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Monday, February 17, 2014

Health Care Experience and PA School

Health Care Experience and PA School
Updated: 06/08/2016
Whether you’re new to learning about physician assistants, you’re still not sure if PA is right for you, or you know that you want to go into the medical field, health care experience can be a tricky business. Many application systems out there require you to fill in your experience in a very technical, monotonous way. The CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants), AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) and TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service) are the most well-known. So you’re probably wondering what type of health care experience (HCE) you’ll need? Yes, the abbreviation “HCE” stands for health care experience, and you’ll see many students and PAs using it a lot when they talk about admissions requirements. I’ll talk about the different types of experience below and then list a few types under each. Just as a tip, always ensure that your “training” for any profession you list below is not counted in your hours of experience, as schools will not accept any training hours as HCE.

Patient Care Experience
This is experience in which you are directly involved in the patient’s care. 

Part of the value of direct patient care is learning to independently make decisions, acting on these decisions, and living with those choices. The following are people who have had to evaluate patients, make independent decisions, and implement plans without much input from others. These critical thinking skills include: prescribing medications or administering them, performing a procedure, directing a course of treatment, and treating patients (wound care, foley care, etc.). It is not limited, but essentially, this type of experience requires you to make skin-to-skin contact with the patient and making some type of assessment of the patient. If you are unsure, it is ALWAYS recommended you ask the schools you are applying to, NOT CASPA. They’ll tell you what to classify each experience as.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) - If you’ve ever worked as a tech in any specialty (ICU, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Intermediate Care, Pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, ER, Med/Surg), your experience will probably fall under this category. I can personally attest that this is some of the strongest HCE you can obtain. I’ve worked in the ICU and Neurology units at a hospital before and I learned incredible amounts in the 2 years I worked there. Even if you work “prn,” which means “as needed” you can gain a load of experience working a few nights a week  (7 pm-11 pm) or weekends when it’s busiest. I did this while in school full-time, too! You have the ability to work in a hospital or nursing home as soon as you pass your CNA exam offered by the American Red Cross. Downside is the course for CNA, the cost, and the time (few weeks).
    • Patient Care Technician (PCT) - Same position, different title. The difference is usually that these technicians are usually trained on-the-job without any prior experience, while most CNAs are hired from technical schools or straight out of high school.
      • Can be involved in a wide range of activities depending on your employer - from feeding, cleaning, and walking patients to collecting urine samples, inserting Foley catheters, taking vitals, ambulating, and deep suctioning.
      • Heads Up: If you’re considering getting your EMT certification, you might want to just get your CNA certification. Most hospitals will hire CNA positions with a EMT, CNA, or MA certification. It’s cheaper and quicker.
  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) - This position requires a course and certification, however, Medical Assistants can be hired with on-the-job (OTJ) training and no experience is necessary. There is nothing wrong with gaining the certification, but make sure it fits into your timeline for PA school. You need to accrue patient care hours outside of your training, so make sure that even if you spend 6-9 months (and $$) gaining your certification, you have time before PA applications to accrue hours! As an MA, you have the ability to work in various specialties and work in different settings (hospitals, clinics, private practices). MA’s usually take vitals, administer medications and injections, record medical records, handle medical instruments and supplies, collect specimens, and can aid PA/physician in procedures. They also have the option to obtain a limited x-ray license.  
    • Podiatry Tech - Since podiatry technician’s can assist with surgical procedures, provide wound care and dressing, take vitals and provide patient education, I’ve listed them under MA’s. Most schools should count this as direct patient care experience, but it would be advisable to double check with them.
    • Hospital Corpsman (HM) - Hospital Corpsman work in the U.S. Navy and have similar responsibilities as MAs.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-Basic)/Emergency Room Tech (ER Tech)- Also known as the “people who work on the ambulance” (but you can actually opt to work “in house” as well), but if you have trouble finding a job after getting your certification, you can always become an ER tech, CNA, or urgent care technician. EMT’s tend to have higher pay than working in a hospital setting and their training is short (2-3 months) and relatively inexpensive. Here, you’ll learn lots of clinical assessment skills beneficial for PA school. This position gives you a lot of lateral mobility because it allows you to work in clinics, private offices, and in hospitals. Schools tend to love EMTs for their HCE because of the in depth clinical knowledge and skills. I’ve heard before that if you have the opportunity, to go for your EMT-I or EMT-IV certification, because your job will be less restrictive and because the market can sometimes be saturated with EMTs looking for jobs. Because of this, you might consider obtaining your 12-lead EKG, ACLS, AMLS, PHTLS, PALS, NRP, ABLS, WUMP or other additional certifications to make yourself more competitive. Make sure when you fill out your CASPA that you are only listing the “non-wait” time, or simply put, the time you are actually with patients.
    • Medics (civilian or military)- Army/Air Force medics are a great way to gain HCE while serving our country. Medics are trained to start IV’s, how to give a basic trauma survey, how to interpret EKGs, and much more. This is a great opportunity for those wishing to go become Emergency Room PAs.
    • EMT-Basic - Requires about 110-120 hours of training. Non-invasive skills such as bleeding control, positive pressure ventilation, oropharyngeal airway, nasopharyngeal airway, and splinting.
    • EMT-Intermediate - Requires about 200-300 hours of training. Allows more invasive procedures including IV therapy, multi-lumen airway devices (intubation), and enhanced assessment skills.
    • EMT-Advanced - Requires 400-500 hours of training. Allows for advanced cardiac monitoring and the administration of pharmaceutical interventions.
    • EMT-Paramedics - Requires 1000+ hours of training. Works in ambulance and drops off patients in the ER. Perform medical procedures such as fluid resuscitation, pharmaceutical administration, obtaining IV access, cardiac monitoring, and other advanced procedures and assessments. EMS jobs help with thinking on your feet, making decisions under pressure and sticking with them, formatting a differential diagnosis and not freezing up when it’s make or break time. If you get the chance, it is preferred to become an ER tech due to the amount of exposure you’ll get.
  • Nurses (LVN, LPN or RN, ASN, BSN, MSN) - Requires at least a 2-year associates degree or vocational program. Getting a nursing degree prior to beginning PA school can be tricky. If you know you want to be a PA, then maybe nursing school isn’t the route you want to choose. Some schools may question your motives later and ask why you didn’t just pursue becoming a nurse practitioner instead. Although there is no problem with getting a nursing degree before PA school, as this is some of the best HCE you can obtain, some programs may misconstrue your ambition for the “nursing model” of education versus the “medical model” of education, which I will write about in an article soon.
  • Respiratory Therapist - Requires a 2-3 year associates degree or diploma in respiratory science. Advanced practice clinicians in airway management; establish and maintain the airway during management of trauma, intensive care, and may administer anaesthesia for surgery or conscious sedation.
  • Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy Aide - Check with individual programs, but most accept (with great appreciation) this type of experience! One of the benefits of this HCE is that most outpatient clinics and inpatient hospitals will train you on-the-job (few months) and no certification is usually required, although you can obtain a 2-year associate’s degree.  
    • Chiropractic Assistant/Tech - Performs electrical stimulation, massage, therapeutic ultrasound, etc. Very similar to a physical therapy aide. Contact each individual program for assurance.
  • Acupuncturist - Acupuncture practice including performing acupuncture treatment, massage, nutritional and lifestyle counseling, and herbs counts as direct patient care experience at some schools. It would be best to contact all schools you plan on applying to to confirm.
  • EKG Technician (Certified EKG Technician) - You’ll learn how to apply a 12 lead EKG to patients, perform stress tests, prepare patients for Holter or ambulatory monitoring, edit and deliver results to providers for analysis. Very inexpensive. Can take as little as 4 weekends to obtain. Click here for more information.
    • Pacemaker/ICD Technician (Certified Cardiographic Technician) - Work with patients who require pacemakers to regulate their heartbeats. Have complete knowledge of noninvasive techniques and methods for diagnosing heart and vascular diseases. Great pay and 5 month certification.
  • Speech Language Pathologist (Speech therapist) - Requires at least a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology and 400 clinical hours. Evaluate and treat communication disorders and swallowing disorders.
  • Athletic Trainer - ATs work directly with patients under the supervision of physicians. They provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. ATs earn at least a  bachelor’s degree from an accredited program and must pass a comprehensive exam to earn the ATC credential. Additionally, more than 70% of certified athletic trainers hold at least a master’s degree.

Other Healthcare Experience
This is experience obtained while working in a health or health-related field, but where you were not directly involved in the patient’s care. For example, filling prescriptions, performing clerical work, delivering food to patient’s rooms, cleaning rooms and making beds, working as a hospital volunteer, etc.

  • Mental Health/Psychiatric Facility Technician/Counselor- Any experience where you are working in educational rehabilitation for mental health or psychiatry would fall under this category. This category is very ambiguous, but includes anything from seclusions, applying restraints, auditing charts, facilitating patient group sessions, checking vital signs, and performing suicide checks. If you have any questions about whether your experience counts as direct patient experience, contact the individual schools for a more direct answer.
  • Pharmacy Technician (PCTB) - Pharmacy technician experience can count as HCE or “Other HCE” depending on each individual school. You should contact each school for an answer. PCTB board exams can be taken after self-studying using self-study books found online. This is the route many pre-PA students will choose to go. It’s easy to get jobs near your school at a local pharmacy, very manageable work to do while in school, and the pay is pretty appealing too.
  • Phlebotomist (CPT) - Phlebotomy certification is relatively easy to obtain and cheap, but you’ll have to check with each individual school to decide whether this is the right HCE for you. Some schools accept it as HCE and some will not. Some count laboratory work (specimen processing, blood bank, microbiology, etc.) as “other HCE,” while actual sticking of patients is considering “HCE.” It all depends on each program. Courses are usually about 1-2 months in length and require an externship at a clinic or hospital. Either way, phlebotomy is usually ranked “lower tier” by most schools in terms of the type of HCE they want you to have. I would not recommend this to be your first choice.
  • Sitter/Patient Safety Aide - A caregiver who is usually attentive to a patient at risk due to meeting the criteria and having an order for a 1:1 patient watch. This is a person who makes sure a patient does not get out of bed, pull a line/tube, etc. This does not satisfy the requirement of HCE and should not be your number one HCE of choice.
  • Scribe - I’ve talked about scribing before, but basically, scribes chart for physicians during their assessment with patients (complains, history of present illness, family history, review of systems, physical exam, etc.). They keep up with incoming lab/imaging results and overall, provide assistance to the physician/PA to facilitate action in the clinical setting, usually the ER. You are there when patients are admitted or discharged and you’ll learn what labs to order or what symptoms a patient might have. Ultimately, it depends on the schools you are applying to whether or not this will count as HCE or not. Keep in mind that MOST schools will not count this as HCE, but it could be your window of opportunity into another job in health care.
  • Medical Interpreter (MI) - Medical interpreters mostly work in the emergency department (ED) interpreting for nurses, physicians, PAs, or patients during triage, assessment, discharge, or trauma. They can also work in other units or remotely for third parties. Occasionally, MI’s are allowed to take vitals, ambulate patients, or perform EKGs, although that experience is rare and contingent upon the hospital needing extra assistance.
  • Dental Hygienist/Assistant - This HCE may or may not count as direct patient care experience. You’ll have to check with each individual program. I’ve listed it under “other HCE” because it seems as though most programs would prefer other HCE than this type. While you do plenty of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation, you are not treating all systems of the body, which schools want you to have exposure to. If you have some shadowing experience, you might be able to get by. Check with your programs if you want to know more.
  • Anesthesia Technician - Most anesthesia technicians are responsible for stocking equipment, cleaning laryngoscope blades, and checking anesthesia machinery (change tanks, change tubing, refill gas, layout intubating equipment, look for fluid leaks, and clean) after surgery, which makes it difficult to count as direct patient care experience. Some anesthesia techs may be allowed to place arterial lines and place hard stick IVs on the floor with ultrasound, but most are only able to handle the equipment. Also, tuition for a program can be costly (up to $30k for one year program) to obtain a certificate.
  • Veterinarian Technician/Kennel Tech- Although CASPA does not specify species for HCE, most schools do not accept vet tech experience as direct patient care experience because you’re not directly involved in human related HCE. Schools want to ensure that you are not a veterinarian “reject,” even if you really never were bound for vet school. If you want to list this experience, you can, but try to shadow or obtain as much human HCE as you can before applying. Most vet techs find this in phlebotomy, although phlebotomy may not be the best alternative for direct patient care experience either. Schools want to know that when you become a PA, you’ll be able to treat patients and read their body language for signs and symptoms.
  • Transporter - A transporter usually works in large hospitals and ambulates patients from respective floors typically down to imaging, etc.
  • Sterile Processor (SPD) - Requires a SPD certification. This HCE does not give you interaction with patients almost entirely. You’re responsible for sterilizing surgical equipment and other healthcare equipment of biological fluids. Cost for certification is inexpensive. Not ideal experience for PA school.
  • Food Service - Delivers food from hospital cafeteria rooms to patient rooms. Not ideal for PA school. I would recommend obtaining other healthcare experience.
  • Scrub Technician (Surgical technologist) - Scrub technicians are actually facets of CNA’s. They possess knowledge of sterile and aseptic techniques. Requires attendance at a junior college or technical school and many train at military schools. Training can take several years and the goal is for you to be able to anticipate the surgeons next move.
  • Radiology/MRI Technician - Requires a 2-year associates degree from a junior, community, or technical college. Average salary is about $27/hour. They perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x-rays on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging scanners to create diagnostic images.
  • Laboratory Technician - Laboratory technicians have numerous titles - biomedical scientists, medical laboratory scientists (MLS), clinical laboratory scientists, and medical technologists (MT). This position can be beneficial as a PA for interpreting lab results for making a diagnosis. They perform chemical, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological diagnostic analyses on body fluids. Requires a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science, biomedical science, medical technology, or a certification from an accredited training program. Certified through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
    • Medical Lab Technician (MLT) - Perform less complex testing and laboratory procedures than medical technologists (MTs). Usually requires an associates degree from a community or junior college. Work under the supervision of the certified medical technologist.
  • Clinical Research Coordinator/Assistant/Specialist - Most programs agree that this is not direct patient care experience, and some would argue that you are better fit with this experience for medical school rather than PA school. This experience has prepared some students well for MPH/MPAS programs.
  • Hospital Volunteer - Most hospital volunteers are in charge of restocking medical supplies, answering phones, managing desks at waiting rooms, ambulating patients from their rooms to the front door of the hospital, etc. Occasionally, your supervisor may allow you to assist in feeding patients, turn beds, give sponge baths, and shadow providers under the supervision of others, but this experience should still be listed under “other healthcare experience.”
  • Patient Care Assistant (PCA)/Residential Aide/Caregiver - Other names include: Personal Care Attendant, Patient Care Assistant, Personal Support Worker, Home Care Aide. Provides assistance in personal care & hygiene, feeding and meal preparation, maintaining safe and clean environment and providing instruction and guidance. This does not necessarily count as direct patient care experience at schools because they don’t see you making patient assessments like you would in a real hospital or clinic setting. It would be advisable to consult your particular program about your individual experience.  

Healthcare Shadowing
Shadowing is completely different. If you spent time observing a PA, NP, MD/DO or anyone else in the medical field, this is where you would list those types of hours on the CASPA. I’ll write an article soon talking about who you might want to shadow, how long you need to shadow, what you can expect, and more. It’s important to realize this is not considered “HCE” for schools requirements, unless a school has specified they will accept it as such.

Research
Research projects done in addition to classroom work; should NOT appear on a school transcript as credit.

Community Service
Volunteer work done outside the healthcare field
  • Judging science projects at a local science fair
  • Volunteer for diabetes awareness week
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Tutoring children
  • Working for a fundraiser walk or blood drive

Other Work Experience
Paid work done outside of the health care field.
  • Personal Trainer - Most programs will not accept this as direct patient care experience simply because your “patients” are more than likely “clients.” If they were “patients,” you would have to work in a physical therapy setting or in a cardiac rehabilitation department, rather than at a gym. More than likely this is going to go under your “other work experience,” though you might consider obtaining your National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification. A wellness coordinator or athletic training coach that develops exercise routines for employees or students/players MAY count as direct patient care experience, but you would need to check with each individual program on your own personal experience. It would be advisable to explain your dedication to training and your own personal achievements to get you where you are (i.e. any degrees in nutrition/kinesiology, physical therapy certifications, CPR certifications, etc.), and your motivation to pursue PA.

A Few Tips:
  1. Make sure you keep track of the numbers of hours you accrue for each of these types of experience. You’ll also need contact names and numbers for supervisors, your position, a description of what you did, and the employer you worked for. Keeping an Excel file of all of this information will make your life super easy later when you decide to apply.
  2. Make sure you have experience before you plan to apply, as you cannot list experience you are “planning” to have when you are ready to submit.  
  3. Don’t let your certifications expire because you won’t be able to list them on your CASPA if they do.
  4. Programs want to see that you can work as a team and that you have an idea of what a PA is and what they do. PAs, physicians, and NPs all do things differently, and you'll see things you like and don't like and there is much to learn from almost every provider you get the chance to work with. Just because he/she is a doctor doesn't mean that he/she's smarter than the PA or NP he/she is working with. It was just the route they chose in life. We discuss all areas of medicine, and we all must learn from each other.
  5. Health care hours do NOT have to be volunteer hours, and actually paid hours may count for more than volunteer work.
  6. If you’re still confused where to start in health care, a good place to start is with the American Heart Association (AHA) to obtain your BCLS (Basic Cardiac Life Support) for Healthcare Providers certification - here. You can search to find a classroom course near you. Once you obtain a certification, you’ll be one leg up on others in the job market and for PA school. Most schools recommend this certification, but just make sure they want it from AHA and not from American Red Cross (ARC). If you still cannot find a job, use this as a resource.

How Many HCE Hours Do I Need?
Most programs only require 300-500+ hours of direct HCE plus any additional shadowing, research, volunteer, and other healthcare experience you may have. If you want to increase the number of programs you are eligible to apply to by about 50-70%, then you’ll need to obtain at least 2000 hours of direct patient care experience. This is equivalent to working for one full year full-time in a job that counts as direct patient care experience.

212 comments:

  1. Can you write about how your undergrad experience was? Such as study habits, tips for better grades, etc

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  2. Sorry, I didn't see this until now! I was pretty studious in undergrad. I studied biomedical engineering so I didn't really have a choice. My first year or so I studied in the library on quiet floors or in groups when I needed to. I would congregate with classmates on Google docs forming study reviews to prepare for tests, quizzes, etc. and they really helped a lot. Whenever it came to memorization, like genetics, I would have to take the book and form my own notes on top of my lecture notes. I would later have to rewrite or type my notes out again. Sometimes organizing your notes or rewriting them helps you memorize things because it forces you to understand what you are writing, and if you don't understand it - look it up. Occasionally, I would read the book and take notes on it and then see how it aligned with what was taught in lecture (via the lecture notes). Reading the book helps a lot in dense coursework like genetics, anatomy, and physiology. It may be a lot of reading, but if you stay on top if it, you'll come out doing really well in the end. Flash cards work for some things, but I've never been the type of person to do flash cards really. The thing is, you have to prepare them and it can take longer doing that than just studying the notes you have or reading the text you have. I hope this helps. If there is a specific course you are struggling in there are some websites out there that offer help on homework like Chegg.com and Coursehero.com. If not, look for a tutor (in person) or online to get you through the semester.

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  3. Can you tell me what it is like being a PA student and what your daily routines are? Study habits? Social life?

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    1. no social life. seriously.

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  4. Hi,
    I was wondering if you could give some interview tips. I just had an interview and am afraid that it did not go so well...I definitely learned from the experience but I was wondering if you could post some tips since you seem to have done so well during yours

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    1. Sure! Check out my blog post on interviews:
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/03/physician-assistant-school-interview.html

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  5. Hello Paul,

    I am currently 3 classes away from finishing my pre-reqs for PA school. I will be taking Orgo in the Fall, Microbio in the Spring, and Genetics in the summer. It will be about another year before I am done because considering that these science classes are difficult and I work full time I am only taking one class with lab per semester to make sure I do well and get A's. I wanted to ask you what you recommend I should be doing at this point as far as preparing for PA school applications. What were you doing a year prior to applying? I am extremely overwhelmed with the thought of the application process because there is so many deadlines and so much involved such as studying for and taking the GRE, writing a personal statement, preparing mentally for interviews, submitting applications, deadlines, etc. And not to mention the stress of sometimes doubting myself and being worried that I may not get in or that I am not good enough. If you have any advice for me, please help!

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    1. One year prior to applying I was doing most of the same things you are. I was working full-time gaining more applicable health care experience for my application, I was studying and taking the GRE, I was retaking anatomy as a refresher course since I hadn't had it in a year and I was volunteering on the side. Don't overwhelm yourself with the deadlines. Keep it all organized. Take a few hours out of your day to look at all of the programs you want to apply to. Write the deadlines in your calendar so you can keep up with everything. Take one weekend to write your personal statement and make revisions after you've had at least 3 people read it. Don't even worry about preparing for the interview just yet. Just focus on applying and what will make you a better candidate (i.e. CASPA). When you submit your app, it will be a few months before you hear anything back or even get interview offers, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare for interviews later. As long as you remain organized and set aside specific time to work on your essay and applications, you will be fine. If you have everything PA schools are looking for, you'll be golden. Don't ever make yourself feel like you're not good enough - you'll just be more paranoid and make yourself nervous. Grades and the GRE are not everything - the process is holistic. Good luck Julie!

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    2. I really needed to hear this because my knees are bending while my head swimming about this Program. I know I can count on this website for any and everything I need. This blog is perfect!!!!!!

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    3. Thanks and good luck to you Sandra! Keep your head up!

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  6. Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate the encouragement! Thanks for this blog, it's great.

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    1. Thanks for reading Julie! You'll have to forgive me for not responding sooner. PA school has me busy!

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  7. I am a rad tech wanting to eventually become a PA. I am just curious as to why you filed this career under "Other HCE." We have a fair amount of patient contact; in fact that's all we do. We start IV's and administer contrast in CT and MRI, and are with patients constantly. I will grant that we do not make decisions on what to order but we do need to know correct orders and we do assess patient condition and modify exams based on condition if necessary. Just curious :)

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    1. I think you should contact the programs you are wishing to apply to directly. The information I provided is based on the thousands of forums I've read on applying using CASPA, but I know that each person's experience may vary some from the norm. For example, in your workplace, you might have more hands on experience than some others. I would clarify with your programs if they want you to split up your health care experience between HCE and Other HCE as not all of your work would be considered "hands on". Hope that helps.

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    2. I worked for 10 years as a Radiologic Technologist and received my BS in Radiologic Science. I had to re take all of my sciences again for PA school, due to the classes beginning 10 years old. I applied to a program and was accepted on my second attempt. The first attempt, the class was full and I was placed on the wait list. You will do fine in a PA program. Just make sure that all your sciences are current. I am currently in my first year of PA school.

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  8. Hey Paul! I'm currently a third year transfer student right now, and unfortunately some of my lower divs didn't transfer so I'm feeling behind in the process of applying for PA schools. I would've liked to have taken my GRE by now since I wanted to apply by next fall, but I've been researching programs and realized I don't have the clinical experience that they ask for. I'm currently doing research in a lab, and I've volunteered at a hospital but I'm not interacting with the patients directly. I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how to find a way to get more involved with working with patients directly? Also, if I'm feeling rushed when it comes to taking the GRE, finishing undergrad, getting clinical experience, etc., do you recommend taking another year to figure things out and organize my calendar around deadlines, etc.? I'm feeling more unprepared and overwhelmed applying for PA school than I did for college at this point.

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    1. Anonymous!

      Do not feel so rushed! I know things at times can feel like they are crumbling down on you, but don't. This is the worst feeling to have, especially if you are a potential PA candidate. Think about this - if a PA program interviews you and says, "name a time when you felt overwhelmed and how did you handle it." You wouldn't want to reply with, "applying to PA school," now would you? You have to learn to handle your stresses and take time to breathe. Purchase a calendar, plan out exactly when you want to apply to CASPA, then plan out when you need to take your GRE. I would suggest taking your GRE several months before you plan to apply, so if you don't perform well, you can take it again. I took my GRE in January of the year I planned to apply. I studied over winter break. Volunteer work in a lab is great - especially if you are planning to apply to programs that are "research based." Shadowing would be a good thing to do for now, even if you cannot get direct clinical experience just yet. PAshadowonline.com is a good start or just ask PAs, physicians or Nurse practitioners you know if you can shadow them. Once you have all of this arranged, look for jobs as a technician, consider a job as a phlebotomist, or pharmacy technician - obviously you are in school, so other jobs are going to be a little bit more difficult because they require more schooling. See if you can find a job that will train you "on-the-job" kind of like a PA. Get out there and see what you can find! Ask around! If it doesn't work out - don't rush your application, just wait the year out, get experience, and apply next year. It will be worth the experience you'll gain.

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  9. Please learn the difference between a personal trainer and an athletic trainer. HUGE difference and HCE as an athletic trainer is great.

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    1. Dear anonymous,
      I apologize for not taking more time to explain the difference between a personal trainer and athletic trainer, but that was not the focus of this article. Again, this information is supposed to be used as a guide and is by no means all inclusive. The information I provide is my opinion only, and is based on what I have read from Physician Assistant Forum as well as other CASPA resources that I have come across. I wish you well in applying to CASPA, but if you would like to contribute to the article, i.e. explaining the differences between athletic and personal trainer and exactly how they would be considered hands-on HCE by CASPA definition, please do.

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    2. ATHLETIC TRAINER
      An athletic trainer is an expert at recognizing,
      treating and preventing musculoskeletal
      injuries. ATs meets qualifications
      set by the Board of Certification,
      Inc., and adhere to the requirements of a
      state licensing board. ATs practice under
      the direction of a physician and are members
      of a health care profession recognized
      by the American Medical Association.

      Requirements:
      • Must obtain, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in athletic training
      • Must pass a comprehensive exam to earn the ATC credential
      • Must keep their knowledge and skills current by participating
      in continuing education
      • Must adhere to standards of professional practice set by one
      national certifying agency and to a national code of ethics

      Daily Duties:
      – Provide physical medicine and rehabilitation services
      – Prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate injuries (acute and chronic)
      – Coordinate care with physicians and other health care professionals
      – Work in schools, colleges, professional sports, clinics, hospitals,
      corporations, industry, military, performing arts
      PERSONAL TRAINER
      A personal trainer develops, monitors and
      changes an individual’s specific exercise
      programin a fitness or sports setting; some
      personal trainers also make nutrition recommendations.
      Personal trainers can earn
      credentials through a number of agencies
      and can work as fitness trainers without
      formal instruction or certification.

      Requirements:
      • May or may not have higher education in health sciences
      • May or may not be required to obtain certification or state
      licensing
      • May or may not participate in continuing education
      • May become certified by any one of numerous organizations
      that set varying education and practice requirements

      Daily Duties:
      – Assess fitness needs and design appropriate exercise regimens
      – Work with clients to achieve fitness goals
      – Help educate the public on the importance of physical activity
      – Work in health clubs, wellness centers and other locations
      where fitness activities take place
      Know

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  10. So in your experience, would something like pharmacy tech which is under "Other" HCE on the CASPA usually still count as fulfilling the healthcare experience requirement, as long as schools don't specifically require "Direct" health care experience?

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    Replies
    1. I think so. I have a friend in my program who had pharmacy tech as his primary experience and he is doing just fine in PA school. I think you get the idea about "checking" with your individual programs, though. It really all depends on the program.

      Delete
  11. So I have my bachelors in Biology/ chemistry with a gpa of 2.7 I want to be a PA. I want to go the CLS route will I have to start all the way over ? How long do you think it will take for me ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tiffany, take a look at some post baccalaureate programs: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/03/postbaccalaureate-and-masters-programs.html

      There are some designed for academic enhancement. I'm not sure exactly how long they will take you, but I had a friend who did a 1 year program.

      Delete
  12. Thank you for the information. However, please don't group "athletic trainers" with personal trainers. Athletic training is a LICENSED profession in 48 states. Athletic trainers work directly with patients under the supervision of licensed physicians. I would hope this would be included in Patient Care Experience, particularly as the ability to assess using orthopedic tests is part of the job description? Coming from the NATA, "Athletic Trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Students who want to become certified athletic trainers must earn a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum. Accredited programs include formal instruction in areas such as injury/illness prevention, first aid and emergency care, assessment of injury/illness, human anatomy and physiology, therapeutic modalities, and nutrition. Classroom learning is enhanced through clinical education experiences. More than 70 percent of certified athletic trainers hold at least a master’s degree." I am an AT with MS in Sports Medicine, though had some time of work raising children, now looking into PA programs. I guess I will ask specific schools about this. Again, thank you for the other ideas regarding applications.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, again, sorry for undermining your profession. It was not my intention. I was just relaying what was said on PAforum.com :(

      Delete
  13. hey paul,

    I'm working as an RT in the ICU for about a year now, while going to school FT to finish my bachelors but recently my work schedule and school schedule has been contradicting each other and because of this i am planning to quit. I will like to also mention that i was FT and recently switched to Prn in the summer but the schedule still didn't work out for me due to requirements that my job wants me to full fill. I'm hoping to just focus on school, shadowing, and the GRE now. i am planning to apply in 2016 or 2017. my question to you is, will quitting my job as a RT will effect me when i apply to pa school or will it be frowned upon?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The quick answer - no. I did the same thing. My clinical job ended about a year before entering PA school and I was still admitted. I don't think it will be frowned upon. Just explain to your committee during your interview (if they even ask) why you had to quit your job (due to scheduling conflicts with work and school). That's awesome though! Best of luck applying!!

      Delete
  14. Do you know if being a "home care worker/assistant" also counts for clinical hours? I deciding whether or not to interview with an elderly woman in my community who needs help bathing, getting around, being fed, etc. but am unsure if this counts for clinical hours since it is not through a company. However, she said I would have to register withIn-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), filling out monthly timesheets with her, and a background check. Does this still count despite the patient also being the supervisor/person paying me?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, after looking into this more, it seems as though I would fill out time cards with her which she would submit to IHSS who would pay me for her. Is this a good opportunity?

      Delete
    2. I think this might count as "other health care experience" as a "PATIENT CARE ASSISTANT (PCA)/RESIDENTIAL AIDE/CAREGIVER." It would still be great experience, but I think programs do not consider this direct patient care experience because you are not the one making direct patient assessments or evaluations. It would definitely count as clinical hours though, if that makes sense. Sorry for the late reply!

      Delete
  15. Hey Paul have you ever heard of someone being a full on physical therapist (DPT) and going to a PA school later?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can honestly say, no. I haven't. If you are looking for an opinion on how to go about applying, you might post this in sort of a question format on the physicianassistantforum.com. If you are planning on applying, best of luck! I'm sure you will be a great candidate!

      Delete
  16. Hello,

    Thanks for gathering all this valuable information and putting it in one place for all that want to pursue PA school. Do you have any idea how many people apply to PA schools in one year and how many of them get accepted? I found on the internet that the acceptance rate for people pursuing Medical Degrees was around 43%, but could not find any information about PA school acceptance rate. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. This blog post will answer that question. http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html

      Delete
  17. Hey, this is probably a stupid question but I just finished the first semester of my sophomore year and I have really struggled with the Chemistry pre- reqs. I ended up with a C+ in both Gen. Chem 1&2 and a C in Orgo. My GPA is a 3.0 and I'm a volunteer EMT at school. I'm willing to do anything to increase my chances of getting into a program. I've been applying for positions at my local hospital as an EEG tech and a sitter but haven't had any luck. Do you have any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just a reader but 1st, improve your GPA (duh) you're only a sophmore so you have plenty of opportunity to improve it so work on that.
      Also, try becoming a paramedic.

      Delete
    2. It seems like you might need a new strategy here. You might be either a) taking on too many courses at once b) taking on too heavy of a course load at once c) taking on too much school/work at once or d) need new study strategies or a tutor.

      Your GPA is fine. Anonymous above is right, you are still only a sophomore and you have time to correct your GPA and improve things. Don't worry if you can't get paid positions yet. Your volunteer work as an EMT at school will help you gain experience over time that hopefully hospitals will see your dedication and drive to be in the health field. Try looking for positions that are PRN, if you are having trouble getting a job? Maybe try looking for jobs as a phlebotomist if you are certified? Good luck!

      Delete
    3. I have a similar question, I'm currently in my last year of undergrad and have struggled a lot with the Chemistry/Physics pre-reqs (C+/C in Gen Chem, B in Orgo I but a C+ in Orgo II, and a C+ in Physics I), but have no grades lower than a B+ in my other pre-reqs. I am currently taking Physics II and hope to do better, and am taking biochem to try and offset the other chemistry grades and have managed to bring my GPA to a 3.15 (from a 2.87 Freshman year)....I am planning on taking at least one gap year between undergrad and PA school to get the clinical hours, but would you recommend re-taking at least Gen Chem and Physics I at a community college to show that I know how to do those courses now?

      Delete
    4. Hi anonymous,

      Due to the high volume of requests, I am going to refer you to Savannah Perry, PA-C. She actually offers a service to pre-PA students for questions such as yours. I would start there first and if you have any additional questions that may be more specific, please try posting here again. Thanks : http://www.thepaplatform.com/services/

      Also, you can use code: DoseOfPA for discount on services

      Delete
  18. Im currently a Nuclear Plant Inspector and am looking to change careers to become a Physician Assistant, something I've always wanted to pursue. I have been taking classes for the last couple of years and have maintained a 4.0 as of now. I am well aware that now would be a good time to transition into a medical job while continuing my undergrad. My question is if you think that becoming a surgical would prepare me enough or even give me enough HCE that PA schools are looking for? My other option is to just get my EMT-B and apply for EMT jobs or ER tech jobs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry I meant to write Surgical Tech

      Delete
    2. Hi Israel,

      I think either job would be great experience for PA school! Honestly I would go with either. I have friends at my program that have done both and they both are very knowledgable. As long as you are accruing the hours you need at a rate fast enough then you will be fine.

      For example, if you are able to work full time (40 hours full time = 2050 hours/year). The average PA student enters with about 4,000 hours or 2 years full time. Good luck!

      Delete
  19. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer questions here. I have three questions for you, if I may.

    First, do you know if EMT-B working hours are counted for PCE as shift hours or specific call hours? I work as an EMT, specifically as a means of gaining PCE towards PA program admission. I often work 24 hour shifts, but may only actually be involved in patient care, measured from our "En Route" sign on to our "Back in Service" sign off, for fewer hours, say 12 out of the 24.

    My second question is perhaps a more important one. I am an older student, 52 to be exact. At the earliest I will be able to graduate from PA school when I am 57. How are older students viewed? This is a second career for me and I intend to work in under served communities for my entire PA work life, which will probably be 15 years.

    Lastly, do you have a sense of whether international volunteer work, say at a clinic in Haiti is ether countable as PCE, or maybe more importantly, a good differentiator that might add to the strength of a PA school application?

    Thanks very much,

    Kevin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kevin,

      Great questions.

      1) EMT-B is wonderful clinical experience and your CASPA application will help differentiate those hours out when you fill it out. Your hours not spent in patient care will go under "other health care experience" while your direct patient care experience will be listed as such. Does that make sense? In my line of work, I worked as a patient care technician where part of my duties included working at the bedside and the other part was working the desk inputing labs and orders from physicians that called-in. My bedside hours were direct patient care hours, while my time at the desk was considered other health care experience. I hope this helps.

      2) I don't think age plays too big of a factor when choosing a student, at least at my program it wasn't a big deal. You may hear otherwise or read otherwise on forums, etc. but don't let those discourage you. PA programs are not discriminatory in age and look at your application holistically. They are more concerned about whether or not you will contribute to society in a meaningful manner. Looking at PAEA's 29th Annual Report, the average age of first year PA students was 26.3. But if you look at the range: 21.5-44.5 and the upper limit has a standard deviation of 8.62 years, meaning there are people who are 52 starting PA programs. What this should tell you is that it doesn't really matter. Looking back at previous years, it varies. The more experience you bring to the table, the better chance you have, in my opinion.

      3) I would count it only if you were directly interacting with the patient and maybe making some independent clinical judgement, if that makes sense? CASPA has their own definitions of what counts as direct patient care experience, so I would double check with them before putting it down, but it should count. I think experience like that always makes your application look more well rounded and gives you character. It definitely adds a "wow" factor about you and gives you something to talk about during interviews!

      Best of luck to you! I look forward to hearing where you end up!

      Delete
  20. Paul, thanks for taking the time to write this article. My question has to do with Letters of recommendation, specifically from college professors. I plan to graduate in the fall of 2015, and apply for PA schools in 2016 to give myself time to work and gain some HCE, as I have absolutely none. Anyway, with all that time between taking classes and applying, how would I get LOR's from professors when I've been out of their classes for so long? I'm in my last semester of classes this spring, as my major requires a 15 credit hour internship this fall, so I have to get them all this semester. Do I have them wait until I'm ready to apply, or is there a way I can get them and save them for when I'm ready. Also, what if I want to apply to multiple schools? Do they have to write multiple copies? I'm kind of lost with this subject. Thanks for the reply.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm replying to myself. Sorry, I thought this was the LOR article. Question above still applies, however. I know you kind of addressed this in the other article, but I'm taking quite a bit of time off and holding the LOR seems like a lot to ask of someone. Any other options? Thanks.

      Delete
    2. 1) If you are graduating in fall of 2015 and applying April-October of 2016 when CASPA is open, you will have less than a year of health care experience, so just be aware that your options for PA programs will be limited by your number of acquired health care experience hours.
      2) I would get to know your professors now - go in for "help", ask questions in class, get to know them on a personal basis and make sure they know you by first name. I had this personal experience with several of my professors, even in large classes. Ask them to write letters of recommendation for you at the end of the semester, if you perform well in the course. Then, ask them to hold on to the letter until you are ready to apply to the program. If you are not ready to apply just yet, keep in touch with them every "semester" (only once per semester) after graduation and keep them updated on your progress outside of school. This way, they know you are still serious about it and that way they can continually update your recommendation letter.

      If you want to apply to multiple schools they use the same letter - CASPA is a centralized application service, so the professor writes ONE letter and it goes out to every school. It is all digital, so nothing physical has to be sent. When you are ready, you will supply CASPA with an email for your recommender and it will send them a link where they will basically copy/paste the letter.

      Delete
  21. Hi Paul, I came across your website and found it to be so helpful! So thank you very much! I am writing to you because I am getting closer to applying. It is Feb. 2015 and applications open around mid April and the deadline to the program I am most interested in is October 1st. However, I have little to no volunteer or shadowing hours and much less HCE, other than working as a pharmacy technician. I will be graduation Spring 2016, so my question to you is should I wait to apply to the program until the april 2016 cycle opens to build up my resume? Or should I try to build it up as much as possible as the application cycle for this year (2015) is open and still apply this year?


    Also, does CASPA has its own time range as to when we need to submit our application? For example, the PA program of my interest has an application deadline of Oct.1st, does that include the CASPA application too or does CASPA set its own deadline?

    I look forward to your reply!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Generally, I think you should look at the stats of other applicants who are accepted and gauge how competitive of an applicant you are before applying and wasting your money.

      Many people apply to PA school when they aren't ready - they have little to no experience, shadowing, or volunteer work under their belt - much like you in your situation. When they apply and get denied, their money goes down the drain when they could have used that money to 1) save to apply to more schools after waiting a year and gaining experience 2) pay for extra coursework to improve their GPA 3) pay for rent, etc. while they are gaining experience.

      Pharmacy tech experience is great experience, but it is not direct healthcare experience, which is what most schools want. You are not directly interacting with patients. That doesn't mean you can't apply to some PA programs - some schools will accept this experience, but you'll have to figure out which programs will and which will not.

      You can keep gaining this experience or find experience in another healthcare field that will count toward direct healthcare experience. Either way, most programs want at least 2000 hours before applying. Just keep that in mind before you apply. Not all programs are like this and you can very well apply and still get in without meeting this requirement, but statistics do not lie.

      No, their deadline is the only deadline you need to follow. CASPA is a middle man, so they have no "deadline."

      Delete
  22. Hi Paul,
    I have a few questions for you. I am actually a nutrition student in my junior year. About 2 years ago I have decided that what I want to do with my future is be a PA. Since then I have been taking pre reqs for pa school. I have been running into the problem of getting the direct patient care hours. I volunteer in a hospital but I don't feel that is enough. I am thinking of obtaining my CNA and working as a CNA for a few years to obtain the amount of direct patient care hours that are required. What do you suggest? This semester I work 25 hours a week, go to school full time shadow 4 hours a week and volunteer 4 hours. I am also an undergraduate teaching assistant for a microbiology class. I am just nervous that if I don't have a biology degree I'm going to be overlooked. What other suggestions do you have that could possibly build my application since I'm not a biology major?
    Thank you so much,
    Jasmyn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so mistaken Jasmyn! PA programs love variability! Being a nutrition major will actually set you apart in this case. PA programs prefer you to NOT be a biology major. I don't know where you heard that, but it is not true.

      I think your idea of obtaining your CNA license and working as a CNA for a few years is a fantastic idea. Also a great idea - EMT! They make great money and work few days/week. Great experience.

      Keep in mind that PA programs don't expect you to continue to shadow and volunteer year round if it means you need to take a break in order to get trained for your new job, If becoming a CNA is what you want to do, then take a break from your other stuff and come back to the shadowing/volunteer work later when you have everything else in order. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once! Being a TA is very cool. Any extracurriculars like that set you apart as an applicant.

      Gain as much direct healthcare experience as you can. Learn a lot while you are there. Shadowing - you don't need as much - just enough that you learned and took away something from it and could talk about it if you need to. Most people have about 40-50 hours of shadowing to be honest. Volunteer work is good to keep up with, but do it when you can and try to be consistent - volunteer with the same places or people if you can. Do something that is meaningful to you.

      Best of luck!!

      Delete
  23. Hi Paul,

    I have my BA in biology and chemistry (3.2 GPA) as well as my MS is medicinal chemistry (3.8 GPA). I am concerned about my HCE. I worked as a mental health patient care tech for a year and a pharmacy tech for a year, both full time. I also was a combat medic in the army. But none of those were recent as I do medical research now. Will that be a problem? Also I don't have any shadowing experience. Lastly should I retake the GRE since it has been a few years or will it be ok since I have a previous graduate degree? Thank you for your time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1) To be honest, I don't have an exact answer to your question. I would advise you to email or call the programs you are interested in applying to and ask them individually. I would think that most programs allow experience as long as it is within the last 10 years.

      2) You will need to shadow a PA. It is very easy to obtain this experience. I have a blog post about shadowing - please read.

      3) See my blog post about GRE scores for the answers to your question.

      Delete
  24. Thanks for offering so much information about PA school. I am a senior at UW-Milwaukee and I am looking to apply to PA school in two years. I currently work full-time as a police officer, and I hold my EMT-Paramedic License (I was an EMT-B 2004-2007, an ER Tech 2005-2009 and I worked full time as an EMT-Paramedic 2007-2009, I still keep my license up to date) What is your opinion about HCE "Expiring"? I am a bit concerned about this, as I will be out of regular practice for roughly 7 years when I apply. Currently, I teach basic first aid, CPR, and TEMS (Tactical Emergency Medical Support) to new police recruits, but that is about it for any health care exposure other than occasional stabbings/shootings/car accidents (Milwaukee has a great FD, so I rarely wait more than 30s before they arrive). Altogether, I have roughly 8000 hours of direct pt contact, and I was hoping that would give me an edge in the selection process. Thanks for taking time to read this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Corey,

      You have some really magnificent health care experience on your record. I believe that most schools will count your experience as long as it is less than 10 years old (similar to pre-requisites). However, you'll have to contact your individual programs you plan to apply to and check with them on that.

      I think you have great chances of getting into a PA program if your grades are good as well. If your programs require the GRE, that might be an obstacle you'll have to cross as well. Best of luck to you!

      Delete
  25. Hello,

    Thank you for posting this important information regarding PA school.

    I work as a volunteer at a clinic and get direct patient care (taking vitals, patient history, assisting doctors) but I do not get paid. Does this count as HCE even tho I am not a certified MA but am doing the work of a medical assistant?

    I am a certified EMR though, and have also competed my BLS and CPR exams. I am planning on doing more ambulance rides (on a volunteer basis for now), but I was wondering, do you think that it would be wiser to go ahead and get a CNA certification too? I would prefer not to do CNA as well, unless my work at the clinic is not sufficient or does not count as HCE.

    Also, I got a C+ on Gen Chem 2 and my GPA is a 3.68. Is it better to retake the course? I've heard most PA school don't take the better grade out of the two, even if you retake it. I do hope I will not get any C's for any further classes, but will this one C affect my application?

    Thank you for your time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Peggy,

      As to my knowledge, volunteer (unpaid) experience does not count. I'm not exactly sure why, but I have read so on many forums. It would be best to confirm this with the programs you plan to apply to, especially since your experience is very hands-on.

      As I have said in other blog posts - one bad grade will not be your downfall into PA school. That is what essays and interviews are for. You have a solid GPA. I would not recommend retaking the course unless you have other pre-requisite grades that are not as great. If you have mostly A's I would not worry about it. Just be prepared to talk about what was going on that led to your low grade and how you plan to ensure that does not happen in PA school (i.e. what have you changed).

      Delete
  26. Hello,
    I also work as an MA but I do not get paid because it is my family clinic. My uncle is an internal medicine doctor and allows me to volunteer there anytime I want. I got training on-the-job to do procedures such as giving injections, taking blood, EKG tests, Glucose testing, Urinary tests and etc. This does count as good HCE right? I have been getting mixed opinions about if it is "Paid" or not. Honestly, I like what I am doing even if it is not paid because I am taking 5 classes along with volunteering at the hospital. How would I put that on CASPA? Thank you for your time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Again, to my knowledge unpaid experience does not generally count toward your required hours of experience. You need to confirm this with the programs you plan to apply to as some schools may allow you to report your experience under other HCE or direct HCE depending on their preference. I think your experience is very valuable, but it is not my decision whether it is accepted one way or another. Unfortunately, they have to draw the line somewhere and I hope it is in your favor.

      Delete
  27. Hi Paul,

    I have some general questions as to how to get on the right track of becoming a PA. Here's some general information of my situation to give you some background.

    I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management and have been working in the business field for about 4 years now, but have wanted to pursue a career in the medical field for some time now. I am 25 years old and am at the point where I need to make the decision of switching my career.

    This past weekend I observed a doctor at the local hospital and absolutely loved it! I know that this is the career for me; now I just need to figure out how to fulfill it.

    I know that I am going to have to do some pre-requisites at the local community college which will probably take me a couple years before I can even apply to PA school and I will need direct patient care experience. I live right outside Washington, DC and would love to go to George Washington University. GW requires 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience.

    My questions to you are: What types of direct patient care experience would you recommend? EMT? Certified Nursing Aide? Etc. Keep in mind I work a full-time job and am willing to take on additional volunteer hours to get this experience or I am willing to switch to a full-time job (such as an EMT) as long as that salary can support me. Do you recommend that I do more observation hours or vary my observations to different specialties? Does shadowing/observing serve a benefit when completing the PA application? Lastly, as a non-traditional PA applicant, what do you suggest I start doing now to help make my application stand out?

    Thanks so much!

    Nikki

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nikki,

      Lots of questions and lots of answers for you! First and foremost, I would like to remark on your shadowing of physicians. Loving what physicians do may be misleading if you think that is what a PA work day is like. If I were you, I would shadow a PA if you can and decide if you like their style of work. PAs work under the supervision of a physician and there are limitations in our line of work. You should really observe the physician-PA relationship. It is important for your understanding, especially in interviews and the essays you will have to write.

      As for the experience: https://www.aapa.org/twocolumnmain.aspx?id=288

      AAPA wrote about what types of experience are preferred. That is not based on my opinion and will probably help you more. I would suggest you do more volunteer work (medical and non-medical) and shadowing. I will also recommend you gain direct healthcare experience, as I do not think GWU will accept unpaid healthcare experience toward their requirements. I would double check with them though. I think EMT or ER technician or phlebotomists would make the most, but I'm not sure to be honest. When I worked in healthcare, I was not concerned about the money, but rather the experience I was gaining. However, my situation was different from yours. I worked while in school so that I had financial aid to help me pay my way.


      Shadowing: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/03/shadowing-for-physician-assistant-school.html
      You won't need to shadow in different specialties, unless you want to. It would be recommended you shadow inpatient and outpatient work, though.

      Honestly, even as a younger applicant, healthcare experience, grades, volunteering, and shadowing are the key to success. If you lack in one area, you must work on it until you are competitive enough.

      Delete
  28. Thanks for sharing this very useful information. I will visit your blog again. This article is very helpful and understandable.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi Paul,

    Thank you for all of the great information! I had some questions because I am graduating from undergrad this spring with a Biology degree, and I'm starting to get overwhelmed and stressed out wondering if I will be able to continue on my path towards becoming a PA after I graduate.

    Right now, my gpa is a 3.15, which is what I am most concerned about. I started off undergrad with pretty average grades, but I have shown lots of improvement in my last year taking all of my hardest classes, so I am expecting my gpa to go up somewhat. I was going through some things during my junior year and didn't put in as much time into my school work as I should have, and ended up with a D in genetics... I'm retaking it right now and have been putting in a lot of effort and should end up with an A, while also taking Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Organic Chemistry (expecting to get all As). I also got a C+ in Intro to Ecology and Evolution (sophomore year), Physics I (sophomore year), and English (when I was a freshman). So my worst grade was the Genetics D, which I am retaking, and then I've gotten those other 3 C's. Besides that I am an A/B student and I do work hard and do well in all of my other science courses.

    I've shadowed a doctor once, but other than that I have only had jobs unrelated to the health field and have no additional experience. I am currently training to be an EMT, and after I graduate I plan on taking 1-2 years off to just gain as much HCE as I possibly can. I'm going to be getting a job in the medical field, shadowing, and doing EMT on the side. I know I am capable of doing well in my classes, I just didn't apply myself fully until the later years of my undergrad (besides the genetics grade) because I was still immature. Do you think I still have a chance of getting into PA school after all of that, including my academic record? Please give me your honest opinion. Also take into consideration that I have made a huge turn around and really grown up and figured out what I need to do to get good grades in school, which is make it my number one priority.

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also just found out that I have a job lined up this summer where I will be the Health Specialist at a kids camp. I will be in charge of 400+ children and basically be the nurse of camp. It will be my job to make sure that the the counselors have the correct medicine for those campers in their group who have allergies, I will be giving controlled medications, dealing with anything safety related, contacting parents when things come up, and be in charge of logging everything of that sort throughout the day. There is only one of these positions per camp, so I'm hoping this is a good start to my gaining experience after graduation. I will also be doing shadowing/EMT at night and on weekends.

      -Kathy

      Delete
    2. Hi Kathy,

      Your experience is a great start to your application.

      You also will NEED to shadow a PA at some point before you apply. Pretty crucial to ensure you understand what PAs actually do - a reference letter from one wouldn't hurt either.

      Your grades are alright, but not competitive. You will probably need to look at your pre-requisite courses more than Ecology and Evolution, etc. Courses like that aren't as significant. Programs care more about what is REQUIRED. If you did poorly in one of them, retake it at a community college when you graduate - perform well. Genetics is not required for most PA programs, but it is a "higher level" science course and I think as long as you talk about WHY you made that grade in your interview, you should be fine. Mentioning your grades in your essays will be important when you have as many C/D grades, but do not harp on it the entire essay. You could even save it for your secondary apps (there will be essays there for that too). Overall, you will be fine. Stick to your plan and everything will work out for you. The number of PA programs is increasing every year. I'm sure you'll get into one.

      Delete
    3. Thank you so much for your response! You are a great motivation.

      Delete
  30. Hi Paul,
    I interviewed with a school last December, I have a 3.5 science gpa and overall 3.7 gpa, however some of those classes are now from 10 yrs ago. In addition, years ago I have over 500 hours of private aide hours, and last year I volunteered at a retirement home. When I got the interview I was shadowing a p.a. which wrote me a recommendation for over 2 months. Anyway, the question on here really helped with the interview although, I bombed on some key things I should have mentioned. The end result, I did not get in. I asked for feedback and the counselor said that I should try to get certified in something like be an emt, cna, scribe, (lol the other people interviewed were currently all those things). In addition, even though I was within the 10 yr route, she said since my last class was like 7 yrs ago I should take over some classes, not advising which and how many. So my question is, if I want to reapply this year, would it be feasible to take over classes and get certified in something. Currently, I am just shadowing a PA and NP, its going March, and I have not got a certification in anything yet, although, I was thinking med tech because it is really fast, or EKG tech which they have a short class for here in Florida, but CASPA reopens in April and I want to get my application finished in the first week. So does it make sense? Does a med tech count as direct patient care? Most EKG tech jobs and even phlebotomy, they want a year experience. After my interview I was really searching for the right program while shadowing and being a mom, that is why I have not started anything yet, but crunch time is coming. What do you suggest?
    Charlene

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charlene,

      If the program you applied to didn't accept you because you weren't certified in something, then I would look elsewhere. There are programs out there that don't have requirements like that. If they did require that, they should have it directly posted on their site somewhere. Personally, I think that's ridiculous. When PAs first began, there was no "certification" and yet they were still allowed to work. This program surely needs to re-evaluate their methodology of selecting cream of the crop students. Even so, nowadays excellent experience can be obtained without a certification of any kind. When I worked at my hospital, I was not "certified" as a CNA or MA. I was trained on-the-job just like a PA. Sure we had "certifications by the hospital, but we were not required to be nationally or state certified. I gained better experience than a lot of other people who ARE certified. That's what matters - what you get out of it.

      If this is the school you really want to go to, then I would shoot for something easy and quick. Do you think they wanted you to be certified in CPR, etc? Or are you sure that the certification they wanted was experience related?

      CASPA opening in april doesn't mean you have to have it completed by then, but does put some stress on you. Applying early helps a lot, but it doesn't increase your chances of getting accepted if you don't have what they are looking for. Since your coursework is older, they probably want you to retake your pre-requisite courses - mainly anatomy and physiology. I think those are probably the most important in PA school.

      I'm not sure what "med tech" really is because I'm not from your state. If you mean a CNA or MA type of experience, then I'm sure it would count as direct patient care experience.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Paul,
      In Florida, med techs pass out meds, mostly in a rehab, or ALF setting. I was already CPR/AED, and first aid certified when I applied to that school. They wanted more current direct patient care experience. Although, I was shadowing a PA and volunteering at a retirement home prior to applying to them, my last direct patient care experience was a couple years ago. I do feel I have learned a lot from shadowing the PA and NP I have been shadowing because they taught me how to do soap notes, review MARS, how to observe the patient (ex HEENT). The NP even allowed me to practice writing a script and soap note, based off my reviewing of the patient records and my observation of the patient (on a practice paper of course, that was discarded). From all this, I have learned some abbreviations for some meds, got a constant review of medical terminology, and got a first hand look at what its like to be a PA (when I am shadowing the PA). However, I do not think that is enough for that school, so I will be applying to other schools this cycle. I was just wondering if it made sense to get certified knowing that the time to apply to CASPA again is so close. With your advice, I am confident in shadowing without getting certified, especially because even if I got certified, most places still want a year experience. Thank you so much for the advice.
      Charlene

      Delete
  31. Paul,

    What would you suggest for someone who has a lot of direct patient care experience over several years, but didn't keep track of individual patient encounters? I was a full time, paid EMT-B first responder on a ski patrol for 4 winters.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would probably just use my best estimate. If you still are unsure or think the program might ask for documentation later, try contacting your company and asking for old pay stub information, etc. They might be able to tell you the exact number of hours you worked each season.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your reply.

      Delete
  32. Hello Paul! Thank you so much for posting all this advice; it has been really helpful. Like many others, I'm also looking for some advice based on my situation. I'm graduating this coming May and I was hoping to apply this April-October cycle, but I'm unsure whether I should wait for the next application cycle to strengthen my profile.

    I have been working part-time as a CNA at my university hospital since August 2014, so I've accrued almost 600 hours of HCE as of now and plan to reach at least 1000 prior to applying (if I apply this summer, that is). I have also been shadowing PAs for the past couple of months, and am hoping to reach at least 30-40 hours of shadowing experience.

    I still have 2-3 more prerequisite courses to take, which I was hoping to take at the beginning of the summer and immediately afterward send my pre-completed CASPA application in June. But my biggest concern is my GPA. Currently, my overall GPA is a 3.4 and my science GPA is a 3.0. Unfortunately my GPA declined slightly since I started taking PA prereqs junior year -- I received a C+ in Physics fall of junior year, and a C+ in Genetics this past fall semester of my senior year. My C+ in Physics was due to my heavy science course-load that year (which I was not used to), and my C+ in Genetics was due to my adjustment to working part-time while taking classes. Aside from those two major exceptions, I have been a consistent A/B student and am working really hard to get a 4.0 my last semester and get A's in the prerequisites this summer to balance out those C+'s. But I can't deny that these 2 C+'s have been a huge point of concern.

    So my main question is, should I wait another year to build my HCE hours to make up for my less-than-stellar GPA? I'm wondering if I'm rushing through the process, or whether my profile is fine and that I should just try applying with what I have now. I would prefer not to wait an extra year, but I don't want to waste money and effort if it's very possible I won't get in. Any advice you can give me would be great!!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks for the information. I do have a question- I'm thinking about getting a Nurse's Assistant license to help me build up more HCE. You mention that you worked a shift from 7-11, but everything I look up about being a CNA indicates that there are 12 hour shifts- what exactly was your job title, and what were your duties? Thanks again, and I hope you can get to this.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hey Paul,

    I somehow found your blog and it has a lot of useful information. I plan to apply to PA school in like a year or two. My question is how did you prepare yourself for PA school and how is it being a PA student?
    I kind of struggled with a few courses in my undergrad but I finally got a bachelor of science a few months ago. I'm mostly worried about getting into PA school and struggling with it. Give me some advice on what to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading anonymous.

      I would read this article on how to become more competitive:
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html

      These articles explain my first semesters at UTSW:
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/08/first-semester-at-ut-southwestern.html
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/second-semester-at-ut-southwestern.html

      It seems like the first article is where you need to focus your attention on how to become a more competitive applicant. If you have more specific questions after, feel free to comment. There is a search bar if you are curious about anything else.

      Delete
  35. Hi Paul,

    I have 2 years part time experience as a podiatry MA and 3 years full time. Do you feel this would count as HCE or do I need to get into a new avenue to complete it? Thank you for your time and your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe that most schools generally count this experience as direct, but it would be best to contact your programs to make sure. You should be fine though. Good luck!

      Delete
  36. Hey Paul,

    I was just wondering if dialysis tech. was a good job to acquire HCE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      I think dialysis tech would be a outstanding HCE. As long as you-yourself are interacting with patients.

      Delete
  37. Hey Paul,

    Great article, thanks. I'd like to offer one note: Navy Hospital Corpsman are not just like MAs. As a former 8 year Corpsman, I was the sole medical provider in parts of the world where the nearest doctor was hundreds of miles away. You may want to consider just moving Corpsman down with the other military medics, especially since initial training is now jointly done in Texas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip! I'll be sure to correct that! Sorry about that. Most of what is in this article has been anecdotal information I read from hundreds of articles on physicianassistantforum.com so I apologize if something is incorrect.

      Delete
  38. Hi Paul,
    I am a High school junior interested to be a PA as a possible career. I would really appreciate if you would give me some advice to approach this career. I have learned that in most PA programs offered the prerequisites involve paid medical experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      A good start would be to look at AAPA's website. https://www.aapa.org/twocolumnmain.aspx?id=288

      Delete
  39. Hello Paul,

    Great blogs and thank you for all your help!! I had a question/concern I was hoping you'd be be able to help me with.

    I graduated May 2014 with a bachelors in pharmaceutical sciences. During my junior/senior year of undergrad I actively pursued PA school gaining about 400 hrs of direct HCE, shadowing PAs, and obtaining letters of rec. My BS curriculum had most of the classes I needed already and I planned to take stats,psych and anatomy during the summer/fall as I applied to programs. Well, because of the financial burden of undergrad and the future ones of grad school I decided to hold off on PA school and become a pharmaceutical rep to gain money and possibly insight on a different career path. I now feel like PA school was for me and im debating going back to my efforts in applying. My question to you is, should I apply for this upcoming admissions cycle (2016 entry) with what I have now (I would take the necessary remaining classes of course) or would you recommend me waiting another year (2017 entry) to try and gain more HCE/network? IVe only been a rep since October '14 and have gained good insight into the health industry in general and interact with PAs, NPs and doctors daily, but have not yet done it for even a year.

    Any advice will help, thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assume that the more time taken between schooling would need justification in the form of more HCE? So just doing my job now as a pharma rep probably wouldn't be enough of one in their eyes, right? Because don't admission councils want to know what exactly you were doing during your time off of school?

      Thanks again!!

      Delete
  40. Hi Paul,

    I am bachelor in science with Master in chemistry completed in 2009 and was a lecturer for 3 yrs in my home country. I want to become a PA, for that i am completing my CNA training. My teacher is a retired LPN with 30 yrs of experience. She offered me a paid job under her supervision for taking care of her old mother. My question is that is this experience count towards my application. If yes how can i keep an evidence of work or experience certificate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this might count as being a "caregiver," but I do not know the extent to which it can be counted toward the application requirements. You should ask the programs you plan to apply to before taking the job. You would need to keep record of your hours incase they ever ask to see how you documented your hours.

      Delete
  41. Hi Paul,

    I'm an international student and I might become permanent resident in Texas in the next two years. Currently I'm pursuing some college courses. I have got two options. One is to study pre-med program at university/community college, take all the pre-requisite courses and get some voluntary experience in Hospice or Nursing Homes. Two is to study EMT or MA and get hands-on patient care experience. Either way, my ultimate goal is to take the MCAT and apply for PA program in the next two years or so. What I'm wondering is if I choose the 2nd option, will EMT or MA program alone satisfy the pre-requisite courses requirements for the MCAT or do I need take further extra courses beside this? Which do you think is a better way for me?

    By the way, do I really need to care about the rankings of medical schools? Is there a website to look up for that?

    Thanks for the extremely helpful article!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First off, you do not need the MCAT for PA school. You take the GRE. Not all schools require the GRE either. Go to directory.paea.org

      Read this since you are an international applicant:
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/02/from-international-student-to-physician.html?showComment=1428684621505#c5941368629147211698

      You will need to take the pre-requisites for any PA program regardless of your pathway to gaining healthcare experience. If you have courses that overlap, then that will make it easier for you. An EMT or MA program probably won't have all of the courses you need to take for PA school, but they will lead you to valuable healthcare experience required for most PA programs.

      The rankings of PA programs is useless information to you. I would not advise using any ranking system to choose a PA program.

      Delete
  42. I am currently doing volunteer work at a hospital answering patient call bells, bringing water/ice to them, running errands such a sending up blood work/picking up medication and organizing charts. Would this be considered patient care? Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I don't think so. You need direct-patient care experience, meaning you are interacting and touching the patient in some way. You need to make assessments about patients and decide what to do next. Your experience would be considered "other healthcare experience" on the CASPA application.

      Delete
  43. Hi Paul,

    I'm currently a high school science teacher (have spent the last 9+ years in this profession) with an undergrad background in biology pre-health care (was pre-med at some point). My question is: Is there a way to accrue the necessary HCE hours without quitting my full-time job? You mention that 2000 HCE hours are ideal. At this point, I have none and do not know where to begin. I should mention that I have 3+ years experience working as a lab technician for Baylor College of Medicine, but that was research in microbiology, not patient-related work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Healthcare experience can greatly increase your chances of acceptance, but there are currently 16 programs that do not require healthcare experience.

      http://directory.paeaonline.org/programs?utf8=✓&state=&degree=&caspa=&gre=&health_xp=Not+required&bach_required=&min_gpa=&start_month=

      Your work as a lab technician would be considered research most likely. You will still have to fulfill the pre-requisite requirements and most programs don't take coursework older than 10 years. Some programs require the GRE as well so you would have to consider that as well.

      2000 hours are ideal and make you a more competitive applicant, but shadowing a PA would also be helpful. I'm not sure if there is a PA program out there willing to accept you without any healthcare experience at all, but it would be worthwhile to investigate those 16 programs and ask.

      Delete
  44. Hello Paul, I am 2 weeks away from getting my undergraduate degree in biology and I decided about 2 weeks ago that I wanted to pursue the PA profession. I had originally been planning to do PT but decided that it was not the best fit for me. For financial reasons, I plan to take a year off and live at home with my parents in Germany. Do you have any advice about what I can do to get health care experience while I am overseas and how to manage interviews if I get any. I can't afford to constantly fly back and forth between Germany and the US for multiple interviews.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I do not. I think you'll need healthcare experience in the US in order to apply to most PA programs. There may be a select few that would allow you to gain experience abroad, but you'd need to contact the programs individually to inquire.

      As far as interviews goes, it would be another challenge. Most programs would require you to visit in person - that's how they know you are serious about PA school. I would just say to narrow your search down to your top 3 or 4 and if you get an offer you a spot, then let the program know your situation. Some programs may offer you a teleconference interview or Skype interview. Best of luck!

      Delete
  45. Hello, I am interesting in becoming a PA even though I know it would be a long road. Let's see. I am in my early 30s and currently teaching history in an under-served urban area. I hold a PhD in Sociology from Cornell. I hold BA, MA, and PhDs from 3 ivy league schools, in fact but I studied history, sociology, and statistics. This year, while teaching 4 classes, I took A&P I and aced it at a local comm. college. Academics and test taking isn't a concern for me. I plan to finish my prereqs at the U of Arizona by 2017 but want to gain HCE. No work is beneath me, but I worry that I may not find many entry-level employers. That's way I wanted to get an accelerated BSN nursing degree first for clinical hours and new knowledge. Your post concerns me since I didn't think nurses and PAs were necessarily in different camps. I thought healthcare professionals would work collaboratively. Eventually, I want to teach health sciences...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nurses, NPs and PAs all work collaboratively alongside physicians. I'm sorry if you interpreted my post in that way. I think the point is that if you become a nurse first, it makes more sense to become a nurse practitioner afterward. Nurse practitioners and PAs are very similar. You would need to know the tiny differences between the two in order to be competitive for PA schools. They'll want to know that you CHOSE to go to PA school and are not just falling back on it since you couldn't get into NP school, etc. Do you see my point? We all are part of a team, but when it comes to admissions, it can get a bit hairy since people aren't alway honest about what their intentions are.

      Delete
  46. Hi,

    I am a sophomore at Boston University and ever since deciding I want to become a PA, I have gone back to your blog numerous times. I have a question regarding HCE as an EMT and hoping maybe you would have some information for me! I am signed up to take an EMT certification course next semester (Fall 2015) and plan on working to get health care experience hours next summer.

    You wrote up above that you can become a CNA with an EMT certification... Is this true for basic EMT training or only more advanced training (like paramedic)? And does this apply to all places or does it depend on the place you are applying to?

    Also, what is the criteria to become an ER tech? Is that the same as getting your EMT certification and if not, is it generally possible to become an ER tech with an EMT certification?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really think it's hospital dependent and I believe it would be EMT-basic. You would need to contact the places you want to apply to and ask before completing your course.

      An ER-tech is pretty much a CNA that is trained on the job in the ER. They perform many of the same functions, but you'll find that they have a much more interactive experience and it is much more fast paced. They may hire you if you have your EMT certification, but again, I think it's all hospital based.

      Delete
  47. Hi Paul, Could you clarify this comment- "If you’re considering getting your EMT certification, you might want to just get your CNA certification. Most hospitals will hire CNA positions with a EMT, CNA, or MA certification. It’s cheaper and quicker". I'm struggling on whether or not to get EMT certified or CNA. I'm leaning towards EMT because I'd like to work as an ER tech or a PCT in a hospital part-time while I'm finishing my bachelors. But what would make me more competitive in my application? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think either would lead to you excellent experience outlets. If I were to choose one over the other I would do the EMT. I think you would have more responsibility and be able to have more involvement than you would as a CNA, as far as capabilities. I think my friends that were EMT certified did a lot more than I ever did, in my own experience. This might not be true for everyone.

      Delete
  48. Hi Paul first off thank you very much for all of the useful information. I am currently an EMT and have been for 3 years now FT while obtaining my Bachelors degree in Health Science and my prerequisites. Currently I have an overall GPA of 3.4 and a science GPA of roughly 2.9-3.0 due to a C that i received in second semester Gen Chem. I still have 3-4 (depending on the PA schools i apply) prerequisites that i need to complete but i wanted to know if you think that my work experience will compensate for my GPA? Also how many hours of volunteering do you think is adequate enough considering my work experience and GPA? I will be shadowing and volunteering this upcoming year but with the rest of the prerequisites and working FT i would like to get your opinion on where i should place most of my time. Do you know if schools take into consideration if applicants were working FT and going to school FT pre-PA? I know that if i had not been working and going to school FT i could have got A's in the science pre-requisites i got B's in and the same goes for the C. Considering what i have told you i would overall just appreciate any advice you can give me as i am feeling very overworked and overwhelmed and like i may not be very competitive considering my GPA. (sorry my questions and thoughts are so scattered lol) Thank you in advance, Gabriel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First off, work experience (HCE) does not "compensate" for any grades or GRE scores. If it was that way, people who scored with GPAs of 2.0 could apply with 10 years or more of experience and get in. PA schools want the experienced and the bright, not one or the other. There really isn't a single number I can tell you for how many hours of volunteer experience. You just need to be well rounded in every area and make yourself stand out. It seems like you're looking for the "minimum" you need to get into a school and that's not how or why people get accepted to PA programs. You truly do need to emphasize every area in order to be competitive because that's how you can show committees that you are able to tackle a difficult workload. If grades are suffering, you might consider a 1-year master's degree or post-baccalaureate program.

      Delete
  49. Wow...You have responded to most questions on here.

    I'm a respiratory therapist currently taking my last prerequisites for the PA program. I wish I could have read more entries from RTs pursuing the PA profession so I thought i'd take the time to post.

    Did you have any students in your class that were RTs and if so how well did they do? Were they older? Did they have years of experience? Any young RTs? I'm currently 28 yrs old.

    I only have 1 year of health care experience as a full time RT and i'm hoping that will be enough to get accepted into a PA program. What do you think? Initially I wanted to go straight from RT to PA after graduating from the RT program because i was and still am very passionate about being a PA. Not to mention that there were no RT jobs where i'm from. Nevertheless, i'm thankful i took a year off school, relocated, and got HCE as an RT. I have to say it was a very rewarding experience. I am also proud to say that I was one of the few RTs that was offered an added responsibilty to be a preceptor for my department. I learned so much being a preceptor and it was one of the things I really looked forward to when going to work at the hospital.

    Anyways, its been 6 months since I quit my job as an RT to focus on taking the prerequisites for the PA program. I am almost done and only need one more semester to finish. I am so anxious to apply to PA schools but I haven't had a chance to shadow a PA. Most places that employ PAs in my area don't allow shadowing and those that do are filled with too many students shadowing already. I know it is important to shadow a PA but do you think I can get away with it due to my HCE as an RT in a hospital setting? I really wish there was an easier way to shadow PAs or to demonstrate that I understand the role of a PA without having to shadow.




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not have any fellow students that were RTs, but I know that this is great healthcare experience for PA school and that students do get accepted. Most students who apply have about 2 years or 2,000 hours full-time of experience. Age is not an issue when applying to any PA school.

      If you aren't working anymore and don't have another source of healthcare experience, you might have to go back and get more experience before applying in order to be competitive. Focus on school for now if that's what you must do and of course, make sure you shadow a PA before applying. There really isn't any "getting away with it." It is pretty much a requirement across the board.

      Delete
  50. Hi! I am constantly checking this blog because I think it is super helpful and I love it, so thank you for all your hard work.

    Just a quick question: I'm currently in a CNA course and am wondering the best way to figure out if my clinical hours count toward HCE. Should I contact the programs specifically by e-mail and ask?

    Also, assuming I get a job once I'm certified, how should I go about updating the schools of my updated HCE hours and by what deadline? By email or phone?

    Thank you for your help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your clinical hours after completing the CNA course will count. Your clinical hours during your CNA program will not count because that is considered part of your training.

      Once you are certified and have at least 2,000 hours of HCE is when you should be applying. You are not allowed to 'update' your application after you have submitted your CASPA.

      Delete
  51. Hi I was wondering if working as an optician would count towards the experience hours needed to apply to a program ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charles,

      I do not know the answer to that, but I would think not. You will need to call the programs you plan to apply to and ask them.

      Delete
  52. Hi, I am starting my freshman year of college in August and was looking into getting at job as a patient care technician at the hospital near my college. Would this be beneficial to me in the path to becoming a PA and with getting into a PA program in the future?

    ReplyDelete
  53. Hi I am a freshmen in college and i am currently taking pre-req classes for PA school as well as majoring in Psychology. I wanted to know what else am i suppose to be doing so far as of now? I applied to volunteer at a hospital and i signed up to receive an email for shadowing a PA at the website you recommended (PAshadowonline.com). Is there anything else i should be doing?

    &&
    I wanted to know if i should become a Medical Assistant first, because PA school really looks at health care experience and i really want to gain some knowledge right away. Can i still be taking PA pre req classes and do medical assistant? I was confused about that.. what are your thoughts please?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kaur,

      You should figure out what makes a good PA applicant: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html

      You can most definitely become an MA while taking coursework at a community college or university.

      Delete
  54. Hi, I'm thinking of applying to PA schools in the future but was wondering whether PA schools highly prefer paid health care experiences to volunteer health care experiences. What are your thoughts? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paid experience is preferred by most programs, from what I have read.

      Delete
  55. Hello,
    I was curious as to your thoughts on volunteer hours. I have been working full time while taking my pre-requisite courses, therefore, I do not have any volunteer hours. Do you think that the school might over look this since I have over 36,000 hours of direct patient care? I have been working as an RT for 15 years.
    Thanks,
    Sherri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sherri,
      Volunteer work, as with all extracurricular activities, are not necessarily a requirement, but they individualize the applicant, making them well-rounded. This is something all PA programs look for in students. They don't necessarily want the person with tons of experience and crappy grades, but they don't want the person with stupendous grades and no experience either. They want a mixture of the two and when you get so many applicants who look so similar, extracurriculars are all that divide them.

      Delete
  56. Hi,
    Thanks for all the great information - it was all very detailed and helpful. I've just begun acquiring HCE, and was wondering if you've ever used any sort of app to document your hours. I'm currently keeping organized with an excel spreadsheet but thought there must be an app for that... if so, please share! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never come across one, but I'll be out on the lookout now that you've asked. Let me know if you find anything before I do.

      Delete
  57. Hi,

    I'm a clinical research coordinator, and I notice that your post states "most programs agree" that this does not count as direct patient care experience. I'm wondering what you're going off of when you say that? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,
      Reading physicianassistantforum and other similar sites enabled me to produce this entire post. Every profession listed here has been talked about before online somewhere and I placed each in a category where I found it fit best according to what I've read online with people's past experiences. Obviously not all of these fall into black and white lines and there are exceptions, so I advise you not to take everything so literally and reach out to PA programs to ensure you are on the right track. Best of luck!

      Delete
  58. Hi Paul,
    I'm planning to apply for PA in the near future. In order to do so, I'm preparing for the MA course at HCC. I thought once I graduated I would earn some patient care experience as an MA. However, I have recently been accepted as a volunteer position at one of the big hospitals in Houston. I will be working only one shift a week. So should I stick to the MA program and volunteer at the same time or cancel this course and save that precious time to study pre-requisite courses while still volunteering at the hospital? One is a safer route and another is faster. What do you think?
    Thanks,
    Erik

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If this were up to me - I would try to do both. It sounds like the volunteer position is going to be pretty low maintenance since it is only once per week. The MA program will help you gain clinical knowledge and it will be paid, which is what most schools want. They also like students who can handle a rigorous course load because that's exactly what PA school and PA life is like. There really isn't a safe route in PA school, so challenging yourself makes you stand out. Do what you think you can handle/manage. Best of luck to you!

      Delete
  59. Paul, I hold a Bachelors in Science (as of May 2015) and gained about 6 months of HCE while in college. I have been working in the Public Health field as a program coordinator since January. The goal of the program is to collaborate with the community, college students, and physicians to reduce infant mortality and morbidity and the disparities associated with that. Will this experience count as HCE? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This sounds like some pretty incredible HCE, but I think this would count in the "other" HCE category, rather than direct HCE. It seems like most PA programs would welcome this experience and would be very grateful to have someone like you. I hope you continue to accrue this experience and I'm assuming your 6 months of "HCE" was direct?

      Delete
  60. Foreword: I have been reading your blog for the past hour and I can't believe the amount of effort that you put into answering everyone's questions!

    I am an Incoming Freshman to a community college this Fall 2015 and will be taking approximately 17 units.

    1) What should be my main focus right now?
    - Should I focus solely on getting a good GPA/Academics
    - Immediately start looking for jobs that provide HCE
    - Volunteer on the side

    2) If you were in my shoes as an Incoming College Freshman, What advice would you give to avoid any mistakes that you've seen happened/experienced yourself?

    As always your hardwork is priceless to everyone reading your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, thanks Jason. Sometimes it's difficult to get to everyones questions right away, especially since i'm on rotations at the moment. I try to find time in between patients to answer 1-2.

      As a freshman, focus on your grades and possibly start looking for potential places to shadow (or just get down to it). It would be better to decide early that you are really committed to the PA profession before you start the difficult journey. I started my HCE when I was a junior in college, but you can start whenever you feel you have time. Always remember that volunteer work and extracurriculars are what set yourself apart, so make sure you find time to do those when you can.

      If I were to give anyone advice that early in college - just enjoy your first year. Get some volunteer, shadowing, or research in where you can, but the next few years just get increasingly difficult. Spare yourself the tragedy and dedicate your time to enjoying yourself and your studies.

      Delete
  61. Hey Paul,

    I am taking prereqs to become an lpn and hopefully work as one to gain the hce for the PA program but I'm wondering if thats the longer route. My other option was to just work at a hospital as a CNA and finish up the required pre reqs for the PA program and apply. Which route is best?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nes,

      There really isn't a "better" route and the shorter one may not always mean the better one. If experience is what you need, make sure wherever you are going to be working will be giving you the most experience and the best exposure to clinical skills and patient care.

      Delete
  62. Hi,

    I am taking undergrad in "Nutritional Science" and wanted to apply for PA. I have little fuzzy regarding healthcare experience, if I complete dietitian certification and work after that dietitian, will that consider as healthcare experience?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if that counts as direct HCE, versus "other HCE" on the application. I would contact a few PA programs and ask what they think, but probably count as "other."

      Delete
  63. Hey Paul,

    Wow do I love your blog so much, thanks for taking the time to help out us PA hopefuls! I was wondering if you could me any advice on what I can do to better myself for PA school...
    So far I have a lot of volunteer experience from a medical practice and a veterinary clinic (I used to want to be a vet). However I only recently started working as a medical assistant to get direct patient care experience. However I am uncertified due to only being hired because I had volunteered there for so long and I guess the staff like me (haha). As I am finishing my bachelors I am wondering what to do in the gap year before I apply to PA school. I am being pushed to get a master's degee in something during that time but I am thinking it'd be better for me to get certified in something (I am thinking about phlebotomy) and begin working as one. I was wondering if you think this would put me on the right track to getting accepted to pa school. I also plan on getting certified in BLS, etc. My GPA is okay, about a 3.3 but I can bring it up to a 3.5 most likely. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you can get your GPA up to a 3.5, then HCE would definitely be your next best bet. Getting certified and working (paid) as a phlebotomist or something else would be ideal. Getting a masters degree would only be useful if your grades are poor (science GPA or science coursework). Also, make sure you shadow a PA and have some other extracurricular work or volunteer work.

      Delete
  64. At the time I applied to my schools I had a little over 500 hours, it has now been a couple months after and I have almost a thousand hours. When schools are looking over my application do they consider the amount of hours that I will have at this point or just at the time the application was submitted. Also, if they dont consider the amount of hours that I will have obtained since submission should I contact them regarding the increase in the amount since then?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Meagan,

      Unfortunately, schools only consider the number of hours you have when you submit the application. I have heard of students contacting each program and updating them with their hours (in a document), but it really is up to the individual program whether to accept them or not. I would suggest contacting the programs - it's worth a shot!

      Delete
  65. Thank you for this post, it was very informational, thorough, and well organized. Much appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hey Paul, so I am applying this year, kinda late, but I have an academic renewal which CASPA does not honor. This lowers my overall gpa from 3.2 to 2.85. My science and pre-req is higher than 3.0 still. I am applying to overall 2.75 gpa PA programs and have about 1200hrs of experience. I just graduated from Davis with a 3.14. What should I do if I do not get in this year, for next year I plan on taking GRE, classes at UC Davis even though I graduated and also apply to MPH programs just in case. Does this sound like a good plan?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Unknown,
      If I were you - considering you do not get accepted this year - I would try reaching out to programs and seeing what else you can do. I really don't have a good answer to your question because it's not something I see often. In your case, it probably won't matter how much experience you gain. I would definitely take the GRE and try to score well, maybe consider a post-baccalaureate program or masters degree? Ask programs if that would improve your chances and whether they would consider your application even after all of that work. You'll want to check to see whether it's even worth it to go through all of that hassle.

      Delete
  67. Hello, I am sophomore in college right now and still undecided... but I am considering a career in health as a PA. So I just wanted to ask you, do you enjoy being a PA? At the end of the day do you feel satisfied with what you do? I just want a job that I would enjoy going to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi unknown,

      I'm not yet certified, as I'm in my clinical year of PA school. I have approximately 1-year until I graduate. Ask me again in November/December of 2016.

      Delete
  68. Hi Paul,

    Thank you so much for the post! I couldn't get so much information anywhere else.

    I am applying for PA school next year and looking for patient care experience. Because I work in research side with a visa, it's hard for me to find a job with such experience. The only thing I find now is a local hospice where I can do patient care volunteering (such as sitting with patients, translating, making phone calls, and running errands). Do you think this will help my application? If not, any other volunteer experience I should look for? Thank you!

    Best regards,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      I think volunteer experience is better than no experience at all. I've heard that paid experience is preferred and I would advise you to contact the PA programs you plan to apply to and see what their policy is on volunteer vs. paid experience. You also probably need more hands-on experience, which is why paid experience is preferred. I think working as hard as you can to obtain the work visa should be your priority.

      Delete
  69. Hey Paul,
    I tried reading through the previous comments to see if my question had been asked by someone else, so I apologize if I overlooked it! I'm currently in my junior year of undergrad and I've been a pharmacy tech for probably about four years. I've done compounding pharmacy and retail, and I just recently switched my career choice to PA. Do you think it would be best to find a more hands on/patient care job, or would volunteering at several different places and keeping my pharmacy tech job be sufficient? I am trying to focus more on my studies rather than trying to find another job, so I'm kind of stuck in between that decision. Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First off let me say that pharmacy tech experience is invaluable. Knowing the names and classes of drugs is probably one of the hardest parts of pharmacology. I do, however, think that you should obtain more hands-on experience and a variety of experiences is always preferred.

      Delete
  70. Hey Paul,
    First off, I wanted to say that your site is sooo very helpful! I am so thankful for it!

    I'm currently a senior in college looking to apply to PA schools this May. I am CNA certified and have been working as a PCT at a rehabilitation center since June. I pass meds, assist wound care, and take vitals. I only currently have about 350 hours of paid patient care. I worked in a research lab for a year and a half prior to my senior year, accumulating about 750 hours there. I plan to continue working at the same rehabilitation center through next semester, and once summer starts I would like to work full time. It is from my understanding that PA schools accept paid patient care hours up until the application deadline. I'm hoping I can accumulate close to 1,000 hours by this time. I'm wondering if you think I would have a good shot at applying this round, or if you think I should take a year off to work full time, study for the GRE and then apply. I don't know if it looks bad to reapply if I don't get in first time around, or if I should just concentrate on making myself a stronger applicant for a year before even applying?
    Thanks for the help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are plenty of PA schools you could apply to with that amount of experience. I would look at the schools you plan to apply to and look at their average student profile to gauge how competitive of an applicant you are. Most schools will post this type of info on their websites or the PAEA directory. Taking a year off to work full-time is also not a bad idea - I did this as well. You really should look at your entire profile, including your GPA (and GRE scores) to determine when to apply. If you're not competitive, I would wait. It doesn't look bad if you didn't get accepted your first round - most students apply at least twice. You should use that to determine what part of your application was weakest and put more effort into that area.

      Remember, the PA is meant to be for medical professionals wishing to continue or enhance/advance their current experience. If you don't feel ready for it, maybe more experience is what you need. Make yourself a well rounded applicant.

      Look at myPAresource.com and thePAplatform.com for more advice.

      Delete
  71. Hey Paul,
    My name is Faith and I am currently a bio major in my sophomore year. I am about to start my spring semester taking genetics and other requirements. I'm reading about all these medical certifications to get direct patient care and I don't seem to understand how people do it while pursing their undergrad. What are some ideas of how I can get direct patient interactions. As I am just a sophomore, can you help me make a plan that will better equip me when applying to PA programs?
    Thank you so much and have a blessed day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Faith,
      I think most people who enter the PA profession have taken years off/out of school to gain this experience before applying. Others have experience prior to entering their undergraduate education. There are very few professions that train you OTJ, such as my experience as a PCT, which I was able to gain during my undergraduate career as a student. I think you should do a job search at local hospitals to determine whether that might be an option for you. You should also look at shadowing experiences and maybe those will help you get your foot in the door. Sometimes volunteering at hospitals is a way to get your foot in the door as well. There is not a single path to getting into PA school and you have to carve your own way by yourself - this is part of the process of showing a PA school you are ready to tackle graduate medical education.

      Delete
  72. Hello Paul,
    First of all thank you for sharing so many helpful tips on this blog, it's the most resourceful and positive blog I have seen thus far for people who are thinking going to PA school. I do, however have a question, I recently just graduated with a BS in nutrition, and I am thinking of getting certified as a Diagnostic medical sonographer so that I can accrue the hours needed for PA schools. Currently I am working as a diet clerk and I don't think taking calls from the patient for their meal order is considered direct HCE right? Thank you, much appreciated that your taking time out of your busy schedule to help us confused prePA students~and hope you have a happy & amazing 2016!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alice,

      I agree. I think this would qualify as "Other" Patient Care Exp. Direct HCE means direct, as in, you are directly interacting with the patient with skin-skin contact.

      Delete
  73. Hi Paul,
    I am currently a sophomore biology major in university and I've recently started researching about the PA career. I understand that PA schools require many hours of HCE, shadowing experience, etc. However, I have some doubts about being competitive enough to get into PA school (my GPA is currently around 3.2 and I do not have any health related experience since I only recently started looking into careers). Even though your blog is about PA school/experience, do you have any suggestions for backup plans for someone who doesn't get into PA school - something that requires similar experience/GPA/prereqs. I'm scared of pursuing the PA program and investing a lot of time into experience and end up not getting in after it all. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Junior in university *

      Delete
    2. Hi anonymous,

      Unfortunately, I can't help you there. The possibilities are endless. I think what you need to do is sit down with a health professions counselor at your current university to discuss other health-related fields besides PA.

      Delete
  74. Hey Paul

    I am currently on my last year as an undergraduate student and I just recently decided that I wanted to go to PA school. My current GPA is a 2.95 and I have been working EMS for about year and have about 1,000 hours of HCE. I still have about 5 or 6 pre reqs for PA school but I am debating if I should take them at my Community College or at my 4 year institution. I know I don't have a high GPA to get into a Masters program or post bac program, but I was wondering if it would hurt me to take them at a community college. I want to take them at a community college mainly to save money but I just don't want to make a decision I will regret later. What do you recommend? and what other things do you suggest for me to do to become more competitive? My advisor said that I am pretty competitive with my HCE and the fact that I am fluent in Spanish, and how in my last three semesters in college I have a 3.85 GPA.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Anonymous,

      Thanks for reading and your question. I would check out this blog post to see what qualities make an applicant competitive: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html

      While HCE does make you competitive, two of the most studied factors for success in PA school are cumulative and science GPA. Having said that, I would look at PA programs that look at your last few semesters/years of undergrad and may be more "forgiving." UT Rio Grande Valley is one PA program I know that would be a good choice for a student such as yourself. Best of luck!

      If you still would like to talk to a "pre-PA" advisor, visit Savannah Perry's site at http://www.thepaplatform.com/services/

      Also, you can use code: DoseOfPA for discount on services

      Delete
  75. Hello,

    I am very interested in going to PA school and am considering getting my EMT certification. Does it matter if I get my EMT certification in an online setting or a traditional classroom? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think it matters where you get your certification as much as the experience you'd gain. The numbers are what count the most and finding a job with an online certification won't be easy. Good luck!

      Delete
  76. Hello,

    I have a question regarding patient care experience. I'm currently shadowing a PA and a doctor in a Pediatrics clinic. I help the doctor with asthma test and as a translator. Does this count as patient care hours if the Dr. allows me to assist him but I don't have a certification?
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't say yes or no. I would talk to the PA programs you are planning to apply to and see what their opinions on it are. If you are shadowing, then it seems that these hours could not be counted toward direct healthcare experience hours.

      Delete
  77. Paul,

    First and foremost, you have a great blog! Your information is really helping me out during my trek to apply to PA schools. I am wondering if you can give me some further information about HCE. A little background about me: I hold two bachelor degrees (Physiology and German Studies) from the University of Arizona. I lived and studied abroad in Germany during one semester of my undergrad career and am pretty fluent in the language. I am graduating with a M.S. in sport and exercise science this upcoming May. On top of my masters program I am a research assistant in the field of chemotherapy (animal research) and have been published a few times in the past year. I have not had any time to acquire a part time position in the healthcare field because of my course load (both in undergrad as well as grad school) as well as research obligations. However, I have volunteered many hours during undergrad at a hospice (it was an at home hospice center, so my volunteer work was directly with a patient and their family) and will be shadowing a few PA's starting next week until the end of May. I really want to apply to PA schools during this upcoming round of applications...but am worried that my lack of paid HCE will negatively impact my application. Currently I have a 4.0 in grad school and my undergrad GPA was a 3.4 (overall, for both degrees). I guess my question is, what do you think my chances are of getting accepted with my current background? Do you advise that I hold off on the application process until next years round so I can acquire a paid position in healthcare industry?

    Thanks a bunch,

    Leanne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Leanne,

      It sounds like you have a lot of good things going for you. Realize that not all PA programs require healthcare experience and even though the average matriculant has about ~2000 hours, this doesn't mean that people with very few or no hours will not be accepted. If you feel that you are competitive, why delay? This is a decision you have to make yourself, no one can really give you a definitive answer.


      I would check out this blog post to see what qualities make an applicant competitive: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html

      If you still would like to talk to a "pre-PA" advisor, visit Savannah Perry's site at http://www.thepaplatform.com/services/

      Also, you can use code: DoseOfPA for discount on services

      Good luck!

      Delete
  78. Hi, I am Ph.D in physics and no prior experience in biology. Can I make career change in PA. I am not sure from where to get info as what needs to be done. Also, HCE...Is patient care coordinator be counted in HCE? Also I read your blog saying that one can go to local hospital and go to volunteer section. Is it correct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dr. Harinder Singh,

      I would first visit AAPA's website on "Becoming a PA" : https://www.aapa.org/become-a-pa/

      Your second question - if I listed patient care coordinator above as direct HCE, it may count. If it is listed under "other" HCE then it may not qualify as direct, which most programs prefer.

      Yes, going to local hospitals and volunteering is a good thing, if that is what you are asking.

      Delete
  79. Hi,

    First, this blog has really helped me so far, so thank you! I'm currently looking for HCE in Seattle and am having some difficulty. I'm graduating this year with a BS in Biochemistry, but a lot of the HCE that schools have are ones that require going back to school for a CNA or MA, etc. I was looking at a position as a Clinical Laboratory Technician, which is listed as "Other" on some PA school program websites, but I was curious if this would still count since I'd mostly be in lab, processing samples, etc.

    Also, I was looking into EKG tech and you mentioned that you can be trained in 4 weekends--I was wondering if you had more information about that? I wasn't able to find any training programs that allowed you to be certified that quick.

    Basically, I'm looking for a job that I would be able to get with minimal schooling on top of my undergrad because I need to start getting money to stay afloat. Any advice helps!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,
      First off, thanks for reading. I appreciate the positive feedback. Second, I completely understand your position and wanting to get the pre-application process completed so that you can earn a solid salary. However, keep in mind that the PA profession was not built for our generation. It was meant for people who were already in the healthcare workforce and wished to advance their level of practice, which is exactly why I love the term "advanced practice providers" or APP-staff. A CLT should count as other healthcare experience, since it is related to the healthcare field, but you may not have direct interaction with patients. Most programs would still require some direct hands-on healthcare experience.

      As far as EKG tech in 4 weekends, I really think I wrote that based on some anecdotal reading. There probably are programs out there like that-that train people on the job. I think you'd have to do some pretty extensive searching for opportunities like that. Have you looked into becoming a CNA/MA or another type of tech? I think a great start would be to decide whether the PA profession really is for you - a shadowing experience. If you like it enough, you might consider taking a year or two off of school and working as an MA/CNA to become a more competitive PA applicant. As a reminder, most students apply with about 4,000 HCE hours. This profession really wasn't built for "minimalists", meaning that it is difficult to apply with the minimal amount of training because applicants are becoming more and more competitive every year.

      I really hope you figure out your own path, as there isn't a "best" or "fastest" way to become a PA. It takes time to figure out who you are and what you want to be - invest time now and you'll thank yourself for it later.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply! So in terms of the CLT, what I'm getting is that healthcare experience is almost "separate" from direct patient care? I guess I've just considered them the same. So if the school requires X hours of healthcare experience, a CLT should count, but I would still need to find direct patient care experience elsewhere? Of course, I'll contact the schools themselves, but just curious for preliminary research.

      Delete
    3. Yep - CLT would count as "other healthcare experience." This comes into play when you actually fill out your CASPA application, as the types of healthcare experience are differentiated - direct from indirect (other HCE). See my point?

      Delete
  80. Hi good day, i am currently a student of Bachelor of Science in Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle management in the Philippines. I'm very interested in taking up the PA education program. In our on-the-job training, we are exposed in various fitness centers and gyms. We also have subjects like Rehabilitation Medicine, Exercise Physiology, and First Aid.I would like to ask whether I am qualified in taking up the PA course? Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      Physician assistant is not a course, it is a profession. I would advise you to become more familiar with our profession before applying. There are also nearly 200 PA programs nationwide, so I am not sure which PA program you are interested in. I understand that you have some hands on experience, which may be useful in the application process. Please read the articles under the "pre-PA" tab.

      Delete
  81. Hi. I am currently in school for my bs in biology. I have a 3.8 gpa but I also work full time. I am going to be applying next fall for PA school but I dont know how im going to get these hours. I have a associates degree in nuclear medicine and am certified. I have never persuaded a career in nuc med though. My question is can I use my clinical hours that I accumulated in the nuclear medicine program as HCE. I have a good references from nuc med but I dont know if I should try to do something else for hours or will the almost 2000 hrs from my other degree work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, I'm not sure I can answer that question, Ben. I would contact the PA programs you are planning on applying to. I want to say, no, but I'm not sure.

      I think you might need some other HCE, but I'd ask to be sure before pursuing something else.

      Delete
  82. I couldn't find any information about this already on your website. What do you suggest writing under the "brief description" of the experiences/achievements? Should you keep it more general like a resume or be more specific and detail your experiences?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A short description of your most proud achievements, honors, awards, etc.

      For example, I listed a research publication and award I received. Very plain and to the point. No details.

      Delete
  83. Hi Paul,

    I am a senior biology major at my university. I will be graduating this December. I have a great GPA (3.9) and am about to take the GRE. However, I lack any HCE. I am currently in CNA training, as I feel like this would be the best option for HCE.

    Do you think I should try to acquire 300+ hours of HCE before the deadline, or do you think it would be better to put off applying for another year?

    I think it important to note that I will be going part time my last semester. I only lack four credits before I graduate. I know I could take on a full time CNA position, but I wasn't sure if PA schools looked down upon getting all my HCE in a three month time period.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the programs you plan on applying to don't weigh clinical hours as much, then I'd apply this year, otherwise, I wouldn't go through the fees/hassle of applying only to be discouraged from applying a second round. Investigate the programs you want to apply to - figure out how many hours they require at minimum and see if they have stats on the students from the previous year. Go from there.

      Delete
  84. Hi Paul,
    In may I graduated with a BA in Biology. I'm really interested in becoming a PA but I have no idea what my next step should be. I've done research at a grad school last summer and the summer before that, I volunteered at a local hospital working with patients and nurses. What should I do now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like you're on track with volunteering in a hospital and research. Remember that paid-healthcare experience is preferred by most PA schools and always try to give yourself that 'wow' factor. Leadership experience is always good and you'll need to find time to shadow PAs as well. Make sure you've got the prerequisites met and GRE if applicable. Good luck!

      Delete
  85. Hi Paul,

    Thank you so much for all the information! Your blog is just what I have been looking for. I am currently a junior Human Foods and Nutrition Major. I am really interested in applying to a PA program. However, taking the pre-reqs is the only preparation I have done so far. I'm not sure what my next step should be. The PA schools that I am looking at do not require any HCE. However, I assume it is recommended. My goal is to apply for the semester after I graduate in 2018. Do you think that would be possible? Should I be volunteering, shadowing, or be involved in patient care? Which patient care profession would you recommend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In addition to grades (GPA) most PA schools require the GRE. You'll also need to shadow, volunteer, and obtain paid healthcare experience. Research experience is a great plus, but not required.

      I also wouldn't take the 'do not require HCE' literally. Just because they do not require it doesn't mean they don't like it! More competitive applicants with more HCE will likely get accepted. I would not risk applying without HCE (especially because of costs to apply). Good luck!

      Delete
  86. Hi!
    I came across your blog a few weeks ago and was wondering if you could give me some advice. I'm going into my junior year of college and I'm an Exercise Science major. I'm struggling to figure out what I should do for HCE. I'm interested in CNA, PCT,or EMT-B. But my funds are limited, and I want to be able to get as many hours as possible. What do you think the best option for me would be?

    Thanks!
    Aleiya

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are all really great options and all have their own pros and cons, but all present their own challenges. I think you just inspired my next blog post! :)

      I don't have a short answer for you, but you should do some research online and ask your friends and family what they think you should do, then come back when you have some advice. There's no rush in any of this. The PA profession was made for people who were working in a field for 10+ years and decided that they wanted to advance their career further, just keep that in mind. Find a suitable job that you might/could find fun as a potential career if it doesn't work out.

      Delete
  87. Dear Paul,

    I am going to be a junior at MSU in the fall and this past year just decided to pursue the PA track. I took my CNA class in May and am now working at nursing home where I hope to obtain hours as I have no health care hours besides those I've accumulated in the past few weeks. I am planning to take a gap year, so I wouldn't apply until around when I graduate. But to be frank, I really don't enjoy my job at the nursing home and was wondering if there was any other ways to obtain paid health care hours that doesn't require a whole other certification as I've already invested $800 some becoming a CNA and since I don't have much more time to accumulate hours.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The interesting thing about becoming a CNA is that you can work in different areas - have you look into working in home-health (pediatrics)? Maybe geriatrics is not your passion, but you might find your calling elsewhere. Try looking there and if it doesn't work out let me know.

      Delete
  88. Dear Paul,

    I recently graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.S. in Biology. I am currently going to be starting as a clinical specialist at St. Jude Hospital as a full time job before grad school so I can gain hands on experience for my future medical career. I was just wondering if this career, which will deal with neurological devices that are implanted in the epidural region of the spine and also sometimes in the brain, be good experience for PA school?

    ReplyDelete
  89. Hey Paul,

    Thank you for a great blog post! I am planning to apply to PA schools this cycle! I had a question on whether you think I have any chances of getting into PA school. I am going to be a Senior at Temple U in the fall and will graduate with a BS in Kinesiology. My current GPA (3.2) is not that good :/ but I have 400 Hours in the OR/outpatient shadowing orthopedic surgeons and PA, 150 Hours of shadowing Docs and PA in pediatrics. I also have 600 hours in Nursing Homes volunteering but I wasnt sure if its considered HCE or DCE cause I helped lift patients and feed/ took their BP with assistance of Nurses. I have more than 2000 hours in community services related to Church. I am currently doing my EMT certification and that will be done by the end of August and I plan on finding a job as an ER tech at a hospital so i could update my application with the experience I acquired after I submit my application in 2 weeks. If I don't get in this cycle I plan on working a year as an ER tech or EMT gaining more experience and applying next cycle but I would really like to get in by next fall if possible. What do you think? Would I have any chance?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alan,

      It sounds like you have some great experience already in the works, but it sounds like you'd need to keep building on that before applying. At least I would if it was myself in your shoes. I would not rush things by any means.

      If you are ever in need of more direction - meet up with Savanna Perry at thePAPlatform.com
      She is a PA coach and can offer you advice on your personal journey and has helped many students navigate this process.

      Delete
  90. I'm in need of advice and an opinion. Thank you for your help and I LOVE your page!! I have a BS (3.56 GPA) and MS (4.0 GPA) with thesis in Exercise Science. My experience comes from many sources and I'm not certain it is sufficient. 510 hours is from instructing a physiology lab which included test and modalities including the wingate power test, fat percentage using BODPOD, functional movement, exercise and resting blood pressure measurement, etc, 70 hours from 2 research projects that I presented at 2 major conferences - one was on saliva samples to determine post exercise endocrine to goat milk - analyzed for testosterone, cortisol and DHEA; and a hamstring study testing the effectiveness of a hamstring device to assist flexion of the knee, 240 hours was research for my thesis which was published - tested the effects of Alpha size supplementation on explosive power, strength and serum like growth factor (IGF-1)-it included taking various anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, body fat percentage, VO2 max, maximum strength and power. I obtained saliva samples in the phlebotomy lab using enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), 192 hours from an internship with a PT where I observed and assisted various therapy, 72 hours GA position - I instructed a kinesiology activity class for undergraduate students which included taking blood pressure, measuring body fat percentage, height, weight, body mass index. I taught various exercise modalities such as jogging, weight lifting, interval training, etc., 600 hours comes from a GA position - I had to obtain certification in first aid, CPR and AED and I maintained a checklist of safety procedures such as proper use of machines, sanitation, proper techniques and status of the AED machines, 386 hours shadowing a PA, 25 hours shadowing a neurosurgeon and cardiovascular surgeon in surgery. How do you feel schools will look at my experience compared to someone who obtains their hours from one job in health care? Thank you in advance for your help!!

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    1. I guess I should have said that if these hours are acceptable hours they total 1684 hours, and 411 shadowing hours. Thank you!!

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  91. My post keeps vanishing so please excuse me if it appears more than once. I have a 1684 hours (if they are acceptable) and 411 hours shadowing. I have a BS (3.6GPA) and MS (4.0 GPA) in exercise science with a thesis. My hours come from many things. 510 hours from a GA position - Instructed the exercise physiology lab. The types of tests and modalities used included the Wingate power test, body fat percentage using the BODPOD, functional movement screening, exercise and resting blood pressure measurements etc.;
    70 hours research - We tested the effectiveness of goat’s milk as a post exercise supplement. We collected saliva samples to determine the post exercise endocrine response to goats milk. Saliva samples were analyzed for testosterone, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone ( DHEA). I Presented the findings in the National Strength and Conditioning Association Conference in May 2014; 50 hours research - We tested the effectiveness of the hamstring device to assist in flexion of the knee. I presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in May 2014; 240 hours research - We tested the effects of Alpha size supplementation on explosive power, strength, and serum inulin like growth factor (IGF-1). My responsibilities included taking various anthropometric measurements such as blood pressure, body fat percent, VO2 max, maximum strength and power. Body fat percentage was determined using the BODPOD golden standard. Muscular power and strength were measured using a force plateform. I obtained and analyzed saliva samples in the phlebotomy laboratory using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The findings were published in the Journal of Sports Nutrition; 192 hours intern - I observed and assisted a PT with rehabilitation therapy including interferential therapy, ultra sounds, and various forms of crytherapy and thermotherapy; 72 hours GA position - I Instructed a kinesiology activity class for sophomore and junior level undergraduate students. My responsibilities included getting various anthropometric measurements from each student such as blood pressure, body fat percent, height, weight and body mass index. I taught various exercise modalities such as jogging, weight lifting, interval training and cross training. At the end of the class I repeated all anthropometric measurements to track fitness progress, 600 hours GA position - I was responsible for the safety of students exercising at a campus fitness center. I had to maintain a checklist of safety procedures such as proper use of machines and free weights, sanitation, proper technique on the rock wall, as well as checking the status of the AED machines. In order to qualify for the job I was trained in first aid, CPR, and AED; 386 hours shadowing a PA; 25 hours shadowing a neurosurgeon and cardiovascular surgeon in surgery. Is this experience acceptable as healthcare hours in your opinion? Sorry for the length of it and thank you very much for you time!!

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    1. Hello,

      I think you seem like a competitive applicant from a surface level review, but for further evaluation, I would visit with a PA coach such as Savannah Perry at thePAplatform. If you mention code DoseOfPA, she'll give you a discount on her services. She does everything from narrative revisions to mock interviews and she will even take a look at your stats and tell you what she thinks.

      Delete
  92. Hello Mr. Paul. I wanted to if I am doing a direct care professionals position for a community home care, if that would be counted as a HCE for PA schools? Just to be on the safe side. And I am also a Medical Assistant as well. Any advice on that please. Thank you.

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    1. I'm not sure what a direct care professional does, but if it involves direct patient care as described above -where you are in direct contact with the patient taking care of them independently, then it should count.

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  93. Hi Paul,
    I don't exactly know how to ask my question, but I wanted some advice as to what classes I should take, or what I should be doing to prepare myself to become a PA. Currently, I am a senior...in high school, but I know that being a PA is what I want to be. However, I am not sure exactly how to get there. I am taking college classes while in high school so I almost have my associates. Would you recommend I finish my associates in a community college or go to a University (I was already accepted to NAU in Arizona so I would go there)? Basically, I just want to know what steps I should take, or where I should look into to know what is needed to become a PA. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you.

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    1. Also, what would be the best degree to get?

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  94. Hello, I am a Community Health Aide in rural Alaska. While I know the WWAMI schools are familiar with the CHA Program, I am not sure that other schools do. I am wondering what is the best way to convey my clinical experience to the selection committees? As a CHA I provide primary care and prescribe medicine (via standing orders) for most of the minor day-today problems we see in the clinic. In advanced cases, we serve as the middle level or Dr.'s eyes, ears and hands. Also because of the lack of resources in rural AK, we are also typically responsible for providing EMS services in our villages. In that capacity we all must hold a minimum of an AK Emergency Trauma Tech certification but higher levels of EMS training are not typically pursued because as CHA's we have more treatment options than mid-level EMT's, but lack the equipment and infrastructure to fully utilizes the skill set of a Para.

    I'd appreciate any thoughts you had on the matter,

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  95. HI Paul! Thank you for creating this site. I currently working as a high school science teacher and have been teaching for 12 years. I hold credentials in California for Biology, Chemistry and Physics and have taught all subjects. I do not have any traditional clinical experience. Could my teaching experience which also includes a lot of lab work possibly count towards HCE?

    If anyone can answer this question, I would really appreciate it!

    Thank you kindly.

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