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Applying to PA school/ill parent

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Hi everyone. I'm hoping someone can give me some insight on my particular situation. I graduated with a B.S. in biomedical sciences from a state school in May 2016 and have been working as a medical scribe to get my hours as well as volunteering. Everything was on track, however in September my mom was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and I am now struggling to decide between applying to PA school this upcoming cycle or if I should wait. She is currently on a medication that could extend her time frame, which can be anywhere from one year to many years depending on how well she responds to treatment. I know she would want me to continue on with my education and to see me succeed, however I worry about not being able to be there for her when it gets bad. I would only apply to schools within a 45 minute driving distance so I can come back home often or live at home. 


I know how demanding PA school can be and I know it will take up most of my time, time that is now very precious to both me and my family. However I also know that once she is gone, I need to have something to keep me going. At first I totally put everything off and put PA school on the back burner, however now that I am re-thinking it I am completely torn on what to do. What I am concerned about is the support I will receive from the school, and how much the mental/emotional toll may take on my performance in classes. She is my biggest support system and I know it will be very difficult if and when things get bad while trying to complete my schooling. Does anyone think it would be a good idea to speak with someone from the admissions office directly about my situation? Any opinions or insight would help a lot. Thanks. 

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Hey Slamm,


I'm sorry to hear of your Mother's diagnosis. I'm sure it has been very tough to cope with.


I've not personally experienced what you're going through, so my advice comes with a grain of salt but I would recommend you give applying a go during the next admissions cycle. You never know with advanced treatment what the future has in store for your Mom. With that said, what Mother wouldn't want to see her child get into a graduate medical program and see her hard work come to fruition?


In regards to handling PA school if your Mothers health were to take a turn, you could always take a personal leave of absence and graduate at a later time. This isn't punitive, is something that every school offers and affords you the ability to pursue your academic goals while also having the peace of mind to know you can always hit pause on your training depending on what the future has in store. 


All the best with your upcoming decisions.

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I'm sorry to hear about your mom. As someone who has been through a very similar situation with my father passing from cancer, I am happy to shed some light on dealing with situations such as these based on my own personal experience.

The thing you need to keep in mind is this- you do not get this time back. You are not going to regret spending extra time with your mom during her last months or years. You are right- she may live much longer than the doctor's estimation, but she may live a much shorter duration. There is no way of knowing. Any professional program, including PA school and the application process, is very stressful. You do not want to have your mother's health at the back of your mind all the time while trying to absorb so much information. Not to mention, when she does pass, you will absolutely not want to deal with the pressure of a leave of absence and stressing about how long you can take off school, whether the faculty approves, etc. You're absolutely right about being able to maintain performance in classes, exams, etc. A terminal illness is already very painful to deal with as a loved one; PA school will be there in another year or two. The profession isn't going anywhere. :)

Hope this helps. Hang in there!

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While programs do not go out of their way to create stressful situations, PA school tends to be very stressful at times. My usual advice to incoming students is to make sure they do everything possible to eliminate possible causes of stress outside of school. As much as possible, make sure relationships are where they need to be, the car is in good shape, finances are stable, etc. 

If you want to see what happens during an admissions cycle, you can always go through the admissions process, see how things are going, and if need be ask to defer admission for a year. Not all programs would allow this option, but for a serious reason like yours I would think they would.

I would also look into school policy about taking leave if need be. There's nothing wrong about stepping away if you have a big problem in your personal life. Just beware of consequences on student loans.

Good luck!

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