Jump to content

Interested in Becoming a PA

Recommended Posts

Hello all. I am interested in becoming a PA, and I’m trying to find out as much as I can early in the journey so that I know what I am getting into and so that I set myself down the best possible path.


My background: I am a US Army Aeromedical Evacuation Officer, or in simpler terms I am a Blackhawk pilot who specializes in the Medical Evacuation mission. As such I work closely with NREMT Flight Paramedics who are also Critical Care certified. I have been in the Army for 5 years and owe another three in my current assignment. I hold a BA in Telecommunications from a major university.


My (vague) plan: I intend to leave the military upon the end of my current tour and am currently planning to pursue becoming a PA. I have started taking the prerequisites that I will need to be considered for admittance to 5 major programs with Continuing Accreditation. At my current pace I will have my prerequisites completed less than one year after leaving the Army and will be able to begin seeking admission into a program.


My goal: My endstate is that I want to work in healthcare, providing hands on patient care in some capacity, a vague goal I know. I was originally drawn to the career of a PA after having the opportunity to work with several in the Army. With that said, I am admittedly ignorant of how different the role of a civilian PA may or may not be. The (perceived) flexibility of a PA appeals to me. Also, the formal education timeline fits into my life rather well. I will most likely be 30-35 upon graduation from a PA program, depending on if I finish my prerequisites prior to leaving the Army, attain the necessary work/volunteer hours, etc.


My questions:


- What area of concentration to work towards? I have only ever been exposed to trauma, based on my current job as a MEDEVAC pilot. As such, this was my first consideration. Upon further research, the options seem virtually limitless, and I am currently woefully ignorant.

- What are some tips and pointers to better set myself up not only for PA school, but also for my career after school? I intend to begin interviewing local PA’s and hopefully will be able to shadow them as my schedule allows

- What other careers should I look towards? I considered nursing, but from what I understand the long term care role of the nurse does not call to me the same way being a PA under a surgeon does. Again, I have very little exposure to the medical community outside of my little world in MEDEVAC. Whatever career I end up pursuing, I plan to attain formal education at the Master’s level at the very least.

- What other questions should I be asking?


Thank you all in advance for your input.



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

Wow... what an interesting background!


There's a LOT more to medicine than trauma, but trauma really needs trauma-centric people who love that world.  There are a couple of ex-Army helo pilots in my VFD--one Blackhawk, one Kiowa--both are solid EMTs, one's an acting company officer, the other's a battalion chief.


For options immediately post-Army, you could likely get a job with Air Methods flying civilian medevac pretty easily, but I get that you want to have hands on.  I'm also guessing that the Army won't be sending you to anything more than the basic combat lifesaver type course as it would be incompatible with your role.

Getting a paramedicine certificate and working urban EMS for a bit would be another way to go if you wanted more hands on patient experience before PA school.  It would cost money and/or use up some GI bill, but all the paramedic programs I know of LOVE veterans with any sort of trauma experience.  Paramedic experience prior to PA school is one of the best pre-PA things you can do if you want to do trauma afterwards, and you've already said nursing just does not call to you.


One of the key maxims to remember is "HCE accumulates, GPA averages", so as you work on prerequisite classes, do make sure to get as many A's as possible--I don't expect it to be an issue, but things are so competitive that you want your GPA as high as possible.


Best wishes!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So I did the Pilot to PA change, albeit, I was a civilian fixed-wing pilot. Your biggest challenge will be getting your health care experience (HCE). Working with and around those who work on patients will not be enough for the vast majority of programs. I also implore you to resist the temptation to go the 0 HCE route. It's similar to trying to fly complex aircraft and lead your crew with minimal training and no experience of what leadership even is. There is so much going on within the healthcare system and within the team that you will within work and be called upon to lead with that only experience can demonstrate and teach. Paid is best, but there are some good volunteer experiences out there as well, for example busier volunteer Fire/EMS systems. Look for quality first, not just the ability to add a line to a resume.  


Being a pilot transitions well into medicine as we are primed to work safely and efficiently under pressure. We have built habits to keep ourselves out of trouble (and in many cases, alive) and these patterns and habits apply well into the work of a PA and will serve you well as you begin your career in medicine. 


As for where to work, keep that enthusiasm for trauma, but wait until you are actually in your clinical rotations to make any firm decisions. An attitude of openness to what you will encounter on your PA-S journey will serve you well. You might find that a completely different area of medicine may attract you or you may find that while trauma is exciting and very challenging, other aspects may not fit you or the life you want to lead (as it was for me).


I wish you all the best!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to the Physician Assistant Forum! This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn More