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Questions about my journey on becoming a PA

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Hi everyone,


I'm currently an undergrad student at Rutgers University. I've decided I want to pursue a career as a PA. I plan on graduating either fall of 2016 or spring of 2017 with a political science degree (If I can fit in my needed requirements to graduate for summer term, I'll be able to graduate in fall..). I've decided to pursue a career as PA late into my college career, hence the poli sci degree. I plan on attending a community college to do my pre reqs. Last semester I my gpa was a 3.625 and I made deans. My cumulative GPA is 3.4 - I think i will be able to bring this up because most of my remaining classes are rather easy and relaxed.


I also am mentor through a community outreach. I engage youth in community based activities to help them achieve their goals. I also help them develop independent living skills, enrich their socialization and provide support to not only the child/young adult (ages 5-21) but their parents as well. I work hand in hand with licensed clinicians, behavioral assistants and in home therapist. I was wondering if this would count towards patient care hours? The program is amazing and super rewarding.


I also have a pretty good relationship with my PA. She told me I can shadow her whenever I want and I am 100% she would write a recommendation. I also have close connections to a few professors.


I am nervous about my overall science GPA once I start the classes. I have not taken sciences since high school - it's been a few years. I'm hoping with taking them at a community college will be slower paced and more 1 on 1 with the smaller class sizes.


I'm sorry for the long question. I'm just stressing, I'm sure you all have been here at one point so I'm sure you understand!


Any suggestions? Thoughts? I'll take anything!!


Thanks so much :)

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I'm not sure what your question is, though. You sound like you have a reasonable plan. Your mentoring would probably not count as direct healthcare experience, but it's still valuable. Make a plan to get a job working directly with patients while you are taking your pre-reqs. Your biggest hurdle will be to explain why you want to be a PA (versus a million other healthcare fields). That will be easier if you have experience with patients and with PA-Cs aside from your personal provider.


Also, this belongs in the Pre-PA section. ;)

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So I attended a community college for the first few years of my college degree. Don't count on community college being "easier" in any way or slower paced. It's the same standards as any other 4 year school. Yes, smaller class sizes and more one on one time with professors is a bonus.


I think your outreach in the community is awesome, but I don't think it will count towards HCE. You can find lists online of generally what counts. But nonetheless, this opportunity really helps you stand out as a candidate.


My advice is to shadow as much as possible. I'm talking 1000 hours if you can by the time you are applying. The more you have the better you look as far as being someone who knows this is the career for them. The LOR from the PA is invaluable and some schools even require it to be from at least 1 PA.


When do you plan to do the science courses? These may take you a few years. As long as you are a strong student the science classes shouldn't be too bad. Focus on boosting your cumulative for now and getting it as high as possible. Also, keep in mind the time limitation for the pre-reqs that they need to be within to be eligible. Most schools say they need to have been taken within 5 years of matriculation. This doesn't just include science classes and may include English, psychology, and math.


Stay determined and you'll be fine :)


Sent from my SM-G900T using Tapatalk

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Three recommendations:

1- Blow the prereqs out of the water. They're the courses programs check to see that you are prepared for the rigors, so show them you are.

2- Hands on healthcare experience. Known as PCE, nothing beats direct, hands on, patient care to show you know what you're getting into. Shadowing is great, but after a day or two with a PA, you can start to understand what they do. Hundreds of hours don't change that. You can shadow in different specialties, to get a grasp of differing scopes and environments. But, take care of patients. It's what you want to do as a PA, right? So start now.

3- Personal statement. It is the only part of your app that you have total control over, and one of the only ways to make you stand out. Write it, rewrite it, have it critiqued, rewrite it again.


Also, when you take your classes at the community college, ask for help. Often there is a tutoring center or aids to help. Don't be to proud, especially if you haven't taken a science class since high school. Only your ego and grades will suffer.

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As one former Political Science major to another, it can be done! I had a similar situation after working for a U.S. Senator for a few years. Honestly, I think my background helped me more than it hurt me, because it was a bit different. That said, when I decided to pursue PA school, the toughest science course I had taken in college was a weather course and I honestly didn't know if I could hack it.


My advice would be take a certification course that will allow you to start working and earning those patient contact hours while you take your pre-reqs. I took an EMT-B course, though I'd recommend a CNA course if I were to do it again. It's hard to get a job as an EMT-B, but I did land a rehab tech job as a result which works for direct contact hours.


Start slow: my first semester I could only take Gen Bio 1 and Gen Chem 1 because they were pre-reqs for everything else. After my first semester, I was a full-time student taking all science all the time for the next two years while working as a rehab tech at my local hospital every weekend. I didn't have a day off for months at a time. I'd be lying if I said I crushed all my pre-reqs, because it was tough transitioning my study habits but I made it through and I got in my first application cycle. Keep mentoring/volunteering because schools love to see your continued commitment to service! Plus, if it's rewarding work, it will keep you sane during this next chapter.


Good luck to you!

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The only thing you have left to do is to actually work in a clinic.  The thing is, you will absolutely never know if you are cut out for medicine until you have seen the ins and outs, the dull, the boring, the frustrating nuances that can only be seen by working in a clinic full time.  I'm talking about the monotony of filling scripts, the countless walk-ins, the self-diagnosing patients convinced that you are wrong, the paralegals and lawyers who think that buzzwords can force you into changing a diagnosis, the countless drug-seekers, the pre-bad-weather rush of those looking for a place to stay (good times in the er), battling with hospital admin over coding and patient panel sizes, non-compliance, repeat offenders, charting for 2-3 hours past your shift, battling with admin again over squeezing another 5 patients per day into your schedule, nurses who hate each other, allied staff who are obviously only there for hours and stats....


Large healthcare systems employ the bulk of medical professionals, and by that rationale you will, at one time or another, work for such a system.  The flavor du jour therein is corporate medicine...don't forget that treatment costs money and that money has to come from somewhere, hence the endless charting with ICD-10 for billing purposes.  These are the kind of things that burn out the new PAs/nurses/techs/docs because said person didn't know that's what he/she was getting into.


Case in point: I absolutely ruined a resident doc's day recently by asserting to her, after a lengthy and rather unprofessional argument, that she was required to sign off on a death certificate before she left the hospital, per hospital policy.  She was disgusted with me and my colleague...the reality is that she's just a medicine resident and has to follow policy and regulation just like everyone else.  The fact that she hasn't run into this yet is, to me, indicative that her tenure as a medical resident is the first real exposure she's had to the hospital environment, which is a crying shame.  This poor planning is the kind of thing that sours otherwise decent people to their since-lost ideal of treating patients for the sake of treating patients.


Tl;dr - do yourself a favor and get your hands dirty before you jump in with both feet.

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My number one would be to get a job in health care to make sure this is a field you want to be in! Can't tell you how many people think they wanna be a Doctor or PA based on prestige/money/helping people/glamourizing tv shows [insert reason here] and then when you actually get exposed to what its all about they are completely turned off or ill equipped for it. Good luck on your journey and take it one step at a time!

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