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When they say PCE/HCE is reccomended what does that really mean...

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What do schools really mean when they say HCE is recommended or preferred? How many hours should you have? Is it even worth applying if you have less than 500 hours? I would love someone's opinion on this...

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Ideally, you should get as many hours as you can with the best quality patient care experience that you can (note that PCE and HCE are different). Not only will this make you more competitive, but there is value in learning the ins and outs of medical terminology, talking to patients and other healthcare professionals, performing basic procedures, etc that you simply cannot get without being immersed in it. The assessment of just how much is enough comes down to how competitive you are otherwise, and the opportunity cost of putting off applications for another year to get more experience. 

Schools that say they "recommend" or "prefer" PCE mean just that: they reserve the right to accept otherwise excellent applicants with little or no experience (or experience that falls outside of the traditional PCE formats), but for most individuals to be competitive, they will still need a good amount. 

Having said all that, I applied to schools with well under 500 hours of PCE, and ended up getting multiple interviews and acceptances. This was at schools like UTMB, Augusta University (formerly Medical College of Georgia), UAB, multiple Nova campuses, PCOM, etc. I had a pretty solid application otherwise though, which likely helped "make up" for me being weak on PCE. I also ended up getting quite a bit more patient care experience before starting my program since I had like 7 months to kill, and that experience has definitely come in handy. 

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I applied in July/August with a 3.9 GPA/SGPA with 0 health care experience and 4 years military service. I received 0 interviews, the following cycle I gained 1.5k PCE experience hours, received interviews to every school I applied to.

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In order to be competitive for interviews I have found PCE to be quite important. Even if a school does not require experience hours, if they publish that class averages you will undoubtedly see an average about 1000 hours. Most people apply to several schools (I applied to 13 my first year and 10 my second) so you will be competing against other applicants with 1000+ hours even at schools where experience is not required.

I also recommend healthcare experience to anyone even thinking about pursuing nursing, NP, PA, even MD because I believe it is the best way to make sure it is the direction you want to take with your life. I think every healthcare career requiring a bachelors or higher of training should require a certain amount of healthcare experience. It is a large commitment of time and money, so you have to be sure it is what you want. PCE can also give you a great deal of talking points for interviews and essays.

 

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