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Need Advice - What is more important, prereqs or health care experience?


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Hi everyone!!

I was looking for some advice on what I should do before I apply to PA school next year. I am graduating this year with a bachelors in biological sciences and have done the basic prereqs for the schools I plan to apply to. Here is my background:

 

Undergraduate degree: Biological Sciences

Science GPA ~ 3.56

Overall GPA ~3.66

GRE ~ I have not taken it yet, but I plan to this summer

HCE ~ 300 hours as a hospital volunteer so far

 

The PA schools that I plan to apply to require at least 2 courses in chemistry. Since I was a biology major, I was not required to take many chemistry classes, so I have only taken 2 courses for general chemistry and a course in organic chemistry. I technically meet the requirements, but I am worried that I do not look very competitive. I have taken other medical related courses such as immunology and various neuroscience classes as I specifically want to work in the neurology department.

As for HCE, I plan to work as a medical lab technician after I graduate while still volunteering at the hospital. I am also about to shadow a PA and will try to shadow more before next year.

 

Going back to my question, I was originally thinking of taking biochemistry at a community college in the summer after graduating. The issue is that it may not transfer as a biochemistry credit and instead as a biochemistry elective. I could take it at a university, but it will definitely be more expensive and I am not sure that I can afford it right after graduation.

 

Do you think I should take the biochemistry course at a community college or should I just concentrate on my HCE instead? If I take the class, it will delay me from working as a med tech for a couple of months. If I work as a med tech directly after graduating, though, I will likely have 2000+ HCE hours by the time I apply to the schools next year. The schools I was looking at only require 500 hours, so I will be well over that, but do you think having more HCE will cover for not taking other chemistry classes?

 

Thank you in advance!!

 

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Best way to approach this would be to first create a list of PA schools you're interested in and/or meet the requirements. You do not technically meet the chem requirement...you met the requirement. 

 

To be honest, this is a confusing question. Pre-reqs and HCE go hand in hand because 1: your application won't even be looked at without completing all the pre-reqs and 2: HCE puts you on a level playing field with other applicants. So they're both tremendously important.

 

Btw, them listing only requiring 500 hours only filter out those who do not meet the minimum. But remember you will be going up against those with 500+...make that 1000-25K+ hours of HCE.

 

Why not do both - gain the hours while completing the pre-reqs? Lots of people including myself worked ~30+/- hours per week while completing them.  

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Will you have any direct patient care experience (meaning, actually touching a patient - referred to as PCH/PCE)? I'm not sure what your med tech job will entail. If not, then beware that that will eliminate you from the consideration of many schools as that's what they are usually looking for in addition to the HCE. I agree with the advice given above. Start by looking at the websites of the schools you are interested in and see what they require for that portion of the application. I recommend creating a spreadsheet to keep track of all the schools because most tend to have different requirements.

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Everyone else has given great advice - but I'll chime in as an MT.  It's not the *best* HCE only because it doesn't have the same hands-on/direct patient care component that other HCE might (CNA/EMT/etc).  I had almost 7 years of it with leadership experience and a long foray in a phlebotomy environment with stellar grades and well over the minimum pre-reqs  - so I got away with it.  Some schools actually list MT as an appropriate HCE - I favored those schools when applying.

 

If you can do both, great.  If you have to pick one to focus on, worry about your HCE.  Keep in mind that although you meet the minimums for the schools you want to apply to, students also applying to those programs may be meeting higher minimum standards for other programs they apply to.  Honestly, 2000 hrs HCE is really an unspoken minimum.  Some schools require it and so applicants should consider that everyone else may have that much, also.

 

When I was doing pre-reqs to apply I was working 40 hrs a week and took 10+ credits (and I know some on this forum would put that to shame with the work/academic/family load they balanced) so you should easily be able to work and take 1 course.  As long as the community college is accredited (most are) and it isn't a 'survey' course,  take it.  It can't hurt for applying and it certainly won't hurt as a base for being in PA school.

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It looks like you GPA is solid, my advice would be to spend your time getting HCE. Programs will most likely view HCE as an EMT or MA more favorably than volunteering, some schools don't even accept volunteer hours as HCE. Take a class in one of these (typically 16 weeks) and acquire more HCE. As Diggy mentioned you will be going up against candidates with HCE numbers from 2,000-25,000, anything you can do to get your numbers close to or above 2,000 the better.

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Thank you so much for the advice! 

I really do appreciate it! 

 

I was worried about the med tech experience not counting as well, but most of the schools I plan to apply to list it as acceptable HCE. Still, I do agree that it is not the best way to get experience.

 

Does anyone know of patient-related HCE someone can do with a biology degree? I find that most of them require additional certification. I am willing to do a short course if I have to, such as the one that milesHenson1 mentioned. However, is there a way to start gaining patient experience right away? I just want to make sure I am using my time wisely as I want to try applying next spring. 

 

Thank you again!

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Thank you so much for the advice! 

I really do appreciate it! 

 

I was worried about the med tech experience not counting as well, but most of the schools I plan to apply to list it as acceptable HCE. Still, I do agree that it is not the best way to get experience.

 

Does anyone know of patient-related HCE someone can do with a biology degree? I find that most of them require additional certification. I am willing to do a short course if I have to, such as the one that milesHenson1 mentioned. However, is there a way to start gaining patient experience right away? I just want to make sure I am using my time wisely as I want to try applying next spring. 

 

Thank you again!

You might be able to get hired as a patient care tech (PCT) if they will train/certify you on the job.  Not true for every location but that's a good job search term.  Phlebotomy is the same way as long as the state/employer doesn't require certification a lot of places will train you on the job.  Not the best but it is hands on.

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Thank you so much for the advice! 

I really do appreciate it! 

 

I was worried about the med tech experience not counting as well, but most of the schools I plan to apply to list it as acceptable HCE. Still, I do agree that it is not the best way to get experience.

 

Does anyone know of patient-related HCE someone can do with a biology degree? I find that most of them require additional certification. I am willing to do a short course if I have to, such as the one that milesHenson1 mentioned. However, is there a way to start gaining patient experience right away? I just want to make sure I am using my time wisely as I want to try applying next spring. 

 

Thank you again!

 

Some places will train you on the job as a CNA/PCT/aide or whatever they want to call it. You can check indeed for job listings. They will state if they want a certification or not. Otherwise, you can take an actual CNA class and be certified first. I took a 6 week course over the summer at a community college for mine so you might also look into that. EMT is also a one semester course that you could consider. I believe those are the most common sources of gaining PCH because the training is so short.

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I'm curious... I'm currently taking classes toward my CNA certification and the majority of my training is done on-the-job. Even though I am not certified during these 200 hours, I can still list that as direct PCE, correct? Just from what you mentioned above about PCTs being trained while working, I don't see why this shouldn't count.

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