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Become a PA, work to pay off debt, drop to part time and live below my means. Anyone done this?


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I have a question that I'm going to try to make short, to save you a bunch of unnecessary reading.

I'd like to eventually become a PA, work full time to pay off all debts, then drop to part time so that I can spend more time traveling, starting a family, reading, etc. I'm sure this is something that's been done a good bit, but I'm curious to the thoughts or inputs from those who have actually done this and what your lifestyle is like, the difficulty (or lack of) in finding a job, and what other thoughts you may want to throw out there. My fiancé is a nurse, so with us both working part time, we should be okay as long as we don't justify dumb debts. There may be periods where I want to work full-time plus OT (like when planning to purchase a house or before our first child), but for the majority of my working life, I would like to work part time, live below my means, and have many interests/hobbies outside of medicine.

For what it's worth - I do enjoy the art and science of medicine. I'm an EMT and like the problem-solving nature of the work. I like having meaningful work. Prior to deciding to pursue medicine, I lived off 40% of my income for a year, sold most of my expensive belongings that had debt, and was able to pay off my house and buy a nice car in cash. I mention this to say that I'm serious on this sort of mindset, as I've done it before, but just curious of how flexible it is in a career in medicine. I know people consistently mention that PA vs MD offers much more flexibility, but is this sort of goal realistic?

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I've not done all of what you are suggesting but I did go to part-time after 9 years as a PA. From what I've seen, you need to work full-time long enough to be fully competent at your job, after which you should be qualified for contingent or temporary positions in the area of medicine you have become competent in. How this may change over time with the great influx of new PAs and new PA programs, as well as the continued evolution of both the PA and NP professions is anyone's guess.

I also know of many PAs who took time off to have kids and went back to work full-time.

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I would say there are two rules of thought here...assuming one has reached a level of competency in practicing medicine.

1. Do what you want...you are you and need to do what is right for you.

2. Do what is right for patients.  While you are of course paying your tuition (barring a few exceptions that potentially apply) and spending the time to learn, you are becoming a PA to serve patients.  To only work a handful of years to then go part time is taking a healthcare provider part time out of the work force to serve patients.  How much will that actually affect patients and their access to care?  That is debatable based on location and specialty practiced, but we do have an issue with access to care in this country.  Therefore this has been a somewhat hotly debated topic for medical providers.  Should schools provide seats to students who want to rapidly work part time?  Most of the positions I've read are an emphatic "NO" due to issues with access to care.  Of course, how do schools accurately screen this during interviews?  No idea.  I also want to say this is VERY different than a provider at the end of their career going part time before retiring.

 

I want to make it clear that I am not saying you shouldn't become a PA and do this.  But, I would suggest ensuring that you are at least considering #2 and the effects of your plans on patients.

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@mgriffiths I appreciate that outlook and hadn't thought of it from that perspective. Thank you. I mostly have other things I'd like to pursue outside of medicine, which comes as a red flag to some, but I know I could handle a good bit. I know some people claim you have to practically be married to medicine to pursue it, but I have some business ventures I'd like to work in alongside being a PA. Aside from working as a PA and starting a family, I'd like to continue to grow my nonprofit, read and write books, do some investing in real estate, and do some things in the tech field. Right now, I'm still in my undergraduate classes, work part time as an EMT, own a (small) nonprofit, have my real estate license, read an average of one book a week (Audible included), am training for a marathon, have developed my first iPhone app, and have a healthy relationship with my fiancé. I say this not to sound boastful, but to give an example of how I'd like my life to continue in terms of after a PA program. I understand there are many sacrifices that will be made along the way, but I essentially want to work a little less to pursue other endeavors, most of which would be in terms of giving back to the community versus for the money. I hope that makes sense. I'm sure after having children, though, a lot of those things would fall to the wayside!

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On 3/18/2021 at 3:13 PM, Tarantino said:

I know some people claim you have to practically be married to medicine to pursue it

While many say this...I don't believe it's true.  Yes, there are some specialties that seem to require this a bit more, but there is also a huge difference between going "part time" from an 80 hour work week to 40-50 and going truly part time to 25-30 hours/week.  I will say that I have (almost) NEVER worked more than 50 hours in a week unless I chose to by picking up extra shifts for cash.  The one exception was in 2020 when I was pulled to cover due to COVID in an UC.

You seem to have a lot going on, but also sounds like you have it under control.  Being a PA absolutely has potential to fit into your jigsaw puzzle, but you also will have many opportunities that will stretch you thin with that many other pursuits.

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@mgriffiths I would love to do something like three 12's a week, but could only imagine a specialty like that being in something like EM, which I don't think I'd want to stay in for good. Who knows! I appreciate your responses. I understand with time that some of my endeavors may have to be put to the back burner, but I just didn't want to solely focus on medicine to the point that it's all I seem to do, which is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) reasons why I chose PA over MD. Especially once a family is started.

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I think EM would provide the greatest opportunity for that, as well as UC.  But, many other specialties would have potential.  I have many friends who work FM and do three 12's.  I worked four 10's myself in FM.  I now work 3 days in ortho...two days of clinic and 1 very LONG day of surgery.  In some ways I got lucky because I don't have control over our surgery days and the surgeon I'm with prefers one long surgery day over 2 shorter ones.  It could change, but it is in my contract to have Fridays off.  It is possible that I will add a third clinic day for productivity bonuses, but zero plan to right now.

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