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Healthcare Administrator Career Change_Advice Please

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I’ve been a ‘lurker’ and finally decided to post.  I have decided after much reflection to change careers and start the journey to become a PA.  (Sorry for the crazy long post)


I had lifesaving surgery as a child so my lifetime experience with physicians and the healthcare community starts there. It's weird but hospitals have always given me a sense of calm.  I went to college on academic scholarship with the goal of becoming a physician.  Most people do poorly in the beginning of college and rally.  My issue is the exact opposite.  I did quite well in the first few years but after some compounding family issues in the last 3 semesters, my GPA absolutely tanked.  I graduated with a Chemistry degree (GPA 2.85) in 2004.  Along with the ongoing family issues, I was demoralized and my confidence shattered.  Graduate and professional school would never be an option.  After (hiding) working in basic research labs for some time, the healthcare bug returned and I happily got an MHA (GPA 3.53) in 2011. At the time, I thought it would be a good way to combine my love of healthcare with a stable, “safe” career.  


Currently I work in Health Administration at a local hospital.  To put it simply, I can’t imagine doing this for the rest of my career.  Although I do my job well, it is truly mind-numbing.  This isn’t what I wanted for my life.  When I meet with healthcare teams to discuss projects, I’m more drawn to conversations surrounding how to clinically treat patients rather than how to get a new form filled out or doing a departmental budget.  Patient care has always been there in the background and the voice had only gotten louder.  I work across many clinical specialties and I’m drawn to Primary Care, Cardiology, and Dermatology.



  • Poor UG GPA & downward trend:  My undergrad GPA is a 2.85.  Obviously, it will take time and work to get it up.  My REAL concern is that because my degree is in a STEM field coupled with the downward trend, it will appear that I cannot handle upper level challenging science.  It will also bring my sGPA way down for CASPA.  Would my graduate MHA GPA (3.53) help prove to an admin committee that I can do the work?  I worked full-time and went to grad school full-time.  I feel like a completely different person now as an older adult.  
  • HCE: I regularly volunteer for health fairs in the community and will start to shadow PAs, NPs and Physicians.  Looking at the forums, it seems schools prefer paid HCE though. I was looking at getting an MA certification and doing this while I re-took my prereqs.  Should I sick with shadowing?  Would my full-time work at the hospital count towards HCE?
  • Age: I’m 33.  With the average age of PA students at 26/27, what are the chances that a PA program would invest in an older student who may retire sooner than someone with an extra 8-10+ years?  I am single with no children so I feel like the time is now to do this before I have responsibilities.   


I’m starting from scratch. I know this is going to be a long journey to get to my dream but I know I can do this.


Thank you for any feedback in advance.



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Lots of people started out where you are now. The best thing to do, in my opinion anyway, is to let the past be in the past and move forward:


Poor GPA: Not that bad and more than 10 years ago. You will doubtlessly have to take prereqs anyway. Do well on them. Some programs value your last few semesters more than the old stuff. Having a masters proves you can do graduate level work.


HCE: You are relatively young and single, which gives you some freedom here. Not all schools demand paying experience, but -- either way -- you will likely need a certification in something to get quality HCE. That can be through EMS or as an MA, PCA, etc. Look around; you are working for a hospital now and maybe you can use your connections -- either at your hospital or at one where an old classmate from your MHA program works -- to find something. Could be some nights and/or weekends. Your connections can also get you more shadowing exposure as well so you can be more sure of your objectives.


Age: Got to laugh here. I was nearly 20 years older than you when I started my prereqs, let alone PA school itself. I graduated when I was 60. 33 is not too old for much, except maybe becoming an female Olympic-caliber gymnast. You've got time; what you need is to be sure of what you're going to do next.



Good luck!

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Yeah, to think 33 is old again.

PA programs like students that have been around with some life experience.

Paid HCE is a plus but there are programs that will accept very little paid HCE.

In studies, paid HCE did not make a difference is student performance throughout a program.

The big question is where are you going to apply and what does that program require?

One thing to consider is to target programs that dont require much paid HCE.

Then do a one or 2 yr post bacc premedical training program (google it).

Good luck.

G Brothers PA-C

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Throwing in my two cents:


Poor GPA: It's not terrible, which means it is surrmountable with a lot of dedication and work. My main concern would be that pretty much all Health Care admin courses, so most likely your entire master's degree, is considered non-science on the CASPA app. for reasons you can probably understand having worked in the feild. Your challenge will be proving you can handle the upper-level science curriculum and do very well, not only to raise your sGPA but also to show you can handle the academic load of a PA program. This is doable, but you want to focus on not only pre-reqs, but courses that will count as science on your app.


HCE: Here the main issue is lack of patient care experience, not lack of experience on the whole. You want to find a hands-on experience you can use to rack up patient hours, such as an EMT as others mentioned. Having some CNA or phebotomy experience wouldn't hurt either.


Age: I don't see this as being remotely an issue.

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@UGoLong - Thanks for the encouragement.  My GPA has always bothered me but it's good that I'm able to overcome it.  What are your thoughts on getting HCE as a Clinical Research Coordinator?


@Allegro - I'll look into post-bacc programs.


@JamBra0 - Thanks for the encouragment!

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A clinical research coordinator doesn't seem all that hands-on to me, but I don't know the details. Talking with research subjects isn't quite the same as caring for them and your background is already heavy on remote patient stuff. Getting involved as closely as you can will also tell you if this is a pipe-dream or really something something you want to do,

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I work with CRCs and based on the department, their role can vary from chart review research to more hands-on patient care.  It depends on their licensure, so I see your point.


What are the advantages/disadvantages to a post-bacc instead of just taking the pre-reqs over at a local college?  Are post-baccs looked at more favorably?  Those programs (from my memory) were for individuals going into med school and dental school.  I get tuition remission from my current job for a local university so I wanted to take advantage of that but want to use my time efficiently.    

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I would think just getting your prereqs and getting really good grades in them would be fine. You have already demonstrated that you can do graduate-level work. I'd talk with a PA program or two of interest if you want some more opinions about that.

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