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Possible career change to PA

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Hi guys, 

I'm new to the forum but have been considering PA school for quite awhile now. I've talked with family and friends about it, but many of them are biased so I'm seeking outside opinions and information here.


A little about my circumstances:

I'm a recent law school graduate who is practicing in health law. I specialized in health law, took most of my classes in health law, and really only went into law so that I could be involved with healthcare in someway, whether that be health policy or business law as it pertains to healthcare entities. I work with doctors, hospitals, physician groups, etc on a daily basis but I'm finding that now more than ever I really wish I had gone into something clinical. I was always interested in medicine, excelled in science (math, not so much), but more or less was advised that law school would be "easier" given that I'm "stronger" in reading and writing. So, now that I'm practicing law, and especially since I'm dealing with health care providers daily, I wish, literally on a daily basis, that I was involved in patient care instead of being on the outside looking in.


Here are my dilemmas:

I have considerable debt from law school and PA school would add to it. Additionally, I would have to complete a few pre-reqs before even applying. Because I went the law route, I have no clinical hours to speak of, though I'm not completely sure what's included in clinical hours (I've generally seen hours spent as EMT, RN, med tech, etc counting toward clinical hours). I'm wondering how I would go about earning clinical hours while working a full time legal job so that I would even be able to apply to PA school. I do have some concern about admissions depts thinking negatively of me for being a career changer.


Finally, I'd love to hear from any PA students or PA-Cs who can shed some light on what school is like or what their work is like. I know this varies greatly based on the autonomy that a physician gives, and based on state laws. However, I haven't been able to find much on PA job satisfaction and I don't know any PAs personally.


I welcome all suggestions for next steps and advice. I'm not sure if PAs allow shadowing too, but I'm also considering doing MD and many people suggested shadowing to get a good idea of what different physicians do.

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Step 1:  Find a PA that you can shadow so you can get an idea of what a PA does before you even worry about HCE, pre-reqs, and debt.  This is a must.  As someone with no clinical experience, you need to do this first and foremost.


If you want to pursue this, it sounds like you'll have to keep your law job (to pay those loans and bills) and pick up an HCE job on the side.  Throw in your pre-reqs and you are easily looking at a few years before you'll have the stats to apply.  That's just reality.  Get an HCE job.  EMT/CNA/something to see if you even LIKE working in medicine.  A notion of 'I like medicine' and working with providers as a lawyer probably isn't giving you the full picture of what being a PA (or MD or RN) really is.


I will say, there are other ways to work in medicine besides being a provider or working in law.  Public Health may be of interest to you.  There's a lot of reading and writing and often you can do MPH degrees nights/weekends/online over the course of a few years while working full time.  You won't be diagnosing diabetes or cutting anyone open, but you can work with the public and special populations to help them.  Your law degree would probably be helpful/looked upon favorably here.

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I echo the comments about shadowing; you'll learn more in a day about being a PA than you will a month of reading about the job.


It is possible to keep your day job while you get ready for PA school, if that's what you decide to do. I worked full-time in a non-health care job until about 6 weeks before I left to start school. In my case, I did it as a volunteer and later partime paid EMT and (later) paramedic. I took most of my prereqs in community college at night over several years. I had no courses in anything biological until I started the prereqs.


As to what school was like, I wrote a book about it. It was doable, required focus during the week so that I could be with my family most weekends, and was the experience of a lifetime. 


My advice: Take a few little steps to see how it feels (shadow, take a night class, find a place to get some HCE) and then, knowing that you are headed in the right direction, go from there. It was truly one of my greatest adventures (so far!).


Good luck.

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