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viveksivaraman

Advice, not sure if PA is for me after negative experience working

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Hey PA Forum, I am Pre-PA and I wanted advice to where my feelings in the application process stand. I went through my undergrad with not much of a direction, graduating with a BS in Biochemistry but a 2.86 GPA. I worked for 2 years as a "scientist" but I was really just running samples through a machine (medical device) and it did not allow any sort of interesting work. I worked as part of the lab at the Boston Marathon, analyzing runner blood samples in the device, and it was the first time I was exposed to the medical field. This allowed me to appreciate their work, and also, for the first time, feel I could make a difference with my efforts. I capitalized on this excitement, and looked into nursing and PA, and decided PA. I got an EMT certification, and gave CPR to a patient in a trauma room at the nearby hospital as part of the certification. I was so excited, and then I got a job as a CNA in a teaching hospital on a heart failure floor. Everything was coming along. I was also taking pre-reqs this whole time, I completed A&P I,II, Genetics, Biochemistry, all either A or B+. As I worked at the hospital, I mainly bathed patients, and provided care in daily living, working under nurses. But the attitude of the nurses really got to me. Some would bully the technicians in a way, it was never intentional but I could not stand them. All the technicians and nurses were gossipy women and I, more of an introverted male, just felt nothing in common with them, and everything I did was judged. Nurses, and techs and female patients would occasionally hit on me, and it just felt uncomfortable. It became so frustrating for me that these shifts became almost me vs them, in my head. But I kept pushing on, I kept searching for jobs in the ER, because that seemed so exciting to me. I shadowed a resident in the ER, and loved every minute of it. I really enjoyed it because it was exciting; very different than anything I had seen; the machinery of the body was in a life threatening situation, and it was very rewarding to fix it. I also really loved all things space, and always was researching things about space. However I wasn't able to get a position in the ER, and I just felt like the oddball out all the time; and the feminine and social aspect of medicine was driving me nuts. I felt like everywhere in healthcare was this; and had this veneer or being the savior for patients, I just felt I was beating up the wrong tree for my own goals. I decided I wanted to try something in engineering due to my love of space. So after 9 months of being a tech, and shadowing 5 PAs (only enjoyed the ER shadowing) I moved to Houston, with my sister (couldn't go home, father is an alcoholic and made life at home toxic). I decided to try everything I enjoyed to figure out if this field was for me. I started taking engineering classes, a geology class, and started to learn programming, and am volunteering in a lab where I help a professor research bacteria on the Space Station. I have been stressed out, figuring out if this career is for me. I went to healthcare career fair, and interviewed for an ER Tech job, to try it out again, and am hoping it is less daunting on me. I also am thinking about pursuing biomedical engineering, as it may combine my interests, but I am nervous, because it seems a bit antisocial. I was wondering if I could get some advice about my situation, and if I have it all wrong about actually being a PA. Thanks!

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You need to shadow PAs and MDs.  Working as a CNA is not the same as what a career as a PA will experience.

Medicine is full of hierarchy and you will experience that almost anywhere.  Patients will say inappropriate things.  That will happen anywhere.  Bottom line, some of what you experienced was likely situational and specific to that place.  Some was specific to the position you held.  Some of it could/can/will happen anywhere in any position.  No job or career is perfect.

This is why PA schools like students to have quality and quantity of patient care experience so they understand medicine and healthcare and the system overall.

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I don't have hugely helpful advice, but I will say that you taking the time to explore multiple options is definitely a good move. Three bachelor's degrees later, I decided to enter the medical field...so I think testing the waters is smart before fully committing.

As far as the job goes, this is pretty similar to my experience over the last 5-6 years being a tech both outpatient and inpatient. Very little respect, bullying, and extreme condescension from most nurses and even other techs. Unfortunately low-level sexual harassment seems to be something I've experienced in every medical position...try to be firm when these comments are made by coworkers creating a toxic work environment. 

I can really relate to the me vs. them attitude. I also realize that I'm doing all this so that I can eventually have a more autonomous and mentally stimulating position as a PA one day soon. So keep that in mind. Good luck with the ER tech position--maybe it will be a better fit.

 

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The ER is a completely separate world from the floor. I work in an ER and someone says at least once per shift (usually after we've transported an annoying/rude family to the floor) "and that's why I could never work inpatient." Try the ER tech job and keep a close eye on the PAs to see if 1) you enjoy the ER culture and pace and 2) you're interested in what an ER PA does. If you have any questions about being an ER tech, I'd be happy to answer them!! Best of luck 🙂

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The ER has a different culture than the rest of the hospital for sure. Some people do better on one more than the other, perhaps you're more of an ER person. For sure check out the ER tech job to see how it compares.

That being said, you seem to really like the engineering idea so maybe that's really what you enjoy.

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I agree with all of the above, but at the same time you didn't talk much about how you felt the space/engineering path you are starting to explore is going and how that compares. Before going with PA I'd explore both that role specifically but also your options working in the space/engineering field as you may find one environment suits you better than the other. Enjoying the working environment is almost just as important  (if not more important than) enjoying the job itself.

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On 3/2/2019 at 8:53 AM, Paperbae said:

I don't have hugely helpful advice, but I will say that you taking the time to explore multiple options is definitely a good move. Three bachelor's degrees later, I decided to enter the medical field...so I think testing the waters is smart before fully committing.

As far as the job goes, this is pretty similar to my experience over the last 5-6 years being a tech both outpatient and inpatient. Very little respect, bullying, and extreme condescension from most nurses and even other techs. Unfortunately low-level sexual harassment seems to be something I've experienced in every medical position...try to be firm when these comments are made by coworkers creating a toxic work environment. 

I can really relate to the me vs. them attitude. I also realize that I'm doing all this so that I can eventually have a more autonomous and mentally stimulating position as a PA one day soon. So keep that in mind. Good luck with the ER tech position--maybe it will be a better fit.

 

Thank you. 5-6 years as a tech! Wow. Did you apply multiple times? 

Yeah unfortunately this happens, but I think if you know this field is for you it is manageable because the work is great! 

Thank you for your support, it makes me feel a bit better. Also, congrats on your acceptance! Hooray for Houston!

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On 3/8/2019 at 1:37 PM, Allegro said:

I agree with all of the above, but at the same time you didn't talk much about how you felt the space/engineering path you are starting to explore is going and how that compares. Before going with PA I'd explore both that role specifically but also your options working in the space/engineering field as you may find one environment suits you better than the other. Enjoying the working environment is almost just as important  (if not more important than) enjoying the job itself.

So far, it seems to pick up my interest, but I haven't found it to be very stimulating. I think I would rather have space and engineering remain as a hobby. It's hard to pick up something that you thought you would be good at for it to be much more difficult and require a LOT of calculus and higher math, but I intend to get an A in calculus regardless to prove to myself and admissions committees that I'm not a slouch. I also volunteer at Space Center Houston, which basically is a chance for me to share space with visitors. So it would probably look good on my transcript. I intend to land a job in the ER and take upper level prereqs, and retake medical terminology (I got a C in it, as I took it throughout my career crisis :/)

I so agree, work environment is so so crucial.

Thank you for your message.

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On 3/2/2019 at 12:00 PM, Burritobenito said:

The ER has a different culture than the rest of the hospital for sure. Some people do better on one more than the other, perhaps you're more of an ER person. For sure check out the ER tech job to see how it compares.

That being said, you seem to really like the engineering idea so maybe that's really what you enjoy.

Thank you. I think the ER culture suits me, but only one way to find out. Engineering does seem cool, but I'm just not convinced yet. 

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I think your experience in the NURSING environment is just that, the nursing and CNA environment.  As a MA in a primary care office, yes I have an environment that is more 'feminine' and chatty, but then that is ONLY within the MA pool. That being said, everyone is a work-family in our current group and it actually fosters an environment where the patient care is paramount while joking around to deal with the fact that we are taking care of grumpy patients, foul urine, wild looking wounds, cancer patients that are actively dying, etc .

The PAs themselves are less gossipy, more focused on their work, same with the Doctors I work for. I think you need to just be aware of the culture of the group that you are with and within certain specialties you are going to have more of that levity than others. 

I think Going the ER route is great but just know that you are going to have to get comfortable with the office/floor politics and gossip wherever you go. 

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I agree with oddshoe, I think as a CNA you don't get as much experience of what working as a PA is like. The only thing is, you've also shadowed other PAs and tbh, if you are questioning whether this is still the right path for you ..then maybe it isn't? Based on your interest in research, have you considered maybe going for the MD route instead? You will have more opportunities for research as an MD in the future. Take your time and don't rush things. 

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