Redirectedinlife

Considering a career as a PA; higher power detoured my path?!

7 posts in this topic

Dear all:

I would like for you to enlighten me about the PA profession if you have the time and willing to do so. I learned about being a PA via a hospital stay my younger brother had who is wheelchair and bedridden; he has CP, a trach, and a feeding tube. He was very ill and a young gal came to assess him. I addressed her as Dr., she replied she was a PA-C and I thought that was great how she did almost all of what her supervising MD does. Additionally, I live in IL, far south suburbs of Chicago.

About me: I have a BS in accounting from a private institution based in Chicago class of 2010. Moreover, I recently lost my job, the house I purchased, and moved back home @ 33 years old with 60k of student loan debt for that undergrad degree. I have interviewed for the past 5 months and cannot land a job even with the experience in accounting I possess. I'm taking this as a sign that this field may not be for me. Therefore, I am looking into the PA profession as a second career. However, I have no clue how to obtain HCE or shadow a PA. I phoned Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and they denied shadowing a PA due to HIPPA and hospital policy. Furthermore, I am a bit squeamish about blood and I hate needles. Especially when my blood is drawn I sweat; been occurring ever since I was a child. Why PA as a career? Well, I enjoy the idea of being able to diagnose, write RX, order labs as a PA. Plus, being able to treat someone pre and post illness is an amazing feat. Additionally, I am fluent in oral and written Spanish; so, I am capable of aiding more individuals

1.That being said, can anyone become a PA?

2. Is there job security being a PA and are you happy with this career? (2 most important elements for me!)

3. I'm embarrassed, but my squeamish to blood and hate for needles preclude a career in medicine?

4. Based on research PAs can switch specialties which I find a big plus. MDs cannot.  I have no clue what niche I would specialize. 

Thank you to those that opined and steered me in the right direction!

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Welcome to the journey! I suspect you will find more information in the Pre-PA forum.

I changed careers when I was much older than you; that's not an issue really. Neither I nor anyone else can answer your questions from your perspective; you need more input. You should definitely shadow a PA. Every state has a PA academy and some of them are equipped to direct you to working PAs, some of whom might be willing to let you shadow them. In Illinois, it's the Illinois Academy of PAs and their contact info is below:

Your fear of blood might be an issue; don't view it as a permanent impediment. There are PAs who practice in psychiatry and the like, but all have to go through the complete gamut of training, including gross anatomy in school and rotations in emergency medicine, surgery, and the like. Many students overcome their natural fears when it's you who has to do the procedure, rather than watch someone perform it on themselves or loved ones.

Don't go leaping into the wrong profession: collect data. You can read, you can ask others, but the best way to learn is to put yourself in a new situation -- even in a small way -- and see how it makes you feel.

Good luck!

Illinois Academy of PAs | IAPA

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Redirected,

I work in Naperville. If you are interested in traveling up that far (or maybe not that far, I don't know what you consider far south suburbs) for shadowing, I think my organization still allows it. I have had students shadow in previous years. Send me a message if this would work for you and I will give you my contact information and discuss it with my clinic manager.

I can not help you with your aversion to blood, however. You will be exposed to a lot of it, both in your rotations should you get in to PA school, as well as in most areas of medicine. Maybe psych is an option if you can tough out rotations? 

 

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I would make sure you do some shadowing with someone who does see blood, pus, foul smelling wounds, c-diff, etc and make sure your can make it through the program. Even if you specialize in something that never sees that kind of thing, you will surely see it in rotations (ER, surgery, OB) and will have to be able to make it through a cadaver lab for anatomy. My sister thought, at one point, that she wanted to be a nurse or dental hygienist. She did some shadowing and actually fainted so, she works in banking now, haha. Maybe to start, you could watch some surgeries or abscess I&Ds on YouTube just to feel it out? I think if you find yourself more excited about he medicine or the procedure than worried about the gross side of it, then you know this is for you. That being said, I have yet to get over being bothered by insects. I hate the chief complaint of "insect crawled into ear" because I'm so worried it will be a cockroach. I know we've had homeless people come in with maggot infested wounds and I haven't been the one to see them, yet. Might have to find a space suit if I ever do have that patient...

No one likes being stuck with needles (well, not no one...), but I completely got over that in class when we had to practice IVs and injections on each other. You just have to change the way you think about it and realize you're not actually being injured and it really isn't pain, just a small amount of discomfort. 

Sounds like you're at the stage of figuring out if medicine is really the path for you. If it is, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to become a PA! I have a friend who was a high school Spanish teacher and one who worked in PR, prior to PA school.  

Good luck!

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It has to be a bit of a calling these days. Medicine is so corporatized and controlled by administrators and insurance companies that if you don't feel some....calling...then you may grow to hate it. If you feel a real drive to help people and that satisfaction will outweigh the headaches then start looking into it.

You never know if you will get over being squeemish about fluids and needles. Some do and some don't. About 100 years ago when I was becoming a medic the first day of training, before we started anything else, they showed a movie of combat surgical operations in Vietnam. Anyone who fainted, barfed, or just said "hell no" was invited to leave the class and find another field. It was a harsh but effective way to sort things out.

If you want to proceed call around, call your state PA society, ask your doctor or PA until you find someone who will let you shadow. That will give you a better idea of whether or not this is for you.

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I too had difficulty finding practices that would allow shadowing. I cold-called random offices and no one would allow it, siting HIPAA. I ended up calling my own health care provider who was/is a PA and they welcomed it. I also joined a club in school that invited an orthopedic surgeon to speak about their career. They also allowed me to shadow, and after graduating, I ended up going into ortho myself.

 

The PA career can be a great career for the right person. Like the others said, do your homework and see what the career is like for yourself. Consider volunteering at a hospital to gain more valuable  experience and start developing relationships with nurses and providers. Consider using your bilingual skills as an interpreter or scribe to also get your foot in the door.

 

Good luck!

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1. Can anyone become a PA?

A conundrum of a question. Can anyone become a PA - sure. If someone has the grades, healthcare experience, strong application and interview skills. The incoming classes are becoming more and more competitive, but it is possible for anyone to become a PA if they're willing to put in the work required to become competitive. 

2. Is there job security being a PA and are you happy with this career? (2 most important elements for me!)

There are some who proclaim the sky is falling, but for the most part there is considerable job security being a PA. I'm very happy with my decision. I work for a great organization and have a wonderful working relationship with the physicians and administration team. If I had it to do over again, I would still have pursued becoming a PA.

3. I'm embarrassed, but my squeamish to blood and hate for needles preclude a career in medicine?

The squeamishness can be unlearned. It goes away with exposure. It might not seem possible to you now, but it does go away. The tricks are diversion thought processes, eating a good sized breakfast and reminding yourself why the procedure is being done.

4. Based on research PAs can switch specialties which I find a big plus. MDs cannot.  I have no clue what niche I would specialize. 

PAs can switch specialties, but this isn't necessarily the norm of the profession. Switching a specialty after a few years requires a couple of variables:

  •  A desire for learning a new area of medicine from the ground up. It's sometimes tough to go back to the novice role when you're in the thick of things in an area of medicine and then uproot
  • A physician led team willing to train you from the ground up. They're out there, and often you have acquired PA skills that are desired even if you don't have experience in the new field
  • A willingness to take a pay cut. You often won't be able to command the same salary you've earned prior to switching
  • With that said, it certainly is possible and I know of PAs who have done it, myself included.

As others mentioned, first step is shadowing a PA and knocking out the pre-req courses.

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