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How can I get direct patient experience

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I'm planning on applying to PA school the next cycle. I realize that I don't have many direct patient hours so I wanted to become a medical assistant. I quickly learned that regardless of which path I choose, it takes about 8-12 months to even become certified and this doesn't even guarantee and job. 

How can I get around this?

I'm currently a medical scribe and have been for a year and a half. The staff lets us do MA stuff but this is not what our job description states. 

Would this be a problem when they are looking at my application. My caspa GPA has not been verified but I currently have a 3.4 (3.54 if you count one repeated class which was worth 5 credits unfortunately)

So I know the best way to increase my odds is by gaining experience.

Would you recommend I just get more scribe hours in different specialties (which is a favorable option) 

I was also going to shadow atleast 6 PAs in different specialties about 10-15 hours each.

Are there any programs that are about 1-3 months that I can do so I can gain that experience and not waste a whole another year?

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Most programs tend to treat scribing as 1:1 patient contact hours. Even though you aren't as hands on, you are experiencing the whole MD or PA or NP and patient interaction, which is arguably much more valuable than taking thousands of blood pressures as a MA (which at least is how I'm use to seeing MAs function). But roles vary depending on the State and from practice to practice. There should be a spot where you can describe what your role is in CASPA, and on your CV beyond "scribe."

As for more experience, volunteering at a free clinic or for an underserved population is always good, both personally and for your application. You may be able to get your foot in the door by volunteering at a hospital. Depending on the state, you could also look into CNA, in FL there are 1 week "crash courses" to get you certified, but I know in other states it can take several months. 

You can also look into EMS, but I think the shortest courses are 6 months to 1 year (they have changed it up since I went through so I'm not sure what is what anymore).

Shadowing is great, if you can get that much experience go for it. I had a nightmarish time finding anyone to shadow (PA or MD), every practice around was hospital affiliated, and required a contract with my University to let me shadow (which they didn't have). After maybe 100 phone calls, I finally found a couple leads through a friend of a friend sort of thing; and one of them lead to a full time job.

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One position that doesn't require certification is to become a Physical Therap Aide or Rehab Tech.  It is considered direct hands on care at almost every program.  It is what I did for 2+ years.

As for your medical scribe position with a mix of MA, I would make sure to mention that in your applications/Resumes. Make sure you emphasize that you were a scribe that also performed MA duties.  

Your GPA is about the average of an applicant. Mine was a 3.2 and got in, so you should be okay. 

I would not worry about the specialties you scribe in as opposed to the hours, but it can work in your advantage come interview time stating how you've been exposed to different specialties, but it's not make or break.

Also, I think that is too many PA's to shadow with too little hours.  I would focus on 2-3 at most with a substantial amount of hours granted your rapport with these PA's is excellent. The downside to shadowing so many PA's with so little hours is that if they write you an letter of recommedation it will be lackluster.  By shadowing a smaller amout of PA's but investing a ton of hours, along with a good relationship, they will write detailed and excellent LOR's: which are paramount in landing those interviews since these reviews about you are coming from fellow PA's. Also, make sure to be awesome at work so that one of your superiors can also write a great LOR since some schools like to see something inolving your clinical work setting.

Also, volunteer at a free clinic or hospital. Bust your ass and network, and those LOR's should be no problem to get.

I can't tell you how many people don't realize that a detailed, positive LOR can make or break you application. If it sounds generic it won't matter who wrote it, even if it is a world-renowned doctor/PA.

Did I mention how important those LOR's are? Thankfully, I only had to do two interviews to get an acceptance, but my letters of recommendation were always brought up by the admissions directors at each program.


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  • 4 weeks later...

@Anachronist Thank you so much! I have been looking into those positions! They're just a bit difficult to actually land! I have an interview with a free clinic coming soon so I'm excited about that as well!

@JD2012 Thank you for that advice as well! It really does help! I was more concerned about the hours but didn't put as much emphasis on the the LOR aspect of it! I will definitely work on that!

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