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Non-Traditional Looking for Advice, Please and Thank You

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Hello Everyone,

 

I've been browsing these forums and I must say they are a wealth of knowledge.  That being said, I was hoping for some advice.  I'll try to give you my background while keeping it as short as possible.  It still may end up long but I'd greatly appreciate you reading it and giving me your insight.

 

I'm a non-traditional prospective PA student.  I've been very interested in the medical field and considered many careers, including nursing, DNP, PA, MD/DO, etc.  I decided PA is the best route for me given my current circumstances and where I want to go.  I'm currently seeking a career change, so I have a ton to consider and evaluate.

 

  • United States Army Veteran - Military Police Experience
  • 4 Years full time as a Police Officer
  • 1.5 Years of Volunteer work as a Volunteer Police Officer - About 700 Hours
  • 2 Years volunteer work in high school with local law enforcement agency
  • Bachelors of Science in Business Management - 3.56 GPA
  • Minimal science courses completed, somewhere around the 3.5 GPA area.

First Step - Science Prereqs

My first step is getting the science prerequisites completed for entry into a PA school.  I've considered extension programs through some of the 4 year schools; however, given the cost savings, I've decided to pursue my science courses at a community college.  I'm currently taking 1 class right now and will take 3-4 classes in the Spring.  I'm expecting it to take 2-3 semesters to complete all of the prereqs.

 

Second Step - Health Care Experience

I know HCE is very important to not only prepare me for PA school and a career as a PA, but also to assist me in being accepted.  That being said, I'm currently working 40-60 hours a week, primarily graveyards as a police officer, in addition to going back to school for my prereqs, so it's very difficult for me to do any extracurriculars right now.  About a year ago I tried to get some HCE by volunteering in my local hospital ED.  I'd work graveyards, sleep for about 2 hours, go to school for a few hours, then go volunteer at the hospital, then go back to work for 12.5 hours, then repeat.  Needless to say, sleeping only a few hours a day while trying to maintain a near 4.0 GPA, volunteer, and maintain family life was near impossible.

 

I do have a friend that is a PA in the ED at a local hospital, so I have the ability to shadow him, and probably shadow other PA's that he knows.  I know this would be a great addition to my application; however, not a substitute for HCE.  

 

Although my military experience, law enforcement experience, including my 700+ volunteer hours isn't HCE, I think it'll at least help, because it shows I'm mature, responsible, can handle pressure, and that I'm dedicated to serving others and my community.  Thoughts?

 

Third Step - I need some Advice

I currently live in Southern California.  Although I don't have kids, I'm married and my family and my life is here.  My wife is a BSN/RN and is very happy and comfortable where she works.  Neither of us want to move, so it leaves my options to the three PA schools (soon to be four, possibly 5) in Southern California:

  • Western University 
  • USC/Keck
  • Loma Linda
  • Chapman (Coming Next Year)
  • Southern California University of Health Sciences (Coming Next Year)

 

So my third step and my plan right now is after I finish my prereqs, I'll apply to Western U with my limited to non-existent HCE.  Western U doesn't "require" it; however, I'm unsure if I'll even be considered, but I figured it would be worth a shot as it'd save me several years and is my end goal.  USC, although not required, strongly recommends it, and Keck programs are very difficult to get into.  Loma Linda requires 2,000 hours HCE, so I can't apply there...yet.

 

My other plan, while concurrently applying to Western U's PA program, would be to apply to one of several accelerated bachelors of science in nursing (ABSN) programs in my area.  I'm sure I'd get into at least one of these programs, which would allow me to obtain my BSN in about 15 months.  At that time, I could leave law enforcement and get a BSN/RN job somewhere for 1+ years, to obtain my HCE.  At that time, I could reapply for all of the PA programs in the area and be a better applicant.

 

Other Notes

I know there are several ways I could obtain HCE that wouldn't require the 15 month endeavor of the BSN, such as MA, EMT, etc.; however, I feel being a non-traditional student and already having a decent paying career, a house, bills/obligations, etc., I need to get into something that still pays okay, as I wouldn't be able to take the pay cut from law enforcement to an MA for that length of time.  Side note, I do understand I can't work for the 2 years during PA school, and that is not a problem, but doing 1-2+ years as an MA or similar job plus 2 years of PA school makes things tough.

 

Also, for whatever reason, if I was unable to get into a PA school, obtaining my BSN would allow me to go the NP/DNP route as an alternative; however, that's if all else fails.

 

Timeline:

  • 1.5 Years of Prereqs at the community college
  • Get into PA School, OR (1.5 years)
  • 15 Months of ABSN (Near 3 Years Now)
  • 1+ Years of BSN Work (Now 4 Years)
  • Reapply for PA School (4+ years)

 

PLEASE critique my plan, and give me any pointers or information that I don't already have.  I'd greatly appreciate it and I thank you for reading my long post.

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If NP is your backup plan, why not make that your primary?  Spending 15 months in a BSN program is less than the year and a half you'd spend on PA pre-reqs then you can work as a BSN while working towards the NP/DNP.  Cuts out a lot of time.

 

I say this because if you consider NP a backup, there must be something about it that appeals to you as much as PA.

 

If PA is the way you want to go, instead of spending the time on a BSN, keep your full-time job and work part time or PRN in an HCE role.  Basically there are a lot of ways your plan can be amended but you definitely need to get the HCE in there for PA to be a real option.

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If NP is your backup plan, why not make that your primary?  Spending 15 months in a BSN program is less than the year and a half you'd spend on PA pre-reqs then you can work as a BSN while working towards the NP/DNP.  Cuts out a lot of time.

 

I say this because if you consider NP a backup, there must be something about it that appeals to you as much as PA.

 

If PA is the way you want to go, instead of spending the time on a BSN, keep your full-time job and work part time or PRN in an HCE role.  Basically there are a lot of ways your plan can be amended but you definitely need to get the HCE in there for PA to be a real option.

PA fits more the mold of what I'm looking for.  I want to do advanced practice; if I had the time I'd try for the MD/DO route, but given my life circumstances, it's not a viable option for me.  I like how the PA program is a medical provider approach and is formatted in a similar was as medical school, whereas the NP/DNP is still more of a nursing approach and doesn't contain as much clinical training.  There's other things I like about PA as well, such as specialization, day-to-day functions, and they're usually more respected.  That being said, if for some reason I couldn't get into PA, I would shoot for DNP/NP because it's still advanced practice.

 

The problem is I can't jump straight into BSN in lieu of the PA prereqs, because many of the prereqs of the same, of which I do not have.  The PA program does require a little bit more, but not much.  The ABSN programs require 1-2 semesters of chemistry, microbiology and lab, human anatomy with lab and human physiology with lab, and some require additional work in english, public health, and/or psychology.  This is essentially the same as the PA requirements, except the PA requirements for programs here require a couple extra things like genetics.  So I have to do the prereqs to get into either PA or ABSN, so adding the couple extra courses for PA (about 1 a semester) to my course load will allow me to fulfill both PA and ABSN prereqs at the same time.

 

The other thing, and I'm not sure if it's just California or if it's nationwide, but they did away with the masters NP program/position out here as of 2015...you now must complete a DNP, to be a Nurse Practitioner, so it'd require me to complete a doctorate versus a masters for PA.  Also, in order to get into one of the doctorate DNP programs ,I'd have to complete a masters...so it'd require me to do prereqs, ABSN, then a masters in nursing, then a DNP...which is probably about 7-8 years.

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Holy cow, now I feel like I know you.  There is really only one plan...get the pre-reqs/degree in where you can, while simultaneously gaining HCE and making professional connections for LORs.  Have you used your Ch. 33 yet?  My wife and I lived off of the BAH we received for an LA area zipcode.

 

If you want to do nursing, then pursue nursing and think about a DNP later.  Nursing is whole different ball game than delivering care as a provider; yes you will get the experience but that's a lot of work and a lot of school to put yourself through.  You could easily knock out CNA, MA, or EMT while you're working through pre-reqs and get a PRN job in any of the myriad of hospitals in CA; Kaiser has a gigantic facility within arm's reach of nearly everywhere.

 

Overall, it sounds like you are really thinking this out, but don't nuke it.  It's good to have a plan but I would say pick either nursing or PA, and give all of your time and attention to either career path instead of flip flopping between the two.  It sounds like you are already slightly biased toward nursing, so why not jump on a nursing forum and start researching direct admit DNP options?

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Holy cow, now I feel like I know you.  There is really only one plan...get the pre-reqs/degree in where you can, while simultaneously gaining HCE and making professional connections for LORs.  Have you used your Ch. 33 yet?  My wife and I lived off of the BAH we received for an LA area zipcode.

 

If you want to do nursing, then pursue nursing and think about a DNP later.  Nursing is whole different ball game than delivering care as a provider; yes you will get the experience but that's a lot of work and a lot of school to put yourself through.  You could easily knock out CNA, MA, or EMT while you're working through pre-reqs and get a PRN job in any of the myriad of hospitals in CA; Kaiser has a gigantic facility within arm's reach of nearly everywhere.

 

Overall, it sounds like you are really thinking this out, but don't nuke it.  It's good to have a plan but I would say pick either nursing or PA, and give all of your time and attention to either career path instead of flip flopping between the two.  It sounds like you are already slightly biased toward nursing, so why not jump on a nursing forum and start researching direct admit DNP options?

Yes, I used my chapter 33 for my undergrad.  I'll look into the PRN stuff and see what's available, I wasn't too familiar with that prior to it being mentioned here.  I'd actually much rather prefer PA over nursing...the only reason I put nursing in my plan was because I figured it'd be an easy way to get HCE and it'd allow me to leave law enforcement and work full time with a decent pay check until I could get into PA school....but I'll definitely look into the PRN stuff to do while still working in law enforcement, especially if that saves me time, school, and money.  Thanks!

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I'm a career changer from So Cal as well except I have a wife and kids in addition to overcoming admission with a low undergrad GPA.

 

That being said, I think you're off to a great start with your plan. Only thing I would add to your list are Touro Nevada (since vegas isn't really that far away compared to the Nor Cal programs), MBK in Fullerton, and Charles Drew in LA. Also note that USC's program (which is an excellent program) is a 3 year program which I'm not sure if that lines up with your timeline goals.

 

Some ways to get HCE pretty fast are EMT, EKG Tech, and CNA. Some programs in So Cal that are accelerated which I recommend and used myself are:

 

EMT - CIEMT in Long Beach / Signal Hill. They offer 4 week courses as well as other flexible options.

 

EKG Tech / Phlebotomy - Regan Career Institute in Monteray Park. The EKG classes are on the weekends and are for 3.5 weekends in total.

 

Phlebotomy - UCI Medical Center in Orange, CA. Very strong program last about 3-6 weeks so I'm not sure of the hours any more. But definitely worth it if you're considering getting that license.

 

CNA - You can just challenge the exam and learn what you need on YouTube from what I understand. So food for thought.

 

SCUHS's Integrated Science Program - Whittier, CA. Having gone through this recently, I understand first hand how impacted the colleges are out here. This program is very expensive, but it's where I did all my science prerequisites. Each class is 4 units including lab, cost about $2k a class. Each class is 4 weekends long (so each 4 unit class is completed in 1 month) and hours are from 8am-6pm.

 

BSN - Western Governers University. Since you had mentioned possibly going back to get your BSN, I wanted to throw this option to you. It's online coursework during the week, and on the weekends you go to a clinical site (ie Cedars Sinai or Huntington Memorial) and do your hours there. Program is 2 years and coats $20k last I checked.

 

Pacemaker Tech - Loma Linda University and various out of state programs. I'm not sure how long LLUs program is, but there are a number of 5 month long programs. I've been told by every single pacemaker tech I've met (ER and Hospice) that their salary is around $90k a year here in So Cal. I know outside of California pacemaker techs get paid around the $50k a year mark. This was my backup plan if I didn't get into PA school or if something happened and I was unable to complete the program.

 

It's a long journey. I remember taking my first prerequisite in April 2011. Can't believe I'm going to graduate November 1, 2015!

 

PM me if I can be of any further assistance!

 

Best of luck to you!

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I'm coming from a very, very similar background.  I have a BA degree and 8 1/2 years in the service, and married w/ young kids.  Going back to living like a college student has been an interesting experience.  At one point, I was simultaneously pursuing the idea of going for PA, BSN to NP, or CRNA.  With all the similarities of requirements, I initially thought I could just apply to each and go to whichever I was accepted into.  However, a couple semesters into the journey, I began to really understand the differences in care models, and I decided to pursue the PA goal and nothing else.  So, here's how I chose to skin the cat:

 

Classes:Knock out your science pre-req's.  Don't use valuable time & money chasing another degree unless you simply have your heart set on it, or unless the PA program you're applying to states you must have a science degree.  You already have a degree, now show them through your grades that you can smoke those science courses.  The science courses were more difficult than anything from my business degree, but I absolutely loved the content and was happy to finally be learning about what I care about.  Some courses were a little rough- I made an A in o-chem and it was a miserable semester (chemistry does not come naturally to me).  Just keep in mind, you can endure nearly anything for 3-4 months at a time, and your GPA is forever :-)

 

HCE & PA shadowing:  If you set your courses up right, by the time you're done with your AP's I & II, you can take a summer semester course at a local community college and get your CNA license.  It's easy, and you'll be done in time to start classes back the next month.  Seek out a CNA job at your local hospital, in most states, hospitals do not require nurse aide's to be state certified- so technically you could go ahead and start logging some direct patient care hours (keep a tracker spreadsheet) on weekend or night shifts while you're in school for your pre-req's.  Obviously, CNA work is not as glamorous as other ways of gaining HCE.. If you want to "dodge the butts" as others have joked, go with MA or EMT, but it will add another year of coursework.  CNA can be achieved quickly. 

Become a "student volunteer" at your local hospital and log some hours.  It's annoying because volunteers are often treated like total crap, but you gain priceless knowledge and learn a little on how the medical field pecking order works.  The most tangible value of doing this volunteer work is networking:  go to the OR/PACU and scan the board.  Get an idea of which surgeon keeps a PA with him, and = there's your mark.  Talk to that PA or his surgeon and score some great PA shadowing hours.  If they like you, often they'll offer for you to extend your shadowing to their clinic or hospital floor.

 

Everything else is all about reading/reviewing CASPA's FAQ's.  Hopefully there aren't too many typo's or word omissions in what I just typed as I don't have time to proof-read.  Good luck to you! 

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I'm a career changer from So Cal as well except I have a wife and kids in addition to overcoming admission with a low undergrad GPA.

 

That being said, I think you're off to a great start with your plan. Only thing I would add to your list are Touro Nevada (since vegas isn't really that far away compared to the Nor Cal programs), MBK in Fullerton, and Charles Drew in LA. Also note that USC's program (which is an excellent program) is a 3 year program which I'm not sure if that lines up with your timeline goals.

 

Some ways to get HCE pretty fast are EMT, EKG Tech, and CNA. Some programs in So Cal that are accelerated which I recommend and used myself are:

 

EMT - CIEMT in Long Beach / Signal Hill. They offer 4 week courses as well as other flexible options.

 

EKG Tech / Phlebotomy - Regan Career Institute in Monteray Park. The EKG classes are on the weekends and are for 3.5 weekends in total.

 

Phlebotomy - UCI Medical Center in Orange, CA. Very strong program last about 3-6 weeks so I'm not sure of the hours any more. But definitely worth it if you're considering getting that license.

 

CNA - You can just challenge the exam and learn what you need on YouTube from what I understand. So food for thought.

 

SCUHS's Integrated Science Program - Whittier, CA. Having gone through this recently, I understand first hand how impacted the colleges are out here. This program is very expensive, but it's where I did all my science prerequisites. Each class is 4 units including lab, cost about $2k a class. Each class is 4 weekends long (so each 4 unit class is completed in 1 month) and hours are from 8am-6pm.

 

BSN - Western Governers University. Since you had mentioned possibly going back to get your BSN, I wanted to throw this option to you. It's online coursework during the week, and on the weekends you go to a clinical site (ie Cedars Sinai or Huntington Memorial) and do your hours there. Program is 2 years and coats $20k last I checked.

 

Pacemaker Tech - Loma Linda University and various out of state programs. I'm not sure how long LLUs program is, but there are a number of 5 month long programs. I've been told by every single pacemaker tech I've met (ER and Hospice) that their salary is around $90k a year here in So Cal. I know outside of California pacemaker techs get paid around the $50k a year mark. This was my backup plan if I didn't get into PA school or if something happened and I was unable to complete the program.

 

It's a long journey. I remember taking my first prerequisite in April 2011. Can't believe I'm going to graduate November 1, 2015!

 

PM me if I can be of any further assistance!

 

Best of luck to you!

Wow thank you very much for the informative reply, I greatly appreciate it!

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I'm coming from a very, very similar background.  I have a BA degree and 8 1/2 years in the service, and married w/ young kids.  Going back to living like a college student has been an interesting experience.  At one point, I was simultaneously pursuing the idea of going for PA, BSN to NP, or CRNA.  With all the similarities of requirements, I initially thought I could just apply to each and go to whichever I was accepted into.  However, a couple semesters into the journey, I began to really understand the differences in care models, and I decided to pursue the PA goal and nothing else.  So, here's how I chose to skin the cat:

 

Classes:Knock out your science pre-req's.  Don't use valuable time & money chasing another degree unless you simply have your heart set on it, or unless the PA program you're applying to states you must have a science degree.  You already have a degree, now show them through your grades that you can smoke those science courses.  The science courses were more difficult than anything from my business degree, but I absolutely loved the content and was happy to finally be learning about what I care about.  Some courses were a little rough- I made an A in o-chem and it was a miserable semester (chemistry does not come naturally to me).  Just keep in mind, you can endure nearly anything for 3-4 months at a time, and your GPA is forever :-)

 

HCE & PA shadowing:  If you set your courses up right, by the time you're done with your AP's I & II, you can take a summer semester course at a local community college and get your CNA license.  It's easy, and you'll be done in time to start classes back the next month.  Seek out a CNA job at your local hospital, in most states, hospitals do not require nurse aide's to be state certified- so technically you could go ahead and start logging some direct patient care hours (keep a tracker spreadsheet) on weekend or night shifts while you're in school for your pre-req's.  Obviously, CNA work is not as glamorous as other ways of gaining HCE.. If you want to "dodge the butts" as others have joked, go with MA or EMT, but it will add another year of coursework.  CNA can be achieved quickly. 

Become a "student volunteer" at your local hospital and log some hours.  It's annoying because volunteers are often treated like total crap, but you gain priceless knowledge and learn a little on how the medical field pecking order works.  The most tangible value of doing this volunteer work is networking:  go to the OR/PACU and scan the board.  Get an idea of which surgeon keeps a PA with him, and = there's your mark.  Talk to that PA or his surgeon and score some great PA shadowing hours.  If they like you, often they'll offer for you to extend your shadowing to their clinic or hospital floor.

 

Everything else is all about reading/reviewing CASPA's FAQ's.  Hopefully there aren't too many typo's or word omissions in what I just typed as I don't have time to proof-read.  Good luck to you! 

Thank you very much, I greatly appreciate it.  I didn't really think about structuring my courses during regular semesters so I can take certifying courses during the summer, that's a good idea if that's what I need to do.  I was going to just spread my courses out over the summer as well, but I like your suggestion.  

 

I think being an EMT and working in a rig would cause me issues at my current work (legality wise/conflict of interest type thing as police officers and EMT's both have different penal code sections covering some of their duties) so I'm not sure I can do the EMT route.  In regards to volunteering, I did some volunteer work at at a local ER about a year ago (about 40 hours).  I really didn't get any experience, there wasn't any opportunity for me to network, I was treated like dump and all I did was clean and turn rooms.  So based on how busy I am, I don't think that's a good use of my time.  That being said, I have a friend who is a PA that I can shadow, and he can network me with other PA's that I can get in to shadow with that would give me better experience and be a better use of my time.

 

I'll check out more of the CASPA website too.  Thank you again very much I appreciate your insight. 

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To add to what others have said, about 10% of my PA school class were married living separately during didactic year. Since you do not have kids, consider whether that would work for you and your wife. 

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To add to what others have said, about 10% of my PA school class were married living separately during didactic year. Since you do not have kids, consider whether that would work for you and your wife. 

Thank you.  It'll be something we look into.  I think being away for a year would be tough, but doable...I think the biggest benefit to being here and not moving away is that I could live with family during school, saving us the cost of rent/mortgage.

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The couples who did that spent breaks together, and spouses seemed to manage to be in the area about every month or so on average.  I didn't keep track, but it seemed like all the couples who did this stayed married through school.

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Look at it as an educational "deployment" in terms of living separately.  Maybe you two have gone through that together already, my spouse and I have. 

In my opinion, the long term gains of becoming a PA and working the job I love far outweighs the downside of living separately during the classroom phase of PA school.  Approximately one year versus the rest of your career.

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At some point you'll have to let go of that current job (unless it's related to direct patient care!) and work something else to get your HCE hours.  It may be painful financially, but this is where some thorough long-term planning can benefit you.  Some people do that concurrently with their prereq's, some "take a year off"  after finishing prereq's/graduating to knock out the HCE hours and bag a competitive GRE score. Think about the second and third order benefits associated with accomplishing each metric required for PA school admission, then map that on a timeline to give you the most efficient use of your time.  Good luck!

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I have worked as a paramedic and ridden with crewmembers who were police officers, nurses, etc. There were no substantial issues.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

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I have worked as a paramedic and ridden with crewmembers who were police officers, nurses, etc. There were no substantial issues.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

I'll look more into the legalities, thanks.  What state was this in?  Might be different in California.

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As a current student, if you can hit the 2000 hour mark you have a good shot of getting into LLU granted you have a decent GPA.

Also add Cal Baptist in Riverside to your list. "The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program will accept applications for its first class from November 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.  A link to the application will be activated on November 1, 2015. All decisions concerning admission to the program are contingent upon a successful ARC-PA provisional accreditation outcome in March 2016."

https://www.calbaptist.edu/academics/schools-colleges/college-health-science/department-of-physician-assistant-studies/master-science-physician-assistant-studies/

Best of luck.

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As a current student, if you can hit the 2000 hour mark you have a good shot of getting into LLU granted you have a decent GPA.

 

Also add Cal Baptist in Riverside to your list. "The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program will accept applications for its first class from November 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.  A link to the application will be activated on November 1, 2015. All decisions concerning admission to the program are contingent upon a successful ARC-PA provisional accreditation outcome in March 2016."

 

https://www.calbaptist.edu/academics/schools-colleges/college-health-science/department-of-physician-assistant-studies/master-science-physician-assistant-studies/

 

Best of luck.

Perfect, thanks!  There seems to be a lot of PA schools opening in the next year or two in the Southern California area, I had missed this one.  Also, I know LLU is a great program, they're near the top of my list, I just have to find the time and how I'm going to obtain those HCE hours.

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