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Pre-PA Advice


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Hi Everyone, I graduated a couple years ago with a bachelors degree in Biology and completed all of the prereqs for PA school. I’m thinking about going back to school again to become a PA. However, I am unsure about my ability to practice clinically after graduation. Classroom learning and shadowing can be very different from succeeding on the job as a working PA. Is there a job I can take on before PA school where I can test out my ability to diagnose and handle stress in a medical situation? I’m looking at CNA, PCT, and MA, and I’m open to any other ideas. Thanks!

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I am sure a lot of people feel the same way.  Every job has different stressors and amount of stress.  I was only just accepted into PA school so I can not say for sure, but I would assume that it varies among the various PA specialties etc.  However, if you are looking for a stressful job to test the waters...I know one with copious amounts of turnover for various reasons; inadequate staff, high aquity patients, time restraints, shift length (have had many shifts of nonstop work for 16-17 hours, with only 15 minute lunch or less), physically demanding and get back and joint pain fast (some heavy patients out there), work load balance and many patients can be super ornery.  Hemodialysis technician.

CCHTs watch up to 4 of their own patients and help monitor over 20+ patients in the units, multiple shifts of patients so see up to 12 of your own daily.  You set up and start IVs, get their weights, blood pressures, temperatures, take blood labs, handle CVCs, give heparin etc all the while making sure the machines, bicarbonate, potassium baths and water all are made and the devices that distribute them are working correctly.  Some cases have to respond to codes, strokes and PEs (No reason for a PE to occur unless the CCHT or nurse is not doing their job well).  I would say there are daily instances where patients become hypotensive and crash on you and you need to be fast with giving fluids etc etc.  You have limited time to get patients on and off.  Can't forget the charting!

Let me be clear that you cannot diagnose anything, CCHTs and PCTs are not PAs, NPs or Doctors.  You can only react to what you see.  Also no PAs, NPs or Doctors around at outpatient clinics, it is CCHTs/PCTs and nurses.  Nurses focus on medications, fluid assessments and various paperwork while CCHTs do the above.  

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I would say try an EMT. It is what you make it. You can find a very relaxed position doing interfacility transport or you can get into the ER or a 911 ambulance. The training can be done in a month (accelerated programs) and you will get hands on as soon as you start. Its a great way to get quality healthcare experience since in a way you have your own patients. I chose this route because i didnt want to clean poop all day as a CNA. Nothing wrong with that job and it’s definitely needed but I knew what i wanted from my experience and what i didnt want. Good luck. 

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If you're looking for a rapid path into something, I second the EMT-Basic route in a 911-based system (not inter-facility transport). It will give you the most direct patient care experience, where you are actually making decisions about how to manage your patient without direct orders from a provider (technically, you operate under protocols and standing orders). You will encounter the widest range of patient populations and get exposed to all manner of medical emergencies. The training can be done in about a month in some accelerated programs, or in one college semester's time for more traditional programs.

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