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Choosing Schools: Importance of Sims and Reputation?

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Hi everyone! Right now I've been accepted into two programs and I'm trying to figure out which one I should attend. School A seems like they have more to offer program wise with the simulators and a full dissection along with other things like the international rotations (even though that's not super important to me). However, School B is 20 minutes from my house and I would not have to move nor would my significant other have to find a new job and move (as they want to come with me).

My question is, in your opinion (students, teachers, PAs, etc.) do you think that having access to high fidelity simulators and full dissection in the anatomy lab is worth moving to another part of the country? Obviously I believe it would be an added benefit, but does it really make that much of a difference in the end? 

Also, I think I might be interested in pursuing surgery, would going to a more well known program help me in getting a residency in the future or does it not really matter where I go? 

Feeling very grateful to even have to make this decision in the first place and I would really appreciate any advice or input anyone has to offer!! 

School A: 

-Ranked in the top 25 schools (not sure how much that matters)

-Emphasis on high fidelity simulators 

-Cadavers (with full dissection)

-7 hours away from home (I would have to uproot and move, this would affect my S/O as well) 

-Free Clinic, a few international opportunities

-well established, 99% PANCE first time rate 

 

School B: 

-simulators, but only used maybe 3-4 times during the didatic year (for lung sounds, etc.) and not high fidelity 

-cadavers (prosected)

-20 minutes from home (would not have to move and this would not affect my S/O)

-no free clinic, but other volunteer opportunities and no international rotations 

-established (same amount of time as school A), 95% first time rate

-not a very well known program (although don't neccessarily know how much that really matters) 

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Here's my perspective:  the real goal is 1st paycheck, ideally in a 1st job which will help you travel the huge learning curve you will have as a new PA.  Getting into a residency in the field you want to practice is an alternative.  By the way, a residency will likely require a move.

So, it's hard to really know if there is going to be any difference in which program helps you meet the above goal.   Yes, you will likely learn some more in the program with more simulation and actual dissection, but is it enough to really matter?  I'd evaluate by asking each program about their graduates' job hunting success.  Then, weigh any estimated differences in education and job hunting success vs impact on your personal life.  Only you and your S/O can answer that.  A residency will probably contribute more to your professional growth than what school you attended.  Both schools have PANCE pass rates high enough that any variations are the result of how 1 or 2 individuals did on their 1st attempt at PANCE.

My personal experience: I went to a long established but fairly average PA school.  I really learned my trade by fortunately getting a good 1st job and attending professional conferences.  

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48 minutes ago, ohiovolffemtp said:

Here's my perspective:  the real goal is 1st paycheck, ideally in a 1st job which will help you travel the huge learning curve you will have as a new PA.  Getting into a residency in the field you want to practice is an alternative.  By the way, a residency will likely require a move.

So, it's hard to really know if there is going to be any difference in which program helps you meet the above goal.   Yes, you will likely learn some more in the program with more simulation and actual dissection, but is it enough to really matter?  I'd evaluate by asking each program about their graduates' job hunting success.  Then, weigh any estimated differences in education and job hunting success vs impact on your personal life.  Only you and your S/O can answer that.  A residency will probably contribute more to your professional growth than what school you attended.  Both schools have PANCE pass rates high enough that any variations are the result of how 1 or 2 individuals did on their 1st attempt at PANCE.

My personal experience: I went to a long established but fairly average PA school.  I really learned my trade by fortunately getting a good 1st job and attending professional conferences.  

This is a great way to think about it. Thank you so much for your advice! Both programs were proud to say that most of the time their graduates had jobs lined up before leaving ending their clinical year. 

School A: being in Pennsylvania, an area I'm not sure I would want to stay in afterwards 

School B: being in New England, where I'm from, and most likely be where I would want to practice. 

With job placement rates after graduation seeming very similar in both programs, I guess it comes down to those differences in education vs personal life. In my opinion, academically there are more benefits to school A, but again is it enough to justify personal costs? Definitely something to figure out. 

Thanks so much for your input!!! 

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Another thing to factor in: clinical rotations often lead to jobs, either directly or indirectly.  So, it would be helpful to go to school and do clinical rotations in the area in which you would like to practice.

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First, congrats! 

As a current 2nd year I can already tell you the school close to home.  You will save so much money. When I see international rotations all I see are dollar bill signs that will add more to your debt and really won't make you a better PA at the end of the day and on top of the extra costs of moving away and cost of living in that country. 

Quality of sim labs will not make or break you being a good PA. Your learning experiences while on rotations will trump sim lab mannequins any day of the week. 

Our program has prosected cadavers and that's all you need. Dissecting cadavers takes A LOT OF TIME to preserve nerves, vessels, and muscles. I promise you, you will rather want to use that precious time for studying instead. 

Volunteer opportunities are nice and everything but you're going to be really busy studying, especially when volunteer opportunities fall around blocks where you have 3 exams in the same week. 

Surgical residency > name of the school you attended

In the end, your didactic year is going to have you studying a lot, you are going to be so invested in your studying that you're not going to give a crap whether your sim lab mannequin was made 30 years or yesterday. In my opinion, fancy sim labs are only appealing to Pre-PA's.

Staying home will help relieve the stress as well as not having your S.O. find a new job and move, especially if he/she gets a job in a work environment they don't enjoy. You want to make things as least stressful as possible during your time in PA school so that when sh!p hits the fan the night before an endocrinology exam it doesn't throw you completely off the edge. (Speaking from experience)

Edited by JD2012

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On 11/8/2019 at 8:59 AM, JD2012 said:

First, congrats! 

As a current 2nd year I can already tell you the school close to home.  You will save so much money. When I see international rotations all I see are dollar bill signs that will add more to your debt and really won't make you a better PA at the end of the day and on top of the extra costs of moving away and cost of living in that country. 

Quality of sim labs will not make or break you being a good PA. Your learning experiences while on rotations will trump sim lab mannequins any day of the week. 

Our program has prosected cadavers and that's all you need. Dissecting cadavers takes A LOT OF TIME to preserve nerves, vessels, and muscles. I promise you, you will rather want to use that precious time for studying instead. 

Volunteer opportunities are nice and everything but you're going to be really busy studying, especially when volunteer opportunities fall around blocks where you have 3 exams in the same week. 

Surgical residency > name of the school you attended

In the end, your didactic year is going to have you studying a lot, you are going to be so invested in your studying that you're not going to give a crap whether your sim lab mannequin was made 30 years or yesterday. In my opinion, fancy sim labs are only appealing to Pre-PA's.

Staying home will help relieve the stress as well as not having your S.O. find a new job and move, especially if he/she gets a job in a work environment they don't enjoy. You want to make things as least stressful as possible during your time in PA school so that when sh!p hits the fan the night before an endocrinology exam it doesn't throw you completely off the edge. (Speaking from experience)

So im in a similar situation. The "better" school cost about 40K more but will allow 4 surgical rotations and is highly focused on creating surgical PA's. This is what I am primarily focused on. Do you think it is worth it. Both schools will prepare me to pass the pance

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My perspective: you need diversity of rotations for a number of reasons: 1. exposure to different types of medicine so you can see if you actually like an area that you've never experienced before.  2. chance to learn something about an area of medicine you may never see again but might have some interaction with the area in which you decide to work.

For example, I do EM, so I need at least some knowledge of areas like women's health, peds, psych, inpatient & outpatient internal medicine, surgery, etc.

While having 4 surgical rotation would give you a better than average surgical exposure (most programs have 1 surgical rotation and you'll see some surgery in women's health), you would likely miss other learning.  A better approach would be to do a surgical residency post PA school.

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On 11/11/2019 at 5:10 PM, jspreen said:

So im in a similar situation. The "better" school cost about 40K more but will allow 4 surgical rotations and is highly focused on creating surgical PA's. This is what I am primarily focused on. Do you think it is worth it. Both schools will prepare me to pass the pance

In the end, you're paying an additional 40k to have 1 one extra surgical rotation when most programs give you 2 elective rotations you can use for extra surgical rotations like trauma, and cardiothoracic.

And as mentioned, the residency will always win. One of my preceptors did the Yale surgical residency and said there is a very good chance of getting it since they usually get 30 applicants and have 12 spots available, at least at the time she applied. 

Edited by JD2012

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I'm in Texas and was accepted to two PA schools here in state. I live in Austin and eventually want to move back here and practice here but there aren't any PA schools close to Austin. I got accepted to UTRGV (in the valley - Edinburg, TX - about five hours south of Austin) and UTMB in Galveston (3 and a half hours south of Austin). I am conflicted. 

 

I had a much better experience at my UTRGV interview. The program director and faculty were absolutely amazing and were incredibly present and available during the interview process. They revamped their curriculum about 5-6 years ago and PANCE rates went from 75% to 95% the last few years. But, I'm not super excited about the location - it's going to be a huge culture shock, completely different than Austin. Tuition is about 12k/year here. 

I had a somewhat not so good experience at my UTMB interview. I was a little put off by some of the faculty and the things they said. The program director wasn't even present at the interview. However, their facilities and their med school in general are well known and respected. But, they also just came off probation this year (they are fully accredited currently). Because of probation, they have a brand new director, brand new faculty, and will be changing the curriculum for the year that I start. This sounds messy and worries me a bit. I would prefer Galveston to the valley though. Tuition is about 20k/year here.

 

What is everyone's thoughts? I just found out about my second acceptance today and only have a week to decide before I lose my potential seat at UTMB... Finances are a big deal to me because I'm already in a decent amount of student debt from undergrad. That alone is making me lean towards UTRGV. I just don't know how important it is to go to school that "looks good on paper", cause UTMB definitely is well known in the state as a great medical teaching facility. The doctor I work for as an MA now was actually a preceptor for their med students in the past haha..

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