Quite opposite to most people’s predicaments on this forum, I have the dilemma of having a really high GPA (cGPA=3.98, sGPA=4.0) but very low HCE. I have managed to rack up 125 hours from working as a CNA for a semester; however, I hated it and quit my job. Currently, I am a sophomore in college majoring in biology with a microbiology emphasis, and I am beginning to prepare for applying to PA programs next spring. I have just started looking into PA programs, but I am very interested in the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse PA Program, the University of Wisconsin Madison PA Program, and the Rosalind Franklin University PA Program. None of the three schools have set a minimum to the number of direct patient contact hours, but they do stress the importance of HCE. Next fall, I am thinking about applying for some different CNA positions that will hopefully better suit me. I have shadowed one PA already, and plan on doing more this summer, and I have started volunteering at Campus Kitchen. I know the more hours the better, but I need to set some realistic goals for myself.
So the question is, thinking realistically, what is the minimum amount of HCE that I should attain to make myself a competitive candidate?
I was also wondering how many schools on average does one apply to? How much money does one usually spend on the application process? And if anyone has any helpful advice, I am all ears!
Moderator, Emergency Medicine Forum
Emergency Medicine PA, EMT-P
Doctor of Health Science & Global Health Student
26 years working in Emergency Medicine
Definitely speak with each of the schools you are thinking of applying to. I've spoke with Rosalind Franklin, and they "strongly prefer" a minimum of 800 hours of care contact. That to me means a person needs at least 800 hours to be competitive. There are quite a few threads on the forum referencing how many schools people apply to and how much it ends up costing. Remember you potetially have to pay CASPA, GRE, and supplemental app fees, plus interview costs.
I'm not sure where you live or where your previous CNA experience was, but if you're looking to work at a hospital instead of a long term care facility, start applying now. In fact, you'll probably want to start applying now anyway as jobs are hard to come by and you want as much experience as you can get.
You are competing with people with very high GPAs as well as lots of HCE. For many programs, there are over 1,000 applicants for 50 spots (as the PA profession grows, this competition is increasing). To some programs, that person with a 3.5 with many years of HCE looks WAAAAY better than you. I think 2,000 hours, which is about a year of full time work, is what a lot of programs would like to see. Even if they don't say what their minimum is, there might be the de facto minimum (ie, they really would not consider you). I had a 3.8 GPA, 4.0 sGPA, a high GRE score, and a master's degree but not enough HCE at application time (tons of other work experience, including starting a non-profit organization). I did have close to 2,000 before I matriculated, however. Fortunately, my program put an emphasis on grades over HCE. Another program I was considering encouraged me to work more and apply in a year. The fact that you had a health care job and hated it and then quit will not reflect well on your application. CNA work is hard back-breaking work (in my experience--I worked at a LTC facility). I was eventually able to get a job as a therapy tech. Become an EMT or find a CNA job that you like or consider becoming a therapy tech/aide. Work for a year after you graduate. You will be a MUCH better applicant and a better PA student after you've paid your dues.
Consider looking at some of the 3 year programs. They are often kinder to low experience applicants as they offer more rotation time.
I think you still have plenty of opportunity to get into PA school. I would try and get some HCE and continue volunteering. I didn't look into any of those schools, but I had no HCE and a lower GPA and got into 4 programs. Look at some of the other posts in the Pre-pa section with people wondering the same thing. Good luck!
I think you should still apply. I think if you can get 300 hours you will be set. I disagree that you need 1000 to get in. Look at schools that don't specifically require a lot of HCE.
It might be helpful to look for some volunteer opportunities that allow for medical experience as well. I volunteered doing blood lead screenings for kids and pregnant women. I got to do the finger sticks and run the testing machine and use those hours as part of my HCE!