paadmissions

Ask a PA Admissions Director

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As the PA Admissions Director at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC I would like to open up discussion for anyone who may have general questions about applying to PA school. In April, a student doing research on applying to PA school for her PA society sent me a list of questions that I thought would benefit many potential PA applicants (I've taken out most program specific questions). I've copied and pasted the questions (in bold) and answers for viewing below. Feel free to respond with additional questions (it doesn't necessarily have to be about our program) and I'll do my best to answer!

 

How important is the science GPA when looking at potential students, and, if not provided online, what is the minimum or recommended science GPA for students to have? Typically, the medical core or prerequisite GPA can sometimes paint a more accurate picture of the applicant’s performance in the sciences. At least for our program, we use an applicant’s performance in prerequisite courses, especially in the upper level Biologies and Chemistries, to “predict” if the student would be able to handle the demanding and rigorous PA curriculum. Our program, along with most programs, recommends an applicant have at least a 3.2 or higher prerequisite GPA to be competitive with the applicant pool. You will find the average prerequisite GPA for most programs to be between 3.4-3.6.

What kind of clinical experience is preferred, including those from the list of suggestions online? On average, most of our (and other programs) incoming students will have a certification as a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A), EMT/Paramedic, medical assistant, physical therapy assistant, or phlebotomist. We would prefer to see applicants get paid for the hours, but have had many students accumulate all 500 hours through shadowing a PA and physician. It is important to understand that not all programs accept shadowing as a way to fulfill their clinical experience hours, but you will see that many will recommend shadowing in addition to paid hours. Shadowing is a great way for applicants to get a feel of the role of the PA within the medical team and also help applicants understand what they are getting into. I think most programs would say that the purpose of clinical experience is exactly for the reasons listed above. Acceptable hours for any program should be on their website.

Is research recommended for hopeful applicants, or is clinical experience the only thing needed? Research is not something our program puts a lot of emphasis on simply because the role of the PA is not really research driven. That being said, there are many PAs who contribute to medical research, but our program’s goal is to produce the best mid-level providers through clinical relevant teaching. This is where quality clinical experience prior to PA school is beneficial. Of course a research background may be useful when completing the graduate research paper that is part of the curriculum, but this can be successfully completed without a strong research background. You may find that many medical programs put more of an emphasis on research more so that PA programs.

 

Do most students take out loans for tuition? Is there any financial aid available, from the college or from outside of the college? I would estimate that about 95% of our students will finance their tuition, expenses for the program (medical supplies and books), and living expenses through student loans. No PA program will ever encourage students to have an outside job while in PA school and many programs do not allow students to work.

 

The two most common ways for our students to finance their education and living expenses are through the Federal Unsubsidized Student Loan (formerly known as the Stafford Loan) and the Grad PLUS Loan. Both loans require that the student fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The unsub loan will allow students to borrow up to $20,500 and is not credit based. The Grad PLUS loan allows students to borrow the remainder of the tuition balance, funds for their living expenses and is a credit based loan. The amount students borrow through the Grad PLUS loan to cover living expenses will vary from student to student, but its important students understand financial sacrifices that come with attending PA school is unavoidable.

 

**This is program specific, but an excellent opportunity for students interested in primary care***Currently, the only scholarship our PA students can apply for through our program is the Expansion of PA Training or EPAT scholarship. This scholarship is for students who are interested in working primary care for at least 5 years upon graduation. Primary care, as defined by the grant, is family medicine, pediatrics, or internal medicine. Students who have been accepted and who have paid their enrollment deposit have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship through an application process. The faculty reviews the applications and essays to determine who has the most financial need, skill set/background for primary care, desire to enter into the field, and who has a strong understanding of the importance of primary care. Students who are selected to receive the scholarship will receive a total of $44,000 towards their tuition.

 

Unfortunately, outside of the EPAT scholarship there are no other PA scholarships available through our University. Many students do apply for outside scholarships that may be at the local, state, or national level. For example, the 2 most common state and national scholarships incoming students apply for are through the National Health Service Corp. and the Forgivable Education Loans for Service.

 

Is it common for potential applicants to take time off after undergraduate school to accumulate clinical experience? This is a common question we get every year. We have a wide variety of students who are right out of their undergrad, some who have taken 1-5 years off, and some who are now in the midst of changing their career. We do not give preference to applicants who have taken time off between undergraduate and PA school, but sometimes you can find that “real life” experience may be beneficial in adjusting to PA school and being more prepared for the profession you're entering. We will always stress that applicants should not attend/apply until they feel they are ready. If your preparation requires time off in between graduation and PA school, especially to accumulate clinical experience hours, we would strongly recommend time off.

 

How would you recommend a potential student prepare for their interview?

· One recommendation I always make to our undergraduate students at Methodist is to consider making an appointment with your career services office on campus to prepare. Many of these offices have opportunities for students to participate in a mock interview. Since many students between the ages of 21-24 usually have never been in a “real” interview, it is important to prepare yourself to effectively and succinctly communicate your thoughts without stumbling over your words or rambling on due to nerves.

 

· One of the most difficult responses for many students to give is telling the admissions committee about you. Although it seems like it would be an easy topic to talk about, it sometimes is difficult for people to talk about especially under such an intense situation. Be prepared to know your strengths and weaknesses...PS- Being a perfectionist is not a weakness.

· Committee members will throw you questions, at times and on purpose, to ruffle your feathers. It is not meant to be a personal attack on the applicant, but it is meant to see how you handle pressure situations and to see how you react. Be prepared on how to handle questions like that because you will encounter situations such as these throughout the program with instructors and preceptors.

· There may be some questions that eventually lead to a discussion about an emotional time in your life. It is ok to show your emotions, but be able to compose yourself so you do not appear emotionally unstable.

· Do not ramble on in an individual interview. Be able to elaborate, with thought, on questions, but leave room for the admissions committee members to talk.

· Dress professionally. Business attire is always expected.

· Be on time. Being late is the number one sign to a program that you are not respectful of their time and tends to show them that you are not interested.

· Be respectful to EVERYONE associated with the program. Remember applicants are being judged the minute they walk through the door. Interaction with students, faculty and staff are always top priority. These interactions are a way for the committee to judge if you will ultimately “fit in” to the program and is a true sign of how you treat others-it kind of goes along with the whole compassion idea.

 

· We do not expect every applicant to have a bubbly personality, but we sometimes can get that one applicant who seems “bothered” with the fact they had to interview or interact with others, or they seem completely disengaged from everyone, including the other applicants. Even if you get the feeling the program is not the best fit for you during the interview we do expect applicants to act professional and respectful at all times.

 

· Our program has group interviews to see how people work as a team.

· Do your homework on the program that you are visiting. As much as we are trying to get a feel for you, it is important to make sure our program is a good fit for you. Prior to the interview I encourage applicants to make sure they know not only about the program, but also about the school to which they are applying and maybe even the health care needs of the surrounding areas. Programs are in different regions for a reason. You may find as you go through the admissions process that the school you thought was your first choice really is not a great fit for you after visiting other programs.

· Have genuine questions prepared for the interview teams, even if you have to ask the same question multiple times. I would not recommend your typical interview questions that you can find on the internet; rather I would recommend you consult with your career services office or even an academic advisor about good questions.

· Finally, know the PA profession and their role within the medical field. It is amazing the number of applicants who say that “PAs do not have to work as hard as physicians and I want to be able to have a life as a medical provider.” We get these comments all the time and it demonstrates to the committee that the applicant really has not done their research. This is where shadowing and asking questions of the PA you are shadowing really is beneficial to your understanding of the profession.

 

Many students put more work into the application than the interview without realizing your academics get you the interview, and the interview really secures your spot in the program.

What are some of the most common mistakes individuals make when applying?

 

· Writing a bad personal statement: Be able to communicate in your personal statement that you understand what you are getting into-meaning you understand the role of a PA, how PAs will benefit the health care system, and what experiences (through clinical experience) have lead you to believe that the PA profession is a good fit for you. One common opening sentence for many applicants is something along the lines of “Ever since I was five years old I played with my dad’s doctor’s kit or read my mom’s anatomy book…” We see this so often and to us it does not tell us anything we have not heard before. Be unique. Make sure to have someone else read your statement before you upload it. We see a lot of grammatical and typos in personal statements.

 

· Find 3 people who can write GOOD letters of recommendation. We realize it is impossible to predict what another person will write on your behalf, but make sure they can elaborate on your skills and potential as a PA. We have some physicians who only write 1 sentence as their letter or many providers do not take the time to review transcripts to ensure their evaluation of the applicant’s intellectual ability is accurate. Our program requires one letter from a professor/advisor and 2 from supervisors within the medical field and another job. Our goal is to see how you are evaluated on your academics and in the clinic-the two components that make up our program. If you lack classroom ability it will be a very difficult road through PA school if you are admitted.

· Being over anxious and, or for lack of a better term, “nagging” programs about your application status. It is important to follow up to make sure GRE scores or transcripts are received, but constant (meaning once a week or several times a month) communication about an application status is a red flag.

· Making sure you meet the requirements for the program to which you are applying. Some applicants do not bother to pay attention to the requirements when they apply and are “shocked” at the fact that they are deficient in coursework or hours. I recommend applicants keep a spreadsheet that outlines the requirements and deadlines for each program to ensure they will be eligible for admission. We never make exceptions for coursework so some people have wasted time and money applying because they do not do their research prior.

· Meeting the selection factors and being realistic about their chances to be granted an interview. Most programs have a minimum recommended overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, prerequisite GPA between 3.2-3.4, clinical experience requirements, and at least a recommended GRE score of 297-300. Some people hope programs make exceptions for their past performance. With the number of PA applicants applying each year, programs, including ours, will take the most competitive applicants based on the selection factors above.

· Finally, apply early. Many people will wait until October through December to start the CASPA application. Each year it opens in mid-April for entry into the next year’s class so it is important to start as early as you can. Many programs have rolling admissions, including ours, so it is first come, first serve.

Edited by paadmissions
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As the PA Admissions Director at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC I would like to open up discussion for anyone who may have general questions about applying to PA school. In April, a student doing research on applying to PA school for her PA society sent me a list of questions that I thought would benefit many potential PA applicants (I've taken out most program specific questions). I've copied and pasted the questions (in bold) and answers for viewing below. Feel free to respond with additional questions (it doesn't necessarily have to be about our program) and I'll do my best to answer!

 

How important is the science GPA when looking at potential students, and, if not provided online, what is the minimum or recommended science GPA for students to have? Typically, the medical core or prerequisite GPA can sometimes paint a more accurate picture of the applicant’s performance in the sciences. At least for our program, we use an applicant’s performance in prerequisite courses, especially in the upper level Biologies and Chemistries, to “predict” if the student would be able to handle the demanding and rigorous PA curriculum. Our program, along with most programs, recommends an applicant have at least a 3.2 or higher prerequisite GPA to be competitive with the applicant pool. You will find the average prerequisite GPA for most programs to be between 3.4-3.6.

What kind of clinical experience is preferred, including those from the list of suggestions online? On average, most of our (and other programs) incoming students will have a certification as a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A), EMT/Paramedic, medical assistant, physical therapy assistant, or phlebotomist. We would prefer to see applicants get paid for the hours, but have had many students accumulate all 500 hours through shadowing a PA and physician. It is important to understand that not all programs accept shadowing as a way to fulfill their clinical experience hours, but you will see that many will recommend shadowing in addition to paid hours. Shadowing is a great way for applicants to get a feel of the role of the PA within the medical team and also help applicants understand what they are getting into. I think most programs would say that the purpose of clinical experience is exactly for the reasons listed above. Acceptable hours for any program should be on their website.

Is research recommended for hopeful applicants, or is clinical experience the only thing needed? Research is not something our program puts a lot of emphasis on simply because the role of the PA is not really research driven. That being said, there are many PAs who contribute to medical research, but our program’s goal is to produce the best mid-level providers through clinical relevant teaching. This is where quality clinical experience prior to PA school is beneficial. Of course a research background may be useful when completing the graduate research paper that is part of the curriculum, but this can be successfully completed without a strong research background. You may find that many medical programs put more of an emphasis on research more so that PA programs.

 

Do most students take out loans for tuition? Is there any financial aid available, from the college or from outside of the college? I would estimate that about 95% of our students will finance their tuition, expenses for the program (medical supplies and books), and living expenses through student loans. No PA program will ever encourage students to have an outside job while in PA school and many programs do not allow students to work.

 

The two most common ways for our students to finance their education and living expenses are through the Federal Unsubsidized Student Loan (formerly known as the Stafford Loan) and the Grad PLUS Loan. Both loans require that the student fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The unsub loan will allow students to borrow up to $20,500 and is not credit based. The Grad PLUS loan allows students to borrow the remainder of the tuition balance, funds for their living expenses and is a credit based loan. The amount students borrow through the Grad PLUS loan to cover living expenses will vary from student to student, but its important students understand financial sacrifices that come with attending PA school is unavoidable.

 

**This is program specific, but an excellent opportunity for students interested in primary care***Currently, the only scholarship our PA students can apply for through our program is the Expansion of PA Training or EPAT scholarship. This scholarship is for students who are interested in working primary care for at least 5 years upon graduation. Primary care, as defined by the grant, is family medicine, pediatrics, or internal medicine. Students who have been accepted and who have paid their enrollment deposit have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship through an application process. The faculty reviews the applications and essays to determine who has the most financial need, skill set/background for primary care, desire to enter into the field, and who has a strong understanding of the importance of primary care. Students who are selected to receive the scholarship will receive a total of $44,000 towards their tuition.

 

Unfortunately, outside of the EPAT scholarship there are no other PA scholarships available through our University. Many students do apply for outside scholarships that may be at the local, state, or national level. For example, the 2 most common state and national scholarships incoming students apply for are through the National Health Service Corp. and the Forgivable Education Loans for Service.

 

Is it common for potential applicants to take time off after undergraduate school to accumulate clinical experience? This is a common question we get every year. We have a wide variety of students who are right out of their undergrad, some who have taken 1-5 years off, and some who are now in the midst of changing their career. We do not give preference to applicants who have taken time off between undergraduate and PA school, but sometimes you can find that “real life” experience may be beneficial in adjusting to PA school and being more prepared for the profession you're entering. We will always stress that applicants should not attend/apply until they feel they are ready. If your preparation requires time off in between graduation and PA school, especially to accumulate clinical experience hours, we would strongly recommend time off.

 

How would you recommend a potential student prepare for their interview?

· One recommendation I always make to our undergraduate students at Methodist is to consider making an appointment with your career services office on campus to prepare. Many of these offices have opportunities for students to participate in a mock interview. Since many students between the ages of 21-24 usually have never been in a “real” interview, it is important to prepare yourself to effectively and succinctly communicate your thoughts without stumbling over your words or rambling on due to nerves.

 

· One of the most difficult responses for many students to give is telling the admissions committee about you. Although it seems like it would be an easy topic to talk about, it sometimes is difficult for people to talk about especially under such an intense situation. Be prepared to know your strengths and weaknesses...PS- Being a perfectionist is not a weakness.

· Committee members will throw you questions, at times and on purpose, to ruffle your feathers. It is not meant to be a personal attack on the applicant, but it is meant to see how you handle pressure situations and to see how you react. Be prepared on how to handle questions like that because you will encounter situations such as these throughout the program with instructors and preceptors.

· There may be some questions that eventually lead to a discussion about an emotional time in your life. It is ok to show your emotions, but be able to compose yourself so you do not appear emotionally unstable.

· Do not ramble on in an individual interview. Be able to elaborate, with thought, on questions, but leave room for the admissions committee members to talk.

· Dress professionally. Business attire is always expected.

· Be on time. Being late is the number one sign to a program that you are not respectful of their time and tends to show them that you are not interested.

· Be respectful to EVERYONE associated with the program. Remember applicants are being judged the minute they walk through the door. Interaction with students, faculty and staff are always top priority. These interactions are a way for the committee to judge if you will ultimately “fit in” to the program and is a true sign of how you treat others-it kind of goes along with the whole compassion idea.

 

· We do not expect every applicant to have a bubbly personality, but we sometimes can get that one applicant who seems “bothered” with the fact they had to interview or interact with others, or they seem completely disengaged from everyone, including the other applicants. Even if you get the feeling the program is not the best fit for you during the interview we do expect applicants to act professional and respectful at all times.

 

· Our program has group interviews to see how people work as a team.

· Do your homework on the program that you are visiting. As much as we are trying to get a feel for you, it is important to make sure our program is a good fit for you. Prior to the interview I encourage applicants to make sure they know not only about the program, but also about the school to which they are applying and maybe even the health care needs of the surrounding areas. Programs are in different regions for a reason. You may find as you go through the admissions process that the school you thought was your first choice really is not a great fit for you after visiting other programs.

· Have genuine questions prepared for the interview teams, even if you have to ask the same question multiple times. I would not recommend your typical interview questions that you can find on the internet; rather I would recommend you consult with your career services office or even an academic advisor about good questions.

· Finally, know the PA profession and their role within the medical field. It is amazing the number of applicants who say that “PAs do not have to work as hard as physicians and I want to be able to have a life as a medical provider.” We get these comments all the time and it demonstrates to the committee that the applicant really has not done their research. This is where shadowing and asking questions of the PA you are shadowing really is beneficial to your understanding of the profession.

 

Many students put more work into the application than the interview without realizing your academics get you the interview, and the interview really secures your spot in the program.

What are some of the most common mistakes individuals make when applying?

 

· Writing a bad personal statement: Be able to communicate in your personal statement that you understand what you are getting into-meaning you understand the role of a PA, how PAs will benefit the health care system, and what experiences (through clinical experience) have lead you to believe that the PA profession is a good fit for you. One common opening sentence for many applicants is something along the lines of “Ever since I was five years old I played with my dad’s doctor’s kit or read my mom’s anatomy book…” We see this so often and to us it does not tell us anything we have not heard before. Be unique. Make sure to have someone else read your statement before you upload it. We see a lot of grammatical and typos in personal statements.

 

· Find 3 people who can write GOOD letters of recommendation. We realize it is impossible to predict what another person will write on your behalf, but make sure they can elaborate on your skills and potential as a PA. We have some physicians who only write 1 sentence as their letter or many providers do not take the time to review transcripts to ensure their evaluation of the applicant’s intellectual ability is accurate. Our program requires one letter from a professor/advisor and 2 from supervisors within the medical field and another job. Our goal is to see how you are evaluated on your academics and in the clinic-the two components that make up our program. If you lack classroom ability it will be a very difficult road through PA school if you are admitted.

· Being over anxious and, or for lack of a better term, “nagging” programs about your application status. It is important to follow up to make sure GRE scores or transcripts are received, but constant (meaning once a week or several times a month) communication about an application status is a red flag.

· Making sure you meet the requirements for the program to which you are applying. Some applicants do not bother to pay attention to the requirements when they apply and are “shocked” at the fact that they are deficient in coursework or hours. I recommend applicants keep a spreadsheet that outlines the requirements and deadlines for each program to ensure they will be eligible for admission. We never make exceptions for coursework so some people have wasted time and money applying because they do not do their research prior.

· Meeting the selection factors and being realistic about their chances to be granted an interview. Most programs have a minimum recommended overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, prerequisite GPA between 3.2-3.4, clinical experience requirements, and at least a recommended GRE score of 297-300. Some people hope programs make exceptions for their past performance. With the number of PA applicants applying each year, programs, including ours, will take the most competitive applicants based on the selection factors above.

· Finally, apply early. Many people will wait until October through December to start the CASPA application. Each year it opens in mid-April for entry into the next year’s class so it is important to start as early as you can. Many programs have rolling admissions, including ours, so it is first come, first serve.

Edited by paadmissions
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My gpa and science gpa are 3.4, I have almost 3,000 hours HCE, and GRE scores are 302. How do you think my chances are? I also applied June 5th and this is my 3rd time applying.

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My gpa and science gpa are 3.4, I have almost 3,000 hours HCE, and GRE scores are 302. How do you think my chances are? I also applied June 5th and this is my 3rd time applying.

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@tuckereal you seem like an ideal candidate on paper and the decision will most likely come down to your interview performance. That being said, have you interviewed with the programs you're applying to in past cycles?

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@tuckereal you seem like an ideal candidate on paper and the decision will most likely come down to your interview performance. That being said, have you interviewed with the programs you're applying to in past cycles?

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yes, I have interviewed with some of my top choices. Both interviews I received last year, I was also wait listed at both schools. I think one of my biggest problems was that I was submitting my application usually sometime in September rather than early such as June. Also I am retaking A&P to increase my GPA even more and to get A's in those rather than B's

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yes, I have interviewed with some of my top choices. Both interviews I received last year, I was also wait listed at both schools. I think one of my biggest problems was that I was submitting my application usually sometime in September rather than early such as June. Also I am retaking A&P to increase my GPA even more and to get A's in those rather than B's

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What are your thoughts on an applicant who is applying after a major career change (accounting undergrad, HR Recruiting for 10 years) and HCE? I am applying this cycle and will complete all but one per-req this summer. I have accumulated about 750 hours of experience shadowing, mostly with a physician but also some with a surgical PA. I also was part of a medical mission to the Dominican Republic and did patient vitals, dispensed prescriptions, etc. However, with all of that I still have no paid HCE. Do you have an opinion on how this would be viewed or how I should present myself in a personal statement?

 

Thank you for your time!

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What are your thoughts on an applicant who is applying after a major career change (accounting undergrad, HR Recruiting for 10 years) and HCE? I am applying this cycle and will complete all but one per-req this summer. I have accumulated about 750 hours of experience shadowing, mostly with a physician but also some with a surgical PA. I also was part of a medical mission to the Dominican Republic and did patient vitals, dispensed prescriptions, etc. However, with all of that I still have no paid HCE. Do you have an opinion on how this would be viewed or how I should present myself in a personal statement?

 

Thank you for your time!

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@tuckeral..it may be that you have applied later in the cycle, but I would also consider asking for feedback from the admissions committees at the programs in which you were wait listed. At that time it may be that your interview versus the others who interviewed that day may not have been as strong. Sometimes programs are willing to give feedback on how to improve, sometimes they don't. I'm assuming that since you were offered an interview the issue is more about the time you applied or your interview, and not an academic issue. Hope this is helpful.

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@tuckeral..it may be that you have applied later in the cycle, but I would also consider asking for feedback from the admissions committees at the programs in which you were wait listed. At that time it may be that your interview versus the others who interviewed that day may not have been as strong. Sometimes programs are willing to give feedback on how to improve, sometimes they don't. I'm assuming that since you were offered an interview the issue is more about the time you applied or your interview, and not an academic issue. Hope this is helpful.

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@cobajay: I think most programs will have several applicants who are in the midst of a career change and who apply each year. Changing careers is not viewed as a bad thing (at least from our standpoint) and as long as you've demonstrated your research and motivation to enter the program you should be ok. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the HCE requirements for the programs that interest you. If they require paid hours I would definitely recommend you researching ways to meet that requirement. Through your personal statement I would recommend talking briefly about why you wanted to change careers, as it will most likely come up in your interview session. Besides saying your motivation to be a PA is to "help people," be sure to communicate in writing how your mission work and shadowing experiences has helped you see the PA profession is the right fit for you. You should be at an advantage bc you've shadowed both an MD and a PA so recognizing the differences in their roles within the medical team and how they collaborate/work together should be evident. Also, touching on how you see PAs fulfilling the primary care needs of our nation's healthcare system vs. what you've seen abroad may also be worth mentioning. Hope this helps...respond if you have further questions!

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@cobajay: I think most programs will have several applicants who are in the midst of a career change and who apply each year. Changing careers is not viewed as a bad thing (at least from our standpoint) and as long as you've demonstrated your research and motivation to enter the program you should be ok. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the HCE requirements for the programs that interest you. If they require paid hours I would definitely recommend you researching ways to meet that requirement. Through your personal statement I would recommend talking briefly about why you wanted to change careers, as it will most likely come up in your interview session. Besides saying your motivation to be a PA is to "help people," be sure to communicate in writing how your mission work and shadowing experiences has helped you see the PA profession is the right fit for you. You should be at an advantage bc you've shadowed both an MD and a PA so recognizing the differences in their roles within the medical team and how they collaborate/work together should be evident. Also, touching on how you see PAs fulfilling the primary care needs of our nation's healthcare system vs. what you've seen abroad may also be worth mentioning. Hope this helps...respond if you have further questions!

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How much can personal life experience make up for a lack of direct patient care experience? My science GPA is 3.42, overall 3.23. My GRE score is 306. I worked as an STNA/CNA for a brief period, only about 3 months, while in college. I probably accumulated 250 hours during that time. I was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma while in college, and I was forced to stop working as an STNA because my immune system was not up to par. I would have to say, though, I have interacted with oncology PA's for countless hundreds or even thousands of hours, and also shadowed a few PA's now that I have graduated college. I was actually accepted into a 5 year BS/MS PA program, but upon being diagnosed with cancer, I had to decline. 4 years later, I'm back in action with more motivation and want to get back to achieving my dream.

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How much can personal life experience make up for a lack of direct patient care experience? My science GPA is 3.42, overall 3.23. My GRE score is 306. I worked as an STNA/CNA for a brief period, only about 3 months, while in college. I probably accumulated 250 hours during that time. I was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma while in college, and I was forced to stop working as an STNA because my immune system was not up to par. I would have to say, though, I have interacted with oncology PA's for countless hundreds or even thousands of hours, and also shadowed a few PA's now that I have graduated college. I was actually accepted into a 5 year BS/MS PA program, but upon being diagnosed with cancer, I had to decline. 4 years later, I'm back in action with more motivation and want to get back to achieving my dream.

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Thanks for starting this topic! Some really helpful advice so far.

 

I have a few questions that I hope you'll be able to answer...

 

1. How much emphasis is placed on overall GPA versus GPA progression over time? I have a sharp upward trend in my GPA over my college years, but looking at my overall GPA, you wouldn't know it. Do PA schools, in your opinion, take this into consideration? Or do they weed out applicants based on overall GPA alone before considering other factors?

 

2. How much does the GRE matter? My situation is unique in that my GPA is lower than normal, while my GRE score is much higher than normal. Will the GRE score be enough to merit a second look at my application, or is the GRE pretty low on the consideration scale?

 

3. When in the process is the personal narrative read? I would say I have a pretty strong personal statement, but are these read AFTER a candidate is weeded out based on cold hard statistics (GPA, GRE, healthcare hours) or is it the first thing you all read to make your initial decisions?

 

Thank you for your time!

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Thanks for starting this topic! Some really helpful advice so far.

 

I have a few questions that I hope you'll be able to answer...

 

1. How much emphasis is placed on overall GPA versus GPA progression over time? I have a sharp upward trend in my GPA over my college years, but looking at my overall GPA, you wouldn't know it. Do PA schools, in your opinion, take this into consideration? Or do they weed out applicants based on overall GPA alone before considering other factors?

 

2. How much does the GRE matter? My situation is unique in that my GPA is lower than normal, while my GRE score is much higher than normal. Will the GRE score be enough to merit a second look at my application, or is the GRE pretty low on the consideration scale?

 

3. When in the process is the personal narrative read? I would say I have a pretty strong personal statement, but are these read AFTER a candidate is weeded out based on cold hard statistics (GPA, GRE, healthcare hours) or is it the first thing you all read to make your initial decisions?

 

Thank you for your time!

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Would you expand your discussion on the group interview? What is the typical make-up? Are the questions /situations presented, solved by the entire group or is the baton passed?

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Would you expand your discussion on the group interview? What is the typical make-up? Are the questions /situations presented, solved by the entire group or is the baton passed?

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@d3t3rm1n3d: It's encouraging to hear life has taken a turn for the better and that PA school is now a definite option for your future. Although we realize there can be a lot of exposure to the profession through life experiences, it would be best to count actual shadowing experiences and hands on experience for HCE. I do understand from a patient's perspective how the roles can be viewed, but I think this experience will be viewed more from that standpoint than actual shadowing or hands on. I would encourage you to continue shadowing and sometimes you may be able to be trained on the job to perform medical assisting duties. I hope this is helpful and wish you all the best!

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@d3t3rm1n3d: It's encouraging to hear life has taken a turn for the better and that PA school is now a definite option for your future. Although we realize there can be a lot of exposure to the profession through life experiences, it would be best to count actual shadowing experiences and hands on experience for HCE. I do understand from a patient's perspective how the roles can be viewed, but I think this experience will be viewed more from that standpoint than actual shadowing or hands on. I would encourage you to continue shadowing and sometimes you may be able to be trained on the job to perform medical assisting duties. I hope this is helpful and wish you all the best!

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@whimzical: 1. A lot of schools will focus on the last 30-60 hours of someone's coursework. However, it does not mean we would discount your overall performance, but we would obviously like to see improvement. As mentioned in my initial thread we also will consider other factors like our specific program prerequisite GPA, GRE scores, HCE, personal statement and letters of recommendation. All of these factors come into a decision on whether or not a program deems you competitive.

 

2. GRE questions are difficult to answer because some programs put a lot of emphasis and some do not. It would be best to contact the programs that interest you to see how much weight it carries. Our program, for example, weighs the GRE and prerequisite GPA the heaviest as they have proven to be the best predictors of success in the program and on the PANCE. I would encourage you to retake the GRE, if you haven't already, as most programs do not discount applicants if they've taken it more than once. In your situation with a lower overall GPA it would be beneficial for your application if you had a competitive GRE score.

 

3. If you apply via CASPA we can read your personal statement as a part of your application. About 95% of the time we read the entire application for everyone. It gives the applicant a fair chance of us getting to know you outside of your academics.

 

Hope this helps!

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@whimzical: 1. A lot of schools will focus on the last 30-60 hours of someone's coursework. However, it does not mean we would discount your overall performance, but we would obviously like to see improvement. As mentioned in my initial thread we also will consider other factors like our specific program prerequisite GPA, GRE scores, HCE, personal statement and letters of recommendation. All of these factors come into a decision on whether or not a program deems you competitive.

 

2. GRE questions are difficult to answer because some programs put a lot of emphasis and some do not. It would be best to contact the programs that interest you to see how much weight it carries. Our program, for example, weighs the GRE and prerequisite GPA the heaviest as they have proven to be the best predictors of success in the program and on the PANCE. I would encourage you to retake the GRE, if you haven't already, as most programs do not discount applicants if they've taken it more than once. In your situation with a lower overall GPA it would be beneficial for your application if you had a competitive GRE score.

 

3. If you apply via CASPA we can read your personal statement as a part of your application. About 95% of the time we read the entire application for everyone. It gives the applicant a fair chance of us getting to know you outside of your academics.

 

Hope this helps!

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@bp120/80: The group session can vary depending on what program you're applying to. Many programs, including ours, gives the group (of typically 4 applicants-maybe more depending on the program) an ethical scenario that you work to discuss, work through or present (this discussion/presentation, etc depends on the specific scenario). Group sessions are used to evaluate how you work in a team setting and to weed out those people with personalities that could be destructive to the overall class and ultimately the profession.

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@bp120/80: The group session can vary depending on what program you're applying to. Many programs, including ours, gives the group (of typically 4 applicants-maybe more depending on the program) an ethical scenario that you work to discuss, work through or present (this discussion/presentation, etc depends on the specific scenario). Group sessions are used to evaluate how you work in a team setting and to weed out those people with personalities that could be destructive to the overall class and ultimately the profession.

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Hi paadmissions,

 

Thanks for fielding some questions.

 

I am curious if members of PA admission committees ever think anything along the lines of "this person belongs in medical school". If yes, at what point in the process does this usually surface (I would guess the interview)? What is it that produces this thought?

 

Thanks!

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@sharktank Our committee has had those thoughts before during an interview. My thoughts about why a committee would come to that conclusion is probably because the applicant may not communicate clearly that he/she can accept the role of a PA; meaning PAs work under the supervision of a physician and the applicant has demonstrated they would not be comfortable being the "end-all-say-all." It's important for PAs to recognize their boundaries and note where they may need to consult with their supervising physician and not be bothered or too arrogant to ask the physician. I think shadowing PAs and MDs are the best way to decipher which profession is best for you. I hope this helps..respond if it's unclear! Thanks and best wishes!

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Hi paadmissions,

 

Thanks for fielding some questions.

 

I am curious if members of PA admission committees ever think anything along the lines of "this person belongs in medical school". If yes, at what point in the process does this usually surface (I would guess the interview)? What is it that produces this thought?Thanks!

 

I had committee members blatantly say.. "Looking at your application, it looks as though you may be applying to Med School as well". I kinda laughed inside my head. There was nothing about my application that would give evidence to wanting to apply to med school. With that said.. the program is only 3 years old, and the minimum gpa/hce/gre is quite a bit below the usual standards... not that that's a bad thing.. they are new, they are trying to attract more candidates. With my GPA bordering a 4.0 and HCE that was probably well above average in comparison to the candidates (seemed very young.. even at my ripe age of 25), the feeling I got from them is that they thought my past education was geared towards going to med school.

Edited by Walkoffshot
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PAAdmissions,

 

Has your program interviewed and accepted many chiropractors? As a chiropractor myself applying to PA school, is there anything specific that I should be aware of or prepare for in terms of what admissions folks might be looking for?

 

Thanks for all your insights in this thread!

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Quick question: how do most schools feel about retaking undergrad classes? I had a really rough sophomore year and had to retake calculus 1&2, cellular bio, and organic chemistry. My GPA has improved exponentially, and I'm currently a practicing CNA, but I'm extremely concerned that the number of classes I've had to retake are going to reflect poorly when I apply to PA schools in a couple years. Will the fact that I've retaken multiple classes be something that holds me back?

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@discogenic We have interviewed several chiropractors before and we currently have one in our didactic year. I would recommend that you make sure your GPA is strong not only in your undergrad work, but also your doctoral program. Some applicants assume just because they have completed a doctoral program they are an automatic "shoe in" for the program, but you must demonstrate success at that level as the PA curriculum is just as rigorous and demanding. Also, although you probably have some interactions with PAs, making sure that you've shadowed PAs to demonstrate to the committee that you've branched out beyond your current profession to gain a better understanding may be helpful. Personality evaluations tend to be the main focus when it comes to interviewing applicants from other professions. You bring a great deal of experience to the table, but it's important to allow yourself to be "retrained" on a different level and approach medicine from a PA stand point. I hope this helps and best wishes!

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@pafitz21: We have several applicants who retake courses to improve their GPA. Keep in mind it is very difficult to increase an overall GPA, but many schools do look at your last 30-60 hours to see how you've improved. We see some applicants who had a horrible undergraduate career when they were in their teens and early 20s. Many of them have taken time to mature and work in the healthcare field as a CNA or EMT/Paramedic, for example, and have gone back to retake prerequisite coursework and work on their medical core and science GPA. At least from our standpoint, the maturation and refocus of an applicant is something we like to see.

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@discogenic We have interviewed several chiropractors before and we currently have one in our didactic year. I would recommend that you make sure your GPA is strong not only in your undergrad work, but also your doctoral program. Some applicants assume just because they have completed a doctoral program they are an automatic "shoe in" for the program, but you must demonstrate success at that level as the PA curriculum is just as rigorous and demanding. Also, although you probably have some interactions with PAs, making sure that you've shadowed PAs to demonstrate to the committee that you've branched out beyond your current profession to gain a better understanding may be helpful. Personality evaluations tend to be the main focus when it comes to interviewing applicants from other professions. You bring a great deal of experience to the table, but it's important to allow yourself to be "retrained" on a different level and approach medicine from a PA stand point. I hope this helps and best wishes!

 

Excellent advice!! Thanks. The programs I'm applying to all appear to be ultra-competitive from an admissions standpoint; no "shoe ins", for sure. And as far as willingness to retrain, that is my whole motivation, so I'm ready to go!

 

Thanks again.

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First, I want to say thank you for answering all of the posts. They have been very helpful, and I really appreciate the feedback!

 

Now onto a few questions I have... my undergrad was in biomedical sciences, and I now work as an NA at a local hospital. I applied last cycle, with only about 200 hours HCE and quite late in the cycle (probably my biggest mistake I know). I was waitlisted at a few schools, but no interviews. My GPA overall is shy of a 3.5 and science is just shy of 3.4. I had my personal statement reviewed by someone who sits on a PA admissions board and she suggested a few minor changes. So as for those aspects I feel like I am on par with what schools are looking for, if I'm correct?

 

As for references I was confident in the two I had from undergrad, but my third (one from a PA) I was not too sure of. Since then, I have been working as an NA for a year now though and was excited to be getting some great experience and improve my HCE. While being there for the past year and hoping to have my supervisor as my third reference I was a little concerned about asking her. I am not impressed with her at all in general, in addition she does not spend time on the unit typically, other than a few minutes at the beginning of each day. So I feel she really is unaware of my performance, attitude, etc. Therefore I was hesitant, but none the less thought she was really my best option. A fellow NA, also applying to PA school happened to beat me to the punch and asked her for a reference. She was told that it is "against hospital policy" for her to provide references. My co-worker and I were both stunned at this, as one of the main reasons we took the position was to gain HCE for school, and hopefully a reference. With that being said, I called HR and they were dumbfounded as well. They told me there is no such policy at the hospital. Now I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place....big time! I can ask her, and have her say yes.... maybe she just wanted to get out of writing one for my co-worker? Maybe she really thinks she can't write a reference and I can tell her what HR said... but if she's using it as an excuse, well then I'm not counting on it being well written. And to begin with, I don't feel as though she will write something that will correctly represent the employee and person that I really am, so should I even ask her at all? I am incredibly frustrated with the sitaution. I spoke with the nurse that trains all of the NAs, she has been very resourceful during my time there. She said she would be happy to write me a reference but it would be more of a personal one since she really doesn't work with me, only trained me for the first month.

 

My next question, yes, I appologize that there is more... what should I look at changing overall for my re-application? I have been working on re-writing my PS, should I keep the same two references I was confident in and have them write new letters? Or get three completely new ones?

 

And lastly, I was aiming toward a deadline of the end of July (Since I really didn't start hearing from most schools from the last cycle until Spring). Is that too late again? Would I be better off just focusing on being ready first thing in April and take yet another year off?

 

Thank you for bearing with me, as I realize now I rambled quite a bit... but I greatly appreciate any constructive feedback you have for me!!

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@biomed219: Excellent questions. In regards to your letters of recommendation (LORs) I would consider finding a nurse or another medical coworker who may outrank you, and with whom you work with on a regular basis to write that final LOR. My opinion is that it is good to see a supervisor write a letter, but if you're not interacting with that person and they can't confidently comment on your work ethic and potential as a PA it's not worth wasting their time and yours. If you have a lot of interaction with a PA who you've shadowed or worked with I would have them write a letter as well. If you're not confident in what the PA will write consider just a nurse you work with. In my opinion, a lot of applicants stress too much about LORs so find that one person in the clinical setting who can recommend you in a positive way. I'm not 100% sure that all programs are like this, but from our standpoint LORs are important, but are not going to outweigh GPAs, GRE scores and HCE (unless, of course, someone writes a bad LOR [which rarely happens]).

 

As far as your reapplication status, I think just applying early is the best thing to do to improve your chances for an interview. It seems as if you're on par with GPAs (there is no mention of GRE scores so I'm assuming you're competitive from that standpoint, if GRE scores are applicable to the programs that you're applying to), PS, and HCE. To be honest, there were MANY competitive applicants who we had to turn down for an interview because of the number of people who applied. If you're able to get your application in even earlier than the end of July I would recommend you do that. If the programs you're applying to use CASPA, once you submit your app it takes 4-6 weeks for verification, which delays your application even more. As a reapplicant through CASPA, they save your old information so resubmitting through them should be a fairly easy and quick process.

I hope this is helpful and if you need further guidance let me know!

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Hi paadmissions,

First, Thanks for taking your precious time answering our questions. I'm sure we're all appreciated. I have some questions regarding PA.

 

1. I"ve been a Medical technologist for 6 years (lab). Wouldn't that considered as HCE ??? If that's not the case, I'd need to get another job as a phlebotomist or volunteer.

 

2. I'm also an Asian-American. At this day and age, I'd think it's not a factor. Unfortunately for me, I still do have an accent and english is my 2nd language. My question is: with the competitive level of the program, Do you consider these as major disadvantages???

 

3. I'm in the process of retaking every preq. (I have a B.S in biology). to show my dedication and relearn the basic foundation while working full time. Would you recommend that or just retaking the courses that"s b or below???

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@ktj5195 thanks for you questions.

1. For our program the medical tech hours would count, but I would encourage you to shadow a PA to show that you're taking extra steps to expose yourself to the profession. Be sure to check with the programs you're applying to to make sure you are meeting the requirements for those programs.

2. I don't consider you having an accent or english being your 2nd language being a problem IF you have demonstrated that you are successful in the classroom. This means that communication skills and performance are important and I would recommend your professors and employers make note of your understanding of the language and your communication skills in your letters of recommendation. Your grades should also help reflect your understanding of the language. We have several students in your situation and they have demonstrated success in the classroom, which is reflected in their application, and interview process. They are currently doing fine in the program.

3. And, yes, I agree with retaking prerequisite requirements that you may have scored a C or less. Hopefully, it can only help you to show improvement but again, double check with the programs that interest you.

 

Hope this helps :)

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My question is (I am midway as far as pre reqs and a BS goes, got lots of HCE as an EMT though) I shadowed a PA about a year ago for 3 months and would love to get a LOR but I'm about 2 years out from applying to any program. What's the protocol for this? I think I did ok but definetly not all the memorable after 3 years.

I for sure want to find another PA to shadow but I really had an amazing experience with this one.

 

Thanks

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@kayla2013 It's exciting to hear that you had a great experience with the PA you shadowed a while ago. I would recommend reaching out to that PA now to see if they would be willing to write a letter for you when you are ready to apply to PA school. Obviously, give him/her a timeline of when they will need to write that letter. If the program you're applying to uses CASPA, you'll need to let them know they will be encouraged to upload their LOR electronically when you finish your application (they should be prompted by an email from CASPA because you have to put down their email address). I would also recommend you spend as much time as you can with the next PA you shadow,as your time with them maybe as exciting, if not better. I hope this helps and good luck!

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Hello,

 

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

 

How does your program view an applicant that has attended another Physician Assistant program but had to withdraw from that program? In other words, would your program accept a transfer student?

 

How diverse is your program?

 

What is the attrition rate of your program?

 

Lastly, what type of teaching methods are utilized at your program? Is it lecture based, self directed learning, or problem based learning?

 

Thank you again for your time:)

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@marissapa Thank you for your questions.

Withdrawing: As long as you withdrew from a previous program and was not dismissed due to academics or for disciplinary reasons you would be eligible to apply to our program through normal channels. Unfortunately, we do not accept transfer credits (a.k.a. advanced placement) into the program based on your work from another PA school. I think, but not 100% sure, most programs would require you to complete all curricular components if accepted. My #1 advice to you is make sure you are honest with all programs you're applying to to make sure they are aware of your reasons for withdrawing and make sure you note that you were previously enrolled in another PA program on your CASPA application. Being up front and honest with programs should be a priority.

 

In regards to our diversity in our program, our minority percentage has increased from 10% to 28% for our incoming class. Increasing our diversity based on ethnicity is a goal we try to improve upon each year. However, diversity can also mean different ages and different economically and educational backgrounds, which we have a good mix of that criteria in our program.

 

Attrition: We have only had 6 out of 176 students since 2007 leave the program (early on we average maybe 2 per year, but most recently 1 a year). The majority of these students have withdrawn for personal reasons and a very few of them were dismissed due to academics.

 

Teaching styles: Our program is lecture based.

 

Hope this helps!

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Ok I have another question (thanks a lot for the previous response!): narratives, I already pretty much have a general theme I want to go with, but was curious what exactly are adcoms looking for? I know it's important not to be cliche or come off as Mother Teresa but what are you guys looking for?

Thanks again

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@kayla Great question. I'm speaking for our program, but I would imagine many other programs probably think along the same lines. We want to know why you want to enter the PA profession and if you understand the role of the PA. Some statements we don't like to read in personal statements are things like:

1- "Ever since I was five I played with my dad's dr's kit...or I read my mom's anatomy book and it all fascinated me.."

2- "I just want to help people"(keep in mind 500 other applicants want to do the same thing)

3- "PAs don't work as hard as physicians..."

4-"Physicians don't spend as much time with their patients..."

 

Although many of these statements above could possibly be true in some instances, they are cliche or "Mother Teresa" sounding. Remember some admissions committees, such as ours, have physicians as a part of their faculty. You definitely don't want to offend or stereotype every physician in to a category as not being compassionate....remember, there may be PAs who could be the same way.

 

I get the question all the time about "what does it mean to understand the role of the PA?" Hopefully through your research about the profession (I recommend starting with the AAPA), you've learned there is a need in our country for primary care providers...many programs have a primary care focus. Look at how PAs will help alleviate the need for providers and the critical role mid-level providers will play in our healthcare system reform. Primary care providers are critical to helping control and educate patients about obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Controlling these type of diseases on the front end and educating patients takes the strain off our healthcare system in the long run (healthier people and less financial strain).

 

If you're shadowing a PA, it's also important to ask well-thought out and relevant questions about their relationship with their supervising physician and other members of their health team. For example, a question like "what if you disagree with your supervising physician on a treatment plan...how do you approach him/her and do you work collaboratively through the issue?" Questions or topics such as theses hopefully will help you get an idea of the role of a PA and it will help you form your own opinion of the importance of the profession--hopefully allowing you to form your personal statement.

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one more question from me since you brought up the topic of disagreeing with the physician about a treatment plan. I was asked in an interview that question and had not really thought about it so I choked. Since then I have talked to several Pas and NPs about what they would do. Basically I would say that I would be treating my patient with the standard of care for whatever illness or injury they had and if the physician disagreed, then I would have that widely accepted standard of care to back me up. Another PA pointed out to me that while that was a good answer, in reality you want to keep your job so you will most likely go with what the physician says. Can you give some advice as to what the admissions committee is looking for when asking this kind of question?

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