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Hi, everyone. I’m going to attempt becoming a PA and need some advice. I have a good idea on what I’ll be doing to attempt getting into programs, so I’ll go ahead and give you my estimated credentials when applying to a program, sometime in the next 4 years.

 
Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Health Sciences from Arizona State University.
3.6 GPA
Standard GRE scores (haven’t taken any yet, but to play it safe, I’ll just say I’ve hypothetically scored average or slightly above average)
Surgical Technician degree from a local technical college with ~ 2,000 hours clinical experience with ~ 500 hours of volunteer hospital-related work.
Seeking to become a Surgical Physician Assistant.
 
My main concern is that I’ll be attending ASU Online. I live in Georgia, so I’m sure the topic will be brought up and if I moved here, took online classes, etc. I’m completely content with online classes and don’t think they’ll harm my chances. I’ve inquired to PA programs near me, and they have all said they accept online programs like I’m pursuing, but that doesn’t let me know if someone would be deemed more competitive if they had similar credentials as me but in a physical campus. For my labs (required for PA program acceptance), I will actually have to fly out of state and attend those in person in an accelerated fashion specifically designed for out of state online students, so I’m still getting that physical lab presence, and it’s from a highly respected university.
 
With all that being said, I currently have a job in aviation with a Fortune 500 company - I know, totally different world. My point is that I make really good money for my age. I’m 24 and made a little over $60,000 last year, which is very good in Georgia. So I don’t want to leave my current job to pursue school in a more traditional sense. I’m actually attending two colleges simultaneously - the local tech college for my Surgical Technician degree and ASU.
 
I’ve just started on my ST program, which will take about 18 months. In this time, I can continue to go to ASU Online, work towards my bachelor’s, and save up as much money as possible from my job. After I complete the ST program, I’ll leave my current job to gain some clinical experience. I’ll have about 2-3 years left for me to finish my bachelors, which will give me plenty of time to rack up those required clinical hours.
 
Sorry to rant, but I just wanted to get everything out there in a single post. Do you guys think I’m on the right track? How do you feel about me getting an online degree from ASU while simultaneously working for clinical experience? Does getting a degree part-time look less competitive than someone who’s going to college full time? How do you feel about my credentials?
 
Answers to any questions are highly appreciated! Thanks again.

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1 hour ago, cemetra said:

(2) How do you feel about me getting an online degree from ASU while simultaneously working for clinical experience? (1) Does getting a degree part-time look less competitive than someone who’s going to college full time? (3) How do you feel about my credentials?

(1) People work and go to school all the time, I did and it does not look bad.

(2)  That said, If I were an admissions person I would probably pick a student who took courses on a campus rather than solely online for four years.  There is a difference from taking tests online in the comfort of your own home eating a bowl of frosted flakes and taking tests in a room under the nose of faculty.  Whether or not people want to admit it the ability to cheat and pass exams is more likely in online courses and it would be naive to think that admissions people don't consider this during the application process.  Which is probably why many require in person tests and labs.   When you have access to multiple computers you can have the answers to all the questions easily without having to put it work to actually learn.  I think this is why so many people were destroyed initially in my organic chemistry courses at my CC, because they thought that hybrid-online course meant online tests with "secure browser."  I get that your ST stuff is at the local CC and in person, but I am going to say that a surgical tech is not going to need to learn Biochemistry/Organic Chemistry/Genetics/Cell Biology, maybe I am wrong.  (I would think these would be important to do in person)

(3) Your credentials are speculative as you mentioned.  A projected 3.6 GPA, I assume both cGPA and sGPA would be respectable.  But since you have a plan, you should be able to focus harder and better than those that do not have a plan.  

As far as surgical technician, seems like a fair plan, but you don't need this to get direct patient care experience.  Sure, if you want to become a surgical PA, maybe that can show you what that may be like, I really don't know.  I became a dialysis technician, with no need to get a certificate and learned a lot on the job.  Starting IVs, taking blood pressures, weights, making decisions on how much fluid to take off of patients, responding to codes, strokes, hypotensive episodes, administering certain medications like heparin, taking care of CVCs blah blah blah, you get the point.  My main point would be why not just nail down the degree and get a work with direct patient care when ever it is comfortable for you rather than an getting an associates as an ST.  Seems like time wasted if you think you know what you already want to do as a PA.

1 hour ago, cemetra said:

For my labs (required for PA program acceptance), I will actually have to fly out of state and attend those in person in an accelerated fashion specifically designed for out of state online students, so I’m still getting that physical lab presence, and it’s from a highly respected university.

More power to you...but as I said above with the tests.  

Best of luck to you.

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5 hours ago, Ket131 said:

As far as surgical technician, seems like a fair plan, but you don't need this to get direct patient care experience.  Sure, if you want to become a surgical PA, maybe that can show you what that may be like, I really don't know.  I became a dialysis technician, with no need to get a certificate and learned a lot on the job.  Starting IVs, taking blood pressures, weights, making decisions on how much fluid to take off of patients, responding to codes, strokes, hypotensive episodes, administering certain medications like heparin, taking care of CVCs blah blah blah, you get the point.  My main point would be why not just nail down the degree and get a work with direct patient care when ever it is comfortable for you rather than an getting an associates as an ST.  Seems like time wasted if you think you know what you already want to do as a PA.

4

Hi, Ket131, thanks for your insight.

 

In terms of the classes like Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, etc, those are offered in two sections. There’s a lecturing section, where I watch recorded lectures of the classes, so it’s literally the same class as the students who are on campus. Although I’ll be in the comfort of my own home, I’m getting the exact same lectures the traditional students are getting!

 

The LABS are in person, though. So after completing my lecture portions, I’ll actually fly out to the campus and attend those classes in person. So I’m still getting my that hands-on, physical presence.

 

Does that information change your mind at all?

 

I appreciate your insight on the Surgical Tech schooling as well. I’ve looked up Dialysis Technician programs near me, and found one at my local technical college. I’d actually like the idea of trying that, but it’s an online class. Does this sound odd to you? I saw you said there was no need to get a certificate and you learned a lot on the job.

 

You’re also right, my main goal is to become a PA, and I’m thinking of surgery. I obviously haven’t been in the surgical atmosphere, though. I assumed the best way for me to get that sort of experience were to become a surgical technician. If I ended up getting into a PA program, though, I may end up doing clinicals and prefer general practice or something, you never know.

 

I’m actually very interested in the dialysis technician portion you said. You’ve been a great help. I’m downgrading my living in 6 months (buying a family member’s mobile home in cash) so I can begin to prepare to save up and whatnot for when I leave my current good paying job - so I feel like this is the perfect opportunity for me to look into something like a dialysis technician. My main concern with ST was not getting that literal sort of clinical, person-to-person interaction, as most the patients would be sedated.

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4 hours ago, cemetra said:

Does that information change your mind at all?

This is what I thought you meant originally.  Good that you will have some in class labs though.  I took Organic Chemistry at my university and it was a four credit lecture with 0 credit lab.  Retook at CC and it was 5 credits total, lab included.  Perhaps the credits obtained are different the way you are doing it?

4 hours ago, cemetra said:

I’ve looked up Dialysis Technician programs near me, and found one at my local technical college. I’d actually like the idea of trying that, but it’s an online class. Does this sound odd to you? I saw you said there was no need to get a certificate and you learned a lot on the job.

Online seems somewhat strange considering the nature of dialysis and that it is a very learn on the job and have to see it to understand it type of thing.  I say this because there are so many things to know about the machines, sticking a patient is pretty easy, but understanding how to set up a machine with the blood lines, dialyzer and the right parameters etc would be hard to do online.  

There is a dialysis technician program at my local CC as well, but a lot of major dialysis centers, such as Davita Dialysis and Fresenius Medical Care, do not require you to have a certificate (which is pretty much a CCHT certificate) and they hire you without any experience and teach you on the job.  You get trained by a CCHT (PCT II or PCT III).  As far as getting a certificate through a CC, I don't think it even really helps because is not through the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission, which sets the laws to obtain a actual certificate.  At least that is what it was like at my local CC, so a bunch of people are getting tricked to pay for something that is not going to help them (perhaps it may to get a job but I was hired without going to a CC for w/e certificate they give).  

I was looking up what the job pool is like in Atlanta or around it, I figured you might be out there, big air port.  I noticed that some of the positions required a CCHT, however this is not obtainable until at least 6 months due to various laws set by the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission.  You have to start off as a PCT and then after six months can choose to take the CCHT exam and then get the certificate.  This is because non-nurses are legally not allowed to touch CVCs until six months into working as a PCT.

For some odd reason a lot of the Fresenius Medical Care dialysis jobs in the Atlanta area require CCHTs, at least most of them, which makes no sense since turn over in dialysis is fairly high.  At least it is in Minnesota, where I live, tons of immigrants with little to no medical care that develop various chronic diseases that lead to CKD and end up on dialysis.  I would check out DaVita Dialysis (the link below) as well as Fresenius Medical Care.  Hemodialysis Technician, Dialysis Technician, Patient Care Technician, Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician, are all names for the same type of job (if CCHT is in the job title you need the certificate, unless specified otherwise). You could job search with these titles in mind.  

This is a link to one of a few jobs I noticed in the Atlanta area from DaVita Dialysis.  Notice the about 4-5 lines down in the job description "previous healthcare experience NOT required."

https://www.indeed.com/viewjob?jk=07a8785fb860bd5c&tk=1c78v4klub050cmg&from=serp&alid=3&advn=3428835413218666

There are some tuition incentives and payment for school, however, keep in mind the fine print (not actually in the job description) where you are then contracted to work for X amount of time if you take their tuition money.  I probably should have, for how long I worked as a PCT, but I did not know my timeline well and could have saved at least 5 grand in school costs at my CC.  I think the 3k per year is about what it was like at Fresenius (where I work now) and was around a six month to a year commitment to the clinic.

4 hours ago, cemetra said:

My main concern with ST was not getting that literal sort of clinical, person-to-person interaction, as most the patients would be sedated.

Plenty of person-to-person interaction in dialysis.  You develop a rapport with many of the patients.  The patients know who the good technicians are and who are the bad ones and are quite good about expressing these opinions openly.  At first patients can be hostile to you as a new technician because a newbie sticking 14 gauge needles into you can be worrisome for good reason.  Infiltrations etc.  However, I consider myself a decent technician, only have had one infiltration in my 18 + months of working in dialysis (and I am somewhat convinced the patient moved his arm because my initial arterial and venues pressures where good) and that is even with starting off new AV fistulas with 17 gauge needles.  If you do your job well and talk to the patients the right way they will love you to death.  Mine bring me food all the time; brisket, crackers, cookies, smoked turkey legs, hard candies...one even caught some fish in North Dakota, froze them and brought them to me.  Did I eat the fish, heck no, haha, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have that brisket.  Very different experiences than a ST I am sure.  However, it depends on your interests.  I wanted a job where I could interact with patients so I could develop communication skills, seems what you are concerned about.  

Also when you end up interviewing for PA school, you can always talk about your experiences talking with the dialysis patients.  So many stories I had trouble picking ones to use.

However, don't let my very obvious bias as a CCHT steer you away from what you are doing though.  This is just an opinion, in the end.

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9 hours ago, Ket131 said:

For some odd reason a lot of the Fresenius Medical Care dialysis jobs in the Atlanta area require CCHTs, at least most of them, which makes no sense since turn over in dialysis is fairly high.  At least it is in Minnesota, where I live, tons of immigrants with little to no medical care that develop various chronic diseases that lead to CKD and end up on dialysis.  I would check out DaVita Dialysis (the link below) as well as Fresenius Medical Care.  Hemodialysis Technician, Dialysis Technician, Patient Care Technician, Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician, are all names for the same type of job (if CCHT is in the job title you need the certificate, unless specified otherwise). You could job search with these titles in mind.  

This is a link to one of a few jobs I noticed in the Atlanta area from DaVita Dialysis.  Notice the about 4-5 lines down in the job description "previous healthcare experience NOT required."

2

Wow, I really appreciate you going through all that! I'm actually about 3 hours south of Atlanta. I'm close to Savannah, Georgia.

I inquired to the local tech college about it being online and was told it's pretty much just a basic certificate overview that helps you get an internship, then they'll teach you everything from there. They also have a program for EKG as well online, so I'm looking between doing the EKG and Dialysis Tech.

I'm trying to get ~ $15/hr to be able to afford all my bills. I currently make $25/hr, so I'm going to be taking a huge cut in my pay to be able to get this clinical experience. I'm planning on doing an online course (roughly 75 - 100 hours) so I can get really familiar with medical terminology and have at least a little learning before stepping in completely new. This should also take me about 3-4 months, which gives me more time to work at my current job and save up as much money as possible before making half as much as I do now.

Everything I look at for EKG-related jobs seems to be lower than $15/hr though, but it's the same for Dialysis Technicians. I may try EKG - seems a little more my taste and half the cost - and then kind of start to apply for jobs in the meantime and see how much they offer. Worst case scenario, they only offer $8/hr and I just decide to stay at my current job until I'm a Surgical Tech, but I'll have an extra EKG certification to put on my resume.

SO much to think about.

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43 minutes ago, cemetra said:

I'm trying to get ~ $15/hr to be able to afford all my bills. I currently make $25/hr, so I'm going to be taking a huge cut in my pay to be able to get this clinical experience. I'm planning on doing an online course (roughly 75 - 100 hours) so I can get really familiar with medical terminology and have at least a little learning before stepping in completely new. This should also take me about 3-4 months, which gives me more time to work at my current job and save up as much money as possible before making half as much as I do now.

This is no problem.  After college I had a 20$/hr job, left it to be a medical scribe for 8.25$/hr.  I know what you mean.

On a a side note.  There is soo much turn over in dialysis that most centers institute critical pay for float technicians.  I am a float and can get critical float pay when there is a clinic that is down in staff.  So typically after 6 months you can become a float tech (because now you can take care of CVC patients) and get critical pay which is around 5-7 more $ an hour.  So, I make around 24$/hr as a float/critical pay/per diem technician.  

I personally have been avoiding working too much because I have been drained from full-time school and work (mainly from work) for the last 1.5 years.  My girlfriend is a cardiology nurse and is ok with me being a bum for a few days a week and not bringing in as much money.  She probably would not like this if I was not accepted into PA school this cycle and if I did not save a crap ton of money from my first job.  I get the struggle.

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@Ket131

So there's a period of lower pay where you essentially prove yourself and that you're not going to be one of the individuals that leave, then they offer you higher pay?

I'm very interested in working less time so that I can focus my extra time into my schooling, but I didn't think I'd be able to work anywhere at a relatively new position and make anything worth to where I could afford to work part-time. If that were an option, that would be amazing! I tend to focus all my time into schooling anyways - I'm actually sick from work today and signed up for an online Medical Terminology Course to get more familiar with terms and actually add the certification to my resume.

My girlfriend isn't working right now, she's about to become a dental assistant and has a little under a year left. I'm okay with taking a pay cut, I just don't know if I can afford to live with under $15/hr for the next year. But I'm also trying to be realistic. I didn't think I could just take some online certification course and land a job in a healthcare related field making $15/hr very easily.

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28 minutes ago, cemetra said:

So there's a period of lower pay where you essentially prove yourself and that you're not going to be one of the individuals that leave, then they offer you higher pay?

Well, leaving depends on a person's ability to handle the stress of the work load.  My clinic is notorious for being the hardest Fresenius clinic to work at in Minnesota.  So many patients, decreased staff, and the nurses...god that is another nightmare and because of these reasons no float staff will come to the clinic anymore.  So, turn over is high in my area, not necessarily where you are at, but the work is tough, there is a lot to know and the distribution of work load is very stacked on PCTs rather than nurses.  

Nurses do fluid assessments prn following hospitalization or severe fluid gains, foot checks prn for diabetics, hand out medications daily/prn per pt orders and care plans prn.  That is it, prn, prn, prn.  Easy peasy.  They respond to various emergencies but I personally would rather have a PCT II or PCT III come to my aid than a dialysis nurse, because they (the PCTs) can stick patients and they actually know the patient names and they can run a proper code.  Perhaps this is just my experience with the nurses at that go to my clinic.  I will say that this is not the case for all the nurses I have encountered.  I have worked with one that was a PCT II for about ten years and she knows how to do everything, when I work with her it is like a god send.

PCTs do a fluid assessments prior to starting patients every day.  We have to set up the machines, make sure the water in the building is right (that is acid and bicarbonate and RO is all right), making sure no chlorine or chloramines present in the water, opening and closing the clinics, charting (nurses do this too, but templates are used for nurses), sticking the patients, doing the bp checks, taking patients off, cleaning equipment,  there is a lot more and I could keep going but you get the picture here.  

If you can continue to deal with the work and imbalance of work load (which is typically why people leave)...and you work there for a minimum of six months then there is the option for these pay increases.  There is no point to pay a technician more money if they can't take care of the patients with CVCs.  After the six months you can take care of those patients and there is an option to become a float technician (pay increases mentioned above), this increases your base pay by about 2$ an hour and getting a CCHT can increase that by about another 1$ per hour depending on where you work.  If you choose to pick up shifts at clinics that are needing staff (in critical pay mode), you can get the extra 5-7$ in pay.  This is how it is where I work and from what I have heard is that this is very common in dialysis.

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