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Is PA School Worth the Future of the Profession??


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OK, I've only been really active on this site for a few days. However, I am starting to go into panic mode that I'm going to be making a mistake by going to PA school - not sure if it's my nerves or what. Anyway, can anyone comment on whether or not the cost of school is worth the pay, the level of responsibility, and the future of the profession? I'm reading starting salaries on this site from $30/hour (crap) to $72/hour + bonus. My schooling will cost roughly $110K total (expenses & tuition). I'm reading that PAs are saturating the market, salaries won't improve (but decline), doctors are hoarding the coding/billing, and not paying the PAs appropriately, etc.

 

I went back and forth with going to med school, but I literally ONLY wanted that job for the money and the "title", and since I'm 32 years old, I wasn't willing to deal with the amount of schooling. I liked the idea of the job and the time-frame toward working of the PA better. I didn't think money/title that was a good enough reason to go for the MD. However, I do not want to make a mistake. What are everyone's thoughts? As always, please no trolls. Just honest facts & numbers & experiences. Thanks!

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the money and the hours are fine.

the lack of recognition and respect is very problematic. many docs hate PAs. many nurses think of PAs as the enemy. the public thinks we are medical assistants.

the autonomy and ability to work up to your skill set and gain an appropriate scope of practice is only won through a major struggle.

the potential for advancement is minimal. it has taken me 16 years to claw my way up to a job I enjoy. I have to drive 3 hrs from a major metro area to a very rural area to have that job.

if you have any doubts, go to medschool. I should have.

There are people who are happy working as "assistants". apparently I am not one of those people.

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Just wondering, are you even a competitive applicant for an MD program? I think many pre-PAs don't quite understand that applying to MD is more than just a high MCAT score (which itself is a huge feat) but also having a 3.6+ GPA from a reputable university, year of o-chem, year of physics, year of calculus (for some schools), research experience, etc.

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Just wondering, are you even a competitive applicant for an MD program? I think many pre-PAs don't quite understand that applying to MD is more than just a high MCAT score (which itself is a huge feat) but also having a 3.6+ GPA from a reputable university, year of o-chem, year of physics, year of calculus (for some schools), research experience, etc.

DO schools look favorably on older applicants with "life experience", reasonable grades and mcats > 24. you still need all the same prereqs but a gpa in the 3.4 range likely will get you in somewhere.

A DO is every bit a physician with all the same rights and privileges an md has.

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Thanks again, all. I have a 3.79 post-baccalaureate science GPA (undergraduate degree was in psychology, so no prior science courses, but my undergraduate GPA was low: 3.1). I have research experience through my psychology degree under the National Institute on Aging, but nothing since. I was a combat medic and a mental health specialist in the Army Reserve, and have a more recent license as an EMT-B that I have not been able to use yet (jobs are pretty scarce). I have not taken the MCAT, as I do not have any physics courses or calculus under my belt (because I chose to go the PA route, vs the MD/DO route). I have taken organic chemistry, 1 year general chemistry, genetics, 1 year biology, anatomy/physiology, medical terminology, and am getting ready to take biochemistry. There is a DO school where I live and two MD schools, one of which is the medical school where I'll be obtaining my PA Master's. I literally chose PA because the lifestyle was conducive to my interests (older applicant, wants to spend a good chunk of my 30s actually having a life, traveling, settling down, having children, living comfortably, etc.). I am worried about being stuck in residency until I'm 40, at the earliest... I am hoping this will all come to fruition in the next few weeks or months, as I'm supposed to start PA school in January. And, more so, I hope this is all just my nerves and the negativity that I see on these forums getting to me.

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Want money go work on wallstreet! If you have a desire to help people go into healthcare please! Tired of hospital people who are in the game for the wrong reasons which is at an all time high I am afraid.

Edited by mathwizard
spelling typo fix
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Want money go work on wallstreet! If you have a desire to help people go into healthcare please! Tired of hospital people who are in the game for the wrong reasons which is at an all time high I am afraid.

 

It's naive to not care about making enough money. Having $100k+ in student loan debt can be pretty daunting. Aside from that, PAs should expect to be paid well as they are practicing medicine.

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Not naive here. Wish people were honest when they apply and write CASPA ps or interview at schools. Instead they BS themselves into PA school for all the wrong reasons. Then later we have so many people who are upset when they find out money isnt going to make you happy plus you wont get rich as a PA. If money is the main motivation you will never be happy in any healthcare field IMO.

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I've been a PA for about 18 months now. Graduated with 100K dollars in debt. Starting salary is average for family practice. I can afford everything we need. In addition to paying down the debt, we have a mortgage, a new truck, and some savings. We are living a comfortable, but still modest life. If you are wanting to travel the world, or send the kids to private school, or want all the new toys, your PA salary is not likely to support that (at least not right away). But if you really are more interested in helping people, and just want to make enough money, you'll be fine.

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I've been a PA for about 18 months now. Graduated with 100K dollars in debt. Starting salary is average for family practice. I can afford everything we need. In addition to paying down the debt, we have a mortgage, a new truck, and some savings. We are living a comfortable, but still modest life. If you are wanting to travel the world, or send the kids to private school, or want all the new toys, your PA salary is not likely to support that (at least not right away). But if you really are more interested in helping people, and just want to make enough money, you'll be fine.

 

This...oh and I'm only 50k in debt for school including a post grad MSPAS I just finished. You don't have to be in 100k in loans...

 

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@EMEDPA: From your earlier post... do you feel like it has taken you 16+ years to claw your way to a position you enjoy because of the unfamiliarity of the PA profession of doctors you worked for? Do you think that could be changing due to the expansion of PAs across the country and the fact that they are becoming far more common than they were, say, 20 years ago?

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@mdebord: do you mind me asking what your starting salary was for family practice? and where you practice?

 

If I continue forth with PA, I intend on specializing. My ONLY concern is that I will eventually (someday) not be OK with being the second (or third, or fourth) man on the totem pole all the time - no matter my skill set. But, I wonder if and when that time comes, if there will be more PA-MD/DO bridge opportunities out there? I feel like the best idea for me is to go for the PA and see how much I like it - I may LOVE IT, as there was a reason I chose to go into this profession before. BUT, if I get to the point where I'm feeling underutilized, I get the impression that there may be opportunities to go MD/DO later on. I could be wrong, but it seems that bridge programs will be inevitable based on the shortages.

 

Anyone have thoughts on that subject?

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@mdebord: do you mind me asking what your starting salary was for family practice? and where you practice?

 

If I continue forth with PA, I intend on specializing. My ONLY concern is that I will eventually (someday) not be OK with being the second (or third, or fourth) man on the totem pole all the time - no matter my skill set. But, I wonder if and when that time comes, if there will be more PA-MD/DO bridge opportunities out there? I feel like the best idea for me is to go for the PA and see how much I like it - I may LOVE IT, as there was a reason I chose to go into this profession before. BUT, if I get to the point where I'm feeling underutilized, I get the impression that there may be opportunities to go MD/DO later on. I could be wrong, but it seems that bridge programs will be inevitable based on the shortages.

 

Anyone have thoughts on that subject?

 

As great as bridge programs are, IMO, IF bridge programs start popping up it *can* further damage our public image as PAs by seeing PA as a "stepping stone" profession to MD/DO.

 

OP, if you are even questioning or if dissatisfaction of being "low man on the totem" I would suggest you REALLY look into med school.

 

You have great qualifications and excellent HCE but you prob won't like being a PA.

 

 

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@EMEDPA: From your earlier post... do you feel like it has taken you 16+ years to claw your way to a position you enjoy because of the unfamiliarity of the PA profession of doctors you worked for? Do you think that could be changing due to the expansion of PAs across the country and the fact that they are becoming far more common than they were, say, 20 years ago?

docs see us as competition.

hospitals see us as less than docs and np's and place arbitrary restrictions on us.

states restrict us inappropriately

the increasing # of PAs is hurting the profession because the overall quality of new grads is going down.

it used to be that the vast majority of PAs had strong experience before becoming PAs and had a clue what medicine is about. today many folks become PAs having had less than 500 hrs of low level experience or volunteering, scribing, etc. at the age of 22-24.

this is a far cry from 15-20 yrs ago when pa programs were filled with medics, rn's, rt's in their mid to late twenties to 30's.

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I feel like, the direction healthcare is going, it would be beneficial for PAs to be required to do residencies. And obviously not as long as doctor residencies, but in an attempt to become more qualified before jumping out in the field. I've read some articles in some places that suggest PAs will start being more autonomous and will perhaps in the future bill as primary care providers completely independence of their SP, but still be required the dependent status in specializations. If that is the case, residencies in primary care would seem completely necessary.

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docs see us as competition.

hospitals see us as less than docs and np's and place arbitrary restrictions on us.

states restrict us inappropriately

the increasing # of PAs is hurting the profession because the overall quality of new grads is going down.

it used to be that the vast majority of PAs had strong experience before becoming PAs and had a clue what medicine is about. today many folks become PAs having had less than 500 hrs of low level experience or volunteering, scribing, etc. at the age of 22-24.

this is a far cry from 15-20 yrs ago when pa programs were filled with medics, rn's, rt's in their mid to late twenties to 30's.

Your job is to help us, not to bring us down to the dismay of your own standard. You can't stop the young fellow from going into the profession as they are the future and the driving force of the profession. The change you see today in the profession is called evolution, believe it or not only the young bloods can drive that evolution further for they have much of an incentive to do so. Either they go into it for the money or to help people only them will know it. If there is a void and in that void there is a need then something must fill it. If we don't fill that void by increasing the number of new grads, then we will be replaced. Now if you find the quality of new grads going down then you have failed to guide us, train us. Don't throw us under the bus because there is a shift in the profession but accompany us, help us instead.

Edited by crossbone2007
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your job is to help us, not to bring us down to the dismay of your own standard. You can't stop the young fellow from going into the profession as they are the future and the driving force of the profession(actually i can by serving on admissions committees and encouraging like minded pas to do so as well and not accepting inappropriate applicants.) The change you see today in the profession is called evolution, believe it for not only the young bloods can drive that evolution further for they have much of an incentive to do so. Either they go into it for the money or to help people only them will know it. If there is a void and in that void there is a need than something must fill it. If we don't fill that void by increasing the number of new grads, than we will be replaced. (I have no problem with more programs and more grads, i have a problem with the criteria used to accept many new students. 100% quality applicants? Bring it! )Now if you find the quality of new grads going down then you have failed to guide us, train us. Don't throw us under the bus because there is a shift in the profession but accompany us, help us instead.

my comments above in ( )

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I feel like, the direction healthcare is going, it would be beneficial for PAs to be required to do residencies. And obviously not as long as doctor residencies, but in an attempt to become more qualified before jumping out in the field. I've read some articles in some places that suggest PAs will start being more autonomous and will perhaps in the future bill as primary care providers completely independence of their SP, but still be required the dependent status in specializations. If that is the case, residencies in primary care would seem completely necessary.

 

In response to earlier question: 80K in semi-rural Texas.

 

I used to agree with your forecast above - that since everyone kept talking about the shortages and how much we're NEEDED in primary care, autonomy could only increase. However, I've found that some companies prefer a different organization: That I will see up to 4 pts an hour (that ends up being most of the colds, stomach viruses, and other "easy," "quick" stuff) while the docs will thus be freed up to see 3 pts an hour for more chronic visits. While this may be efficient, there are definite downsides. To the point where I'm being pushed away from primary care.

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I used to agree with your forecast above - that since everyone kept talking about the shortages and how much we're NEEDED in primary care, autonomy could only increase. However, I've found that some companies prefer a different organization: That I will see up to 4 pts an hour (that ends up being most of the colds, stomach viruses, and other "easy," "quick" stuff) while the docs will thus be freed up to see 3 pts an hour for more chronic visits. While this may be efficient, there are definite downsides. To the point where I'm being pushed away from primary care.

yup, there are plenty of jobs if you want to see routine patients who require no real medical management and most of your job is refilling prescriptions. once you start wanting a more significant role you will be stepping on someone's toes. this is why the rural jobs are so good. no one else wants them so they are forced to treat you with respect and offer you good autonomy and scope of practice. there are very few jobs in major metro areas where you will be granted the same autonomy and scope of practice as a new grad fp doc, regardless of how many years of experience you have.

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Emedpa, if you were to suggest a timetable for a residency, would you suggest trying to go for it right after PA school or getting some experience as a PA? From a quick glance, the residency options near me don't specify. Thanks!

right out of pa school.

it's hard to go back to making 45-60k/yr after making a lot more several years out of school but as a new grad that seems like huge money.

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