually figure out how to do many of these things? Probably, but it would be based mostly on protocol-type knowledge gained and algorithms vs well-rounded, organized medical training. This is why some RNs choose to become NPs, they want to expand on their on-the-job knowledge and fill it out more formally to fit the provider role.

Don’t get me wrong, RNs have an extremely important job. They are the ones who take care of all of the patient care orders I’ve requested, call me when I screw something up or when they know something is just not right with our patient, and deal with the real life poop, vomit, and tears situations in health care. In the inpatient world, they spend far more time with my patients than I do. I would want them to be the ones to insert your Foley catheter, start your IV and check for compatibilities, and know just how to give you your meds, because those are skills that RNs are much better trained on than I have been.

But the bottom line is that our roles and training are completely different.

Posted 1 week ago
Hi! I'm curious about your thoughts on undergraduate vs a masters in PA. I'm thinking about going back to PA school and have seen through my research that some schools offer either a masters or an undergrad degree. Is there a practical difference? Pay scale? etc. Would love your perspective! Thanks! Sarah
Anonymous asked

I think the job you end up doing would be the same. However, your background coming into the job may be affected somewhat by bachelor’s vs master’s. Master’s programs tend to have a research component. In my situation, I had to write a research paper and take a few courses in statistics and evidence based medicine. While I found it really boring as a PA student, the research component has really come in handy. You’ll learn that medicine is constantly evolving. Things we are taught as fact and standard in medical school are often not based in evidence or consistent scientific studies and it is REALLY difficult as a new PA to ascertain that sometimes. You will butt head to head with many a crusty provider who insists on doing things their way or that this way is the standard of care when a little research will reveal that they are super old skool and their practice is not based in evidence. I think I would have struggled in that aspect without the background my master’s provided me (statistics, how to tell a good research study from a bad one, how to search online databases and journals, etc).

Other than that, it seems that the curriculum is very similar. I’m not sure about the pay scale thing, you may want to ask over the PA Forum website about that. I do think recruiters who would probably choose someone with a master’s over an undergrad degree but again not 100% on that one.

Posted 1 week ago
I'm going into Cegep this year.. (it's two years and pretty much like college if you don't know about it) I have to choose between med school and pa school.. I like surgery and psychiatry especially, and I really do have a passion for the health field but my parents are telling me I'll definitely regret not being a doctor if I work with them for the rest of my life with them having more power when it's an option I considered. Do you think going for med school is better? I do want free time...
Anonymous asked

Committing yourself to a likely expensive, long-term educational investment like medical school because your parents are advising it may be setting you up for disaster. You should only do this because you are certain that’s what you want because you don’t want to invest all that time and energy and end up doing something you hate. I’m assuming you’re in Quebec, so it seems like it would be 2 years CEGEP + 3-4 years med school + residency +/- fellowship versus 2 years CEGEP + 2 years for PA school? 

It’s up to you to research what PAs do in your area vs physicians and decide what your priorities are. Neither med school nor PA school allow much free time. I would take your time in CEGEP and figure out what you really enjoy. Don’t even choose medicine as your ultimate career now because it seems like it’s too soon for you to be certain.

And honestly unless your parents work in the medical field (and unless you absolutely can’t stand to not be 100% in control all of the time) I don’t think they really understand the physican/PA relationship. It’s not about who has more power. We pretty much have the same power in terms of prescriptive ability, patient care orders, legal responsibility, etc. Physicians don’t boss us around. It’s about working as a team to take care of patients and knowing your limits and scope of practice and what kinds of patients should be seeing someone with more experience or training.

Posted 1 week ago
Hello! I have a couple questions. I am actually finishing my AS in computer science this year. After a bit of soul searching i decided what i really want to do is help people and thus came upon the career choice of a PA. I will be changing my major to biochem or the pre-med route. My question is how would you recommend getting my patient care experience while finishing my undergrad? i do want to go to PA school right after undergrad if possible. Do most people wait 1-2 years before PA school?
Anonymous asked

For specific ideas about patient care experience routes and why I recommend time in between undergrad and PA school, I would check out my q&a section as I’ve covered this topic in several posts. The bottom line is, I would focus on your undergrad education right now. Science majors are tough and you will want to do well for your own background and sanity while finally in PA school and to just get into PA school to begin with. If you feel you have time to work a little bit while doing undergrad, by all means go ahead. I think it might be tough to get in the required hours, though. And remember that most admissions committees won’t count volunteer hours towards their patient care requirement. I would take a year or two off after undergrad, work, save some money for PA school application expenses (plan on at least a couple thousand), enjoy your life because you won’t have one during PA school. People go to PA school in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond so even if you’re older you’ve got plenty of time.

Posted 1 week ago
Hi! I'm wondering if you have any recommendations about finding a PA to shadow. I have shadowed a number of MDs in different settings, but haven't had the chance to shadow a PA yet. I currently work in clinical research, but despite that connection, there are several bureaucratic issues with the clinic that don't allow "shadowing" so I'm back to flying blind! Any suggestions for making contacts to shadow?
Anonymous asked

I had the same problem. Everyone was freaked out about HIPAA. I called around to several hospitals and clinics and talked to their HR people and everyone turned me down. I ended up using my CNA work email at the time to contact specific providers via their clinic email, and I think every PA got back to me. I ended up shadowing with 3. They just had me sign some HIPAA paperwork with their practice managers. True story: one PA was super snooty and demanded that I read a book about Dr. Eugene Stead (founder of the PA profession) before she would even speak further with me about shadowing. I honestly couldn’t afford the hard cover book (it was like $70 or something!) and when I asked her if I could borrow her own copy I think she wrote back that I wasn’t serious enough about the profession or something… Bottom line you wouldn’t want to shadow with someone like that anyways!

It may take signing a few papers or watching a short stupid HR video but typically if you contact providers directly you’ll have better success with shadowing and it shows initiative on your part. Tell them exactly why you’re interested in their particular specialty and I’m sure they’ll make the effort to get you in with them.

Posted 3 weeks ago
Were your clinical rotations done mostly in the same city as your school? I have heard some frustrating accounts of PAs who have done rotations several hours from their home base and had no help from the program finding temporary housing. Especially when your rotations are so brief- was housing/commuting during your clinical year an issue?
Anonymous asked

We specifically had to do at least 2 rotations outside the area in “underserved” communities. I chose to do an additional away rotation in Ecuador. The program always secured housing for us in these instances and had established leases with private landlords or partnered with state-run organizations for medical learners. We did have to pay a small additional fee for this that was included in our tuition and enrollment charges for the semester, so student loans covered it. I also had a few local rotations that were still a 30-45 minute drive from my home base so in that case I wasn’t reimbursed anything, I just had to suck it up. BUT if there were any required inservice days at the PA program while we were stationed at an away rotation, then the program did reimburse us for mileage which I think is a nice gesture.

I personally think it would be ridiculous for a program to expect you to find your own housing for an away rotation. You have enough more important things to worry about and finding something month to month all the while not knowing how much to budget for it is way too much stress. This would be a REALLY important question to ask about during your interview! I personally would not consider a program that did not provide housing.

Posted 3 weeks ago
I'm gearing up to apply to PA school in the next cycle, and I'm wondering where you attended school, how many schools you applied to, and how you made your choice? What was important to you in choosing a program?
Anonymous asked

In the name of HIPAA and anonymity my prior schools and residences are a secret, but I can answer your other questions.

Number of schools applied to = 7 (4 interviews; accepted into 2, rejected from 2, waiting list/waiting game for 3)

I focused where I applied to based on location (my husband nixed certain areas), PANCE first time pass rates, quality of their web sites and resources (hey if that sucks just imagine how great their technology for teaching could be…), option to do international rotations, availability of local running paths, and ABOVE ALL the vibe I got during my interview from the faculty and current students (were they welcoming? were they a community? did I feel at home? etc).

Honestly, the 2 programs I was accepted into I got a really good vibe from. I wasn’t sad about being waitlisted by the others because the vibe wasn’t as good. The faculty seemed stuffy, or it seemed like a suitcase campus (pack up after class and run away to various suburbs, no study groups or hanging out), etc.

Of course this was just what was important to me personally and you will have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Hope this helps!

Posted 3 weeks ago
is it possible to have a dating life in PA school?
Anonymous asked

Yes, so long as the sig other is not too clingy and doesn’t expect ridiculous things of you (having dinner with them every night, spending all weekend together, etc). It’s good to get out and do things with someone. Even if you don’t think you have the time it’s good for you, trust me!

Posted 3 weeks ago
I'm going to college next year, haven't quite figured out what I want to do, I've considered physician assistant or forensics. Was wondering if you could tell me about physician assistant. I heard you have to get a undergraduate degree first. What kind of undergraduate degree should I get?Do you think a biology degree would work? Just wondering since Im stuck with PA or forensics that way if I want to do forensics I can a biology degree or if I want to be a PA i can continue my education
Anonymous asked

It seems like you know that you’re interested in the sciences but not quite sure which aspect. I’m not going to lie, when you say forensics all I can picture is Bones and CSI and obvs real life is not that glam but hopefully that’s kind of sort of the career you’re thinking of? In any event, I think everyone going into the sciences has to decide if they’re more into the research/experimentation aspect of it (IE clinical lab science, forensics, academic research) or the implementation of that science/hands on bringing it to people (IE health care providers, government or professional health recommendation board) or a mixture of both (IE public health, research-based physician, biomedical engineer perhaps?).

When I started college I also did not know which aspect of science I was most interested in. I dabbled in research and worked in a plant genetics lab for a while and did some papers and stuff and decided that lab ratting was not my thing. Neat, but not enough people interaction and too much waiting to make discoveries and not enough practical implementation of the science for my taste. I wanted to do hands-on care of patients and someone suggested the PA track since I wasn’t interested in committing 10 more years of my life to med school and residency and fellowship.

Then came deciding my major, cuz you have to do that at some point. Plain biology seemed like too much memorization of a zillion weird pathways for me. I was really interested in human pathogenic microbiology at the time (thank you Richard Preston and your Hot Zone book) so I took that route and chose to memorize a zillion dumb names of microbes and their Gram stains and growth patterns instead. It boils down to, you need to study something you’re interested in so you don’t suffer through college and want to blow your brains out. Hopefully this means you are interested in things that overlap with requirements for PA school admissions (chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, etc). If not, that’s fine, but you may need to take an extra year to finish all that stuff. I’m sure a forensics degree track would cover similar things.

You’re right, in becoming a PA you generally are entering a master’s level program, which means you need the undergrad degree first. There are some programs left that are bachelor’s or associate’s programs but I’m not sure I would recommend that.

Posted 4 weeks ago
Hi:) I'm having trouble deciding on weather I should become a PA, MD, or Nurse Practitioner. I know that I wanna work in medicine and be a part of treating the patient as well as have a flexible work schedule. I also want a family one day and was wondering if you could give me advice? Thanks so much! <3
Anonymous asked

If treating the patient, having a flexible work schedule, and having plenty of family time are your priorities I would do a good amount of research not just on NP, PA, or MD/DO, but on other related healthcare jobs where you are actively treating the patient but not necessarily making the majority of orders/treatment decisions such as RN, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, etc.

I would say that going the MD/DO course would be most difficult in attaining your goals, but not impossible. During your 4 years of med school and 4-8 years of residency +/- fellowship afterwords, it is very difficult to have any sort of flexible work schedule or to have a family, but many choose to have their kids during residency so that they are not 30+ years old before they can start that business. Fields like primary care, dermatology, and radiology often have the most consistent work hours, but often times you may have to take call certain nights or weekends (being available to phone to answer patient questions or to come in and see patients).

Whether to do NP or PA would be up to your education experience and personal goals. If you don’t already have a nursing degree, the NP route means getting your bachelor’s (or possibly associate’s) degree, then generally 2-4 more years of education for NP programs, many of which are transitioning to doctoral degree programs. On the other hand, working as a nurse to start with would be great experience and would probably meet your career goals so this may be a good option for you.

NPs and PAs ultimately do very similar jobs. NP education relies heavily on experience as a nurse and focuses on nursing theory with a more narrow scope of pathophysiology and pharmacology background, such as family medicine, psychiatric medicine, or neonatology. Many programs are part-time. PA education is more broad and covers surgical topics as well, and programs tend to be full-time master’s degree programs running 2-3 years in length. This background prepares you as a generalist, and the specialization comes later in on-the-job training, if needed.

Posted 4 weeks ago
Hello :) I am glad to have found your lovely blog. I am currently in the process of applying to PA school. I have the academic prerequisites and a few healthcare hours. My GPA isn't particularly strong. I will still apply because anything can happen. What else can I do to become a stronger applicant?
daydreames asked

Hi there, I’m not sure what exactly you mean when you say you don’t have a particularly strong GPA (I’ve known a few folks who say a 3.8 is substandard as they are crazy overachievers where only 4.0 suffices!). Most PA schools will advertise outright what their lower limits are, I think usually it’s around 3.0 or a B average in most academic systems. So if your GPA is less than what your schools are requiring this would probably mean some additional coursework or retaking courses to bring that average up, which shows that you are committed to bettering yourself, and so long as you have a good explanation for the lower initial GPA (took on too much at once, had a family or personal emergency or illness, took some time to figure out your passions, etc) most admissions committees are willing to overlook the past.

Other than grades (which I feel are unfairly overrated in some PA programs’ admissions processes), your healthcare experience and interview skills probably tie in equal importance. Honestly, less than 1000 paid healthcare hours are probably not enough to optimally get you ready for PA school, even if a program accepts you. Many times my knowledge gained as a CNA helped me deal with frustrating patients, snippy nurses, and miscellaneous healthcare drama and navigation as a PA student than any volunteering or course work that I did. It also made great fodder for my interviews, where tons of questions about difficult patient experiences and how to handle coworker drama were asked.

It may be hard to get an interview with a marginal GPA and limited paid healthcare experience, but you seem very driven and optimistic, and if you do get an interview and feel you are ready for PA school, let that be your guide and shine through in your interview. Be real about why you want to be a PA and what formative experiences you’ve had that solidify this goal.

And above all, if you don’t get in the first time, work on what you can and try, try again!