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I'm not sure what decision I should make. Can you guys help me out?


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Hello,

I would like to receive your guys' advice on this dilemma I have.  I just decided that I wanted to get into the Physician Assistant profession this past year. I am going into my third year of undergrad. I am a Biology major.  I understand for PA school you have to obtain an adequate amount of health care hours. As of today, I have not done anything yet to obtain those hours, but I plan on doing something soon. I am thinking about attending a Phlebotomy or CNA program to obtain a certificate and start pursuing that. However, I don't believe I'll be able to obtain an adequate amount of health care hours in just two years. I was thinking about taking a year off next year, attend a program, earn my certificate, find a job and work full time for the rest of the year, and then once I go back to school cut back to part time for the remainder of my studies. Or I was thinking I shouldn't take a year off, just go ahead and finish up undergrad, and then after I graduate work for a few years to obtain some healthcare experience while paying off my undergrad student loans monthly, then applying for PA school. Which one sounds like a better plan?

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Of your two options, I would recommend finishing school first. You're there and optimized to be a student. You might get some training for a job for your HCE now. I know lots of students who took time off after graduation to get experience.

 

 

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Definitely finish your school first. That is above all else, the most important thing. There's always time to find a job that has PCE and work for however long you think necessary before applying to grad school. And honestly, you're better off and more likely to get a job once you've gotten your BS anyway.

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Of the options, you have given I would say finish school first. But, why not take a CNA course over summer if available. Then get a job work part time, on some weekends and breaks and start getting your hours. This also helps because it gives you an idea of whether or not you want to work in the field. If this option would work and not interfere with your schoolwork/grades go for it! (Once you graduate with great grades you will have experience which can help if you want to find a more fitting full-time job if you are not ready to apply yet.)

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I did my CNA my summer semester between junior and senior year of undergrad. Phlebotomy, CNA, and EMT usually have summer options at an accelerated pace so I would look into your community colleges into those options. There are some positions that don't require certificates either but allow you to have some experience with patients. Most only require basic life support and at my local hospital they include health unit coordinator, transporter, and culinary. Additionally some nonprofit clinics allow exposure to patients and are more leintent on licensure. For example, I do intake of vitals at one clinic and also get to assist in lab. Keep an eye out for opportunities in your community. I found out about the clinic through the pre-pa club at my university. 

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Once in school, stay in school.  From an admissions perspective, the question WILL be asked why you left school to get "education" in healthcare that is easily obtainable during summer sessions, in the evening, or by various other routes.  One of the key factors PA schools look at is ability for a perspective student to handle workload while maintaining a work/life balance while in school.  Taking a year off will signal you are indecisive about what you want and in reality, if you are young you will not be expected to have a lot of experience anyway.  Many schools require no prior health care experience - just an understanding of the profession and why YOU want to be a PA.  Being an EMT pigeon holes you into the EMT/Emergency Medicine route in the eyes of admission committees, and being an LNA begs the question "why not nursing school?"  Remember, the dirty secret of PA programs is that they want students who can perform academically and pass the PANCE at the end so their pass rates look good.  I've sat on many PA programs admission boards, have read thousands of applications, and have served as faculty at two of them. 

Stay in school.  Go volunteer in something you believe in that is to the betterment of humanity.  It'll make you a better candidate than the average candidate who is an "EMT" with no significant experience yet somehow thinks they know what they are doing because they learned technical skills in a 3 month class... (no disrespect intended to EMTs - I am one and have been one for 27 years).

G

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A slightly different perspective.  If I was sitting on the admissions committee (and I have for several years) I wouldn't question why you held off completing your degree to get a certification.  This doesn't appear indecisive to me, because it is directly working towards your goal of getting into PA school.  However, I agree that you can easily obtain one of these certifications and start working part-time while finishing school and then go full-time.  This will give you the option to apply to schools that don't require HCE while you are gaining experience for those that do.  Become a LNA/CNA/MA doesn't beg the question to me at all about why not go into nursing.  It doesn't because this is a question I consider to all applicants.  Why not nursing/MD/DO/NP?  I would want to know you have thought through all your options to get into medicine/nursing and see what your answer is. 

I highly agree with taking a better candidate over and average EMT candidate.  Everyone is doing what you are to gain experience.  So, being an EMT/phlebo/MA/CNA isn't going to make the average candidate stand out anymore. 

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On 7/12/2017 at 2:34 AM, kargiver said:

Once in school, stay in school.  From an admissions perspective, the question WILL be asked why you left school to get "education" in healthcare that is easily obtainable during summer sessions, in the evening, or by various other routes.  One of the key factors PA schools look at is ability for a perspective student to handle workload while maintaining a work/life balance while in school.  Taking a year off will signal you are indecisive about what you want and in reality, if you are young you will not be expected to have a lot of experience anyway.  Many schools require no prior health care experience - just an understanding of the profession and why YOU want to be a PA.  Being an EMT pigeon holes you into the EMT/Emergency Medicine route in the eyes of admission committees, and being an LNA begs the question "why not nursing school?"  Remember, the dirty secret of PA programs is that they want students who can perform academically and pass the PANCE at the end so their pass rates look good.  I've sat on many PA programs admission boards, have read thousands of applications, and have served as faculty at two of them. 

Stay in school.  Go volunteer in something you believe in that is to the betterment of humanity.  It'll make you a better candidate than the average candidate who is an "EMT" with no significant experience yet somehow thinks they know what they are doing because they learned technical skills in a 3 month class... (no disrespect intended to EMTs - I am one and have been one for 27 years).

G

If the case of adcoms pigeon-holing EMTs into only EM careers is truly the case, that is really sad. Or even the initial suspicion that LNA/CNAs are secretly more apt for nursing- I don't get how adcoms request 1000+ hours plus of HCE/PCE but cannot accept the most common/normal ways to get these? How is an undergraduate supposed to find a job working alongside a PA whilst getting paid, or even volunteer with the PA/physician allowing them to do things? That's just not typically how the world works, most oftentimes than not you need a certificate of some sort to lay hands on any patient in the US.. This is most easiest/quickly done from an undergrad POV as an EMT/CNA/med assist.

The double edged swords with adcoms never seems to end in this case. Really is creating the impression that there is some sort of unattainable ideal that these faculty members are expecting out of matriculating seniors or anyone for that matter.

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As many others have stated, I would advise you to finish your undergrad and keep your grades strong while you do so, as this will make your journey of getting into PA school much easier to achieve. You can also do other things to help prepare for PA school while you finish undergrad, like finding PAs to shadow, and potentially volunteering in medically related settings (or working part-time as others have stated). I was a nontraditional student so it wasn't the same situation as yours, but I gained some of my PCE as a volunteer at a free primary care clinic for the medically under-served while I was in school. I started volunteering in an admin role and treated it like a job, and then I was soon trained OTJ as a medical assistant doing direct patient care (my state doesn't require a formal certification for medical assistants, so on the job training with physician supervision is fine). I also found some PAs to shadow who were very accommodating and willing to teach while I finished up my undergrad and PA school prerequisites; PA schools look favorably upon shadowing and some require it, so this is a good place to start (plus the whole idea that it will let you know quickly if it is a career you could see yourself doing). This also led to a full time job as a medical assistant at one of the clinics I had shadowed at, which is where I have been working for the last few months while I wait to start PA school in August.

So there are ways to get experience and make yourself a more competitive applicant without taking a break from school (though I would recommend getting a cert over the summer if possible, as it will make things easier on you in the long run). But again, while patient care experience is important, don't put your studies on the back burner in order to get it; focus on keeping your grades up and then you can work later to get good experience before PA school. 

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Most people do the latter of the two you listed, it's called a gap year. I am actually in the same boat as you. I just graduated this May and I have no HCE. I just got a job as a scribe and I will be doing that work for my HCE for the next year or so. I also will be preparing to take the GRE during this time and I am taking A&P I and II. The gap year is to prepare yourself for the grad/med school.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a simple question that can help you answer this yourself. Why do you want to be a Physician Assistant? You see, this can help you quite a bit if you think about it. You said you decided to pursue the PA profession. That is fantastic! But why? Why spend 2 years getting healthcare hours, why spend 2 more years attending PA school. Why go through all that? If you can answer that question, I think you will find your answer. As for some advice- Do not stop going to school. Life happens, and as they say, its Murphys law. (Whatever can go wrong, will). I say keep attending undergrad, work in healthcare, volunteer in healthcare and really figure out WHY PA. That is the biggest question you will face when you decide to apply, so start figuring that out and you will be off on the right foot. I wish you the best! 

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/13/2017 at 5:12 PM, mmchick said:

If the case of adcoms pigeon-holing EMTs into only EM careers is truly the case, that is really sad. Or even the initial suspicion that LNA/CNAs are secretly more apt for nursing- I don't get how adcoms request 1000+ hours plus of HCE/PCE but cannot accept the most common/normal ways to get these? How is an undergraduate supposed to find a job working alongside a PA whilst getting paid, or even volunteer with the PA/physician allowing them to do things? That's just not typically how the world works, most oftentimes than not you need a certificate of some sort to lay hands on any patient in the US.. This is most easiest/quickly done from an undergrad POV as an EMT/CNA/med assist.

The double edged swords with adcoms never seems to end in this case. Really is creating the impression that there is some sort of unattainable ideal that these faculty members are expecting out of matriculating seniors or anyone for that matter.

Adcomms are a fickle thing and are a direct reflection of the program for which they are selecting.  For example, I sit on 3 different committees - each school has differing requirements. Depending on the schools requirements, it alters the prism by which I look at applicants.  Based on what I see, I judge whether person X will do better at school A or somewhere else, based on background, academic performance, prior HCE (if needed), prior work history, etc.  

There is no singluar path to PA school admission - the only key is knowing your target audience and tailoring to them appropriately.  This is what I would do if applying to school again... and once in I wouldn't leave.

G

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I have been involved in adcoms at two schools and see no evidence that experience as an EMT pidgeon-holes people into emergency medicine. I personally am an example and I know of many others who ended up in ortho, cardiology, pulmonology, family practice, etc. And there's nothing wrong with those who decide to go into EM.

 

I still feel that the EMT route is a great one for experience and self-confidence. And one part of that confidence is deciding for yourself what field you want to go into next!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

 

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