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I'm trying to find some patient care hours to strengthen my application to PA school. What options are out there besides CNA? It seems that you have to be certified to do most jobs with actual patient care; is there anything I can do without a certification?



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Some schools accept shadowing hours as acceptable HCE.  Use the PAEA directory, find the schools to which you will apply and see what their respective admissions pages have to say about what HCE they are looking for.  Paid hours will need some sort of license or certification.  Have you thought of a medical missions trip?


Getting your foot in the door somewhere now could lead to opportunities later, e.g. working as a clerk/receptionist.  Without a lic/cert, you are looking at an entry level position, probably in admin.  As stated, this could lead somewhere if you play your cards right.  If you scour classifieds, you may find an assistant type position that will allow you to get your hands on patients without a license...I found one once but turned it down to enroll in college...but these are very difficult to find.  Otherwise, shadowing and volunteering are your best bet, and networking will be your best friend.


Best of luck to you.


edit: the below answers are excellent and worth looking into

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I'm an ophthalmic technician. My scope of practice is similar to that of a medical assistant, but I didn't need a formal certification to get my job. Some areas do have training programs (and thus hire certified people), but my area does not. It's been a great experience so far, so look into that!

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You can try Physical Therapy Aide...they do not require any kind of formal training or certification usually. This is what I did!


Also look into a position in clinical research. As long as it is "hands on" with subjects it should count for most programs.


Some Medical Assisting positions also offer on the job training instead of paying for an MA program. It all depends on who is hiring you and what they require.


I suggest looking on craigslist for a job in your area!

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Hard to know where to start with this... there are a lot of options - gives you some room to get creative. I think higher quality HCE experiences will require some type of medical license or certification, and I think it looks better to schools because they have a better idea of your scope of practice. In some states, you can't even take a blood pressure without some kind of certification. 


My advice would be to get into something without a license, then obtain one as quickly as possible and use it to get more experience. 


Since it sounds like you're just starting out, I'd also recommend that you find a few schools you'd like to apply to then work backwards, depending on what they require. Every school has different requirements for what they will accept as HCE. Some will count shadowing hours toward HCE but most won't. Clinical research and medical scribe experiences are also a little iffy. I've seen a few programs that will only count a percentage of scribe hours, like 50%. 


The only other thing I can think of is to talk to hospitals in your area. I live in a place with many teaching hospitals that have training programs where they will get you through a CNA based training program and hire you. 


I'll copy and paste my undergraduate's list of acceptable experience as an example - this isn't the program I'm attending though:


  • Athletic trainer 
  • Dental assistant
  • Dental hygienist
  • Emergency medical technician
  • Emergency room technician - can do this usually with a CNA/EMT license, many different names for this position - PCT, PCA
  • Laboratory technologist - many programs won't accept this
  • Medical assistant
  • Medical interpreter - doubt many programs would accept this
  • Medical technologist
  • Military medical/clinical specialist
  • Nursing assistant 
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Ophthalmic assistant
  • Orderly
  • Orthopedic cast technician
  • Paramedic
  • Patient care technician - position can probably be found in nursing homes, rehabs, hospitals, and emergency rooms; most likely EMT/CNA required
  • Pharmacist
  • Pharmacy technician - some programs won't accept
  • Phlebotomist - phlebotomy license needed; many ER's will also train you to draw blood with EMT/CNA license
  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Physical therapist 
  • Radiological technologist
  • Scribe - carefully research requirements before taking this route
  • Surgical technician
  • Shadowing a physician assistant - should do this anyway, but don't make it the only way you obtain HCE
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