Accepted! - Jenna from @jennagipperich

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Any college athletes out there? Jenna is a great example of how to incorporate different interests into your admissions process for PA school. I also love her advice about taking the vibe you get at interviews into your consideration when choosing a program. 

Undergraduate education: Mercer University in Macon, GA

Overall GPA: 3.52

Science GPA: 3.24

GRE: 309 (I took this test 2 times. I got a 299 first try, and then studied harder and took it again.)

Total HCE hours: 30 (Macon Volunteer Clinic)

Total PCE hours: 2,000+ (Worked as a Patient Care Assistant on the Ortho/Neuro PCU floor for 7 months, and then 1 year on the Stroke ICU)

Shadowing hours: 50 (Orthopedics and Family) It was super difficult to find PA’s to shadow in my city of Louisville, KY because it is a NP heavy area.

Other volunteer hours: 170 (President of Student Athlete Association Committee at Mercer University, Macon Volunteer Clinic, University of Louisville Hospital)

LORs: Nurse Manager on the ICU where I was a PCA, Organic Chemistry professor, Family PA I shadowed

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 24

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 6 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? So far, I have heard back from 2 programs. 1 waitlist, 1 acceptance. Happy to say I got accepted to my #1 choice, University of Kentucky! GO CATS!

Any red flags on your application? GPA, but I believe PA schools took my D1 running schedule into consideration with my difficult classes.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? At one interview I noticed that the questions given to me were mostly “challenge” questions. The 2 interviewers asked why my science GPA was low (my running schedule) and why I think I could handle their program. It caught me off guard because I felt like they didn’t believe in me. I didn’t end up accepting their waitlist offer because I didn’t feel like they had an encouraging and friendly atmosphere.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? Any other advice for other pre-PA students? 

My biggest advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help! If I was struggling in a prerequisite class I always went to the professor or other students and discovered ways to help me succeed. Whether that was tutoring, studying with students in the class who excelled, or looking online for tips. For example, I found Khan Academy super helpful for Organic Chemistry.

For the interview process I practiced common interview questions in my head and got a general answer for each. I practiced these with family and friends. I remember I was so nervous for my first interview, but my second interview I knew what to expect and was so much more comfortable! My biggest advice for interviews is to be confident in yourself and all the work you’ve done to get to this point.

Throughout the application process I followed @thepaplatform and blog. Savanna is great about discussing common pre-PA topics and questions. The blog is full of information for the whole process from start to finish!

Where can we find you? Follow my upcoming PA journey on Instagram @jennagipperich


If you've been accepted to PA school, and would like to share your stats and advice with other students, shoot me an email at 

2017 Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Physician Assistants

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If you have a physician assistant in your life, I know you want to make sure to get them the best present ever! We'll cover Pre-PA, PA students, and practicing PA presents, and it's not too late to make sure the PAs in your life have a present that they'll love. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. 



Medthusiast is a great place to start for anyone in the medical field, especially since the company was started by a PA. Specifically, for Pre-PA students, they have some catchy shirts and these amazing anatomy mugs

There are plenty of books out there that any Pre-PA student would appreciate. Here are a few that I would recommend: 


The Applicant's Manual to Physician Assistant Programs - A resource with all of the information needed for applications about the various PA programs that are available. 

Better by Atul Gawande - Dr. Gawande is an amazing writer, and I recommend that anyone interested in the medical field read his books. 

The Ultimate Guide to the Physician Assistant Profession - A colleague wrote this book and it's a comprehensive book about what it takes to become a PA. 

If your Pre-PA gift recipient has a job in the medical field, scrubs are always a great present. A few on my favorite and more inexpensive brands are Med Couture, Maevn, and Nursemates Brand

A gift from The PA Platform is always a good option too! Whether it's a Pre-PA Assessment or a Mock Interview, make sure that your Pre-PA student is as prepared as possible to take the necessary steps forward in becoming a PA.  

PA Students

If you want to step up the scrub game for your PA students, check out Medelita scrubs. (If you don't already follow @thePAplatform on Instagram, make sure to check it out because there might be a giveaway coming up!) These scrubs will last forever and the styles are very flattering. If you use this link, you'll receive $20 off of a $70 purchase and you can use the code "THEPAPLATFORM1" for another 15% off. 

Another thing every PA student will need is a great PANCE review book. PANCE Prep Pearls is a great one that would be much appreciated by any student no matter their year in school. 

For a book that is more "fun" reading, Complications by Atul Gawande is a great option. 

For a PA student on rotations, the White Coat Clipboard will come in handy for keeping notes organized and having important information accessible at all times. Another small reference that was essential during clinical year was the Maxwell Quick Medical Reference

If you want to splurge, one tool that was extremely helpful during PA school was my Microsoft Surface. It's so much easier to take notes and write directly on the screen than trying to print everything out! 

Physician Assistants


Medthusiast also has shirts for physician assistants, and this is one of my favorites! 

Medelita also has some amazing white coats that can really up the game for anyone in the medical field. One thing that's cool about Medelita is that the company was started by a PA! There are tons of options and the fit and quality can't be beat. 

If your PA needs a new stethoscope, check out the ERKA from Medelita as well. 


You can also look and see if there are any CME resources or review materials that would be helpful, and I'm sure any PA would appreciate if you ask if there's something they've been eyeing. 

Guest Post from Danni: A Student's Perspective on Joint BS/PA Programs

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I "met" Danni through Instagram, and she's currently a PA student, but not what I would call a "traditional" applicant. Danni is actually doing a joint Bachelor's and PA Program. There aren't a ton of these out there, but if you know you want to be a PA right out of high school, it may be a good option. If you have more questions for Danni, you can find her on Instagram @discovering_danni to follow along! Make sure you follow her hashtag #discoveringme where Danni encourages you to learn one new thing each day to grow and improve yourself! And you can email with any questions! 

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Hi my name is Danni! I’m 22 years old, originally from NYC, but currently living in Scranton, PA (The Office, I know) where I attend Marywood University. I received my Bachelors in Biology in May 2017 from Marywood as well because I went through Marywood's 5 year BS/MPAS Physician Assistant Program. I also ventured on a Medical Mission Trip to Guatemala two years ago! I am currently in my clinical year, and half-way through! I am on my 5th rotation out of 10, which is OB/GYN. I have already completed my Emergency Medicine, Elective, Pediatric, and Internal Medicine rotations. I am on a specialty track in Hospitalist Medicine, and chose to do my elective rotation in Gastroenterology. Once I graduate I wish to work in Gastroenterology! My love and obsession of GI diseases stems from my own personal battles, as I suffer from Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome, an extremely rare vascular gastrointestinal disorder, as well as post-surgical Gastroparesis. Feel free to ask me any questions about my chronic illnesses, or gastroenterology. The intestines are my favorite organ, and the fact that this long tube, known as the GI Tract, connects your mouth to anus blow my mind to this day.

My hobbies include running, fitness, cooking and nutrition, reading, shopping (duh, I’m a city girl at heart), giraffes, and anything that involves being outside in the sun (I hate the snow and cold). I was a competitive Junior Olympic Level 9 gymnast until I was 17 when I fell ill. I picked up running when I got to college, and have been improving ever since! I hope to run a marathon by the spring of 2018. I enjoy yoga, hiking, and anything that will keep me active. When I was diagnosed with SMAS, I began becoming extremely interested in nutrition and cooking, as it plays a huge role in my chronic illnesses. I follow a gluten-free, and mostly plant based diet, occasionally eating fish (I love sushi), and eggs. I enjoy reading journal articles, newspapers, and enjoy listening to podcasts daily. I’m a firm believer in learning one new thing every single day, especially in an area you’re not well-versed in. 

What influenced your decision to pursue a BS/PA program? 

  • I chose to do an accelerated program for a few reasons. First-off I was accepted into the pre-physician assistant program out of high school, and in the long run it is a lot cheaper than the traditional route. Also, I knew from the beginning that PA was the career I wanted to pursue, so I didn’t see the need to spend more time in school than necessary. I really liked the idea of staying in the same school, because you are able to build extremely strong relationships with your professors, there was no need to adjust to a new campus and such, and you are able to build roots in a place you may potential want to work in the future. 

How exactly does a combined BS/PA program work? 

  • Now I only know how my program worked, which isn’t to say every program works this way. So, when you applied to Marywood in high school you apply to the Pre-Physician Assistant major. You needed a certain SAT/ACT school and high school GPA in order to be accepted into the major. The grades needed have changed since I was a freshman, as the number of students applying has increased tremendously. As a Pre-PA Major, you take classes alongside Pre-Med majors and pursue, basically, a biology degree. At the end of your sophomore year you can begin applying to the PA Graduate Program. If you meet the criteria, you are granted an interview, and then find out if you are accepted prior to the start of your junior year. You complete junior year with your tentative acceptance, and instead of starting senior year in undergrad, you begin the PA Program in May. So, your senior year, and first year of grad school occur simultaneously. After didactic year, you graduate with your bachelors, and then start clinical year, which is also your second year of graduate school. After clinical year you graduate with your Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies, totaling 5 years.

What are the advantages to doing a BS/PA program? 

  • One huge advantage of Marywood’s program, again I do not know if this applies to all 5-year programs, is the fact that since you do not have a degree yet during didactic year, you are still considered an undergraduate, pay undergraduate tuition, and are able to keep your academic scholarship. This applied to myself and greatly influenced my decision in choosing Marywood’s Program as opposed to others because it cost the least amount of money. Your second year of graduate school you pay the typical graduate tuition, but one year as compared to two years of graduate tuition adds up, trust me. Another advantage is that you graduate early, and if accepted, do not have to worry about gap years, or things of that nature. Also, being at the same school is super comforting when you’re dealing with the hardships of PA School. At my school, some of my undergraduate professors taught courses in the PA Program, which was extremely nice because you already know their teaching style, and felt comfortable with them. 
  • I believe the biggest advantage of the combined program is that as a Pre-PA you do not apply through CASPA. Marywood has 60 seats, and roughly half go to Marywood students and the other half go to CASPA students. As, what we call, an “Internal Applicant” you are only compared to other Internal Applicants and are up against those students, so the pool is much smaller, but just as competitive. Another great thing about 5-year programs is that if you don’t get in during your junior year, you don’t lose any time. Instead, you continue along the tradition 6-year path, and re-apply next year after receiving your Bachelor degree, and also have the opportunity to apply to any PA school you want, as you now have a degree. 

Are you guaranteed acceptance into the PA program at the beginning of your BS portion?

  • No. The way my program worked was throughout undergrad you had to maintain a 3.0 GPA (Both Science and Overall), or you were at risk of being kick out of the Pre-PA Major. When you apply to the graduate program, if you have above a 3.0 GPA, as well as all your PCE Hours, you were guaranteed at least an interview. Although they try to split the class 50/50, the PA Program is under no obligation to give half their seats to Marywood students, they only take the most qualified Marywood students. Also, just because you get accepted during your junior year, it is a tentative acceptance. If your grades drop at any point during junior year, the program can withdraw your acceptance. Overall, just like any program, nothing is guaranteed. You must work very hard, keep up extremely good grades, and make sure all your hours, volunteer, etc. are up to par. Simply having the minimum GPA and hours makes it unlikely for you to be accepted. You should still try and achieve competitive stats. 

Do you think there are any disadvantages to doing a BS/PA program?

  • Definitely. I think being in a combined program decreased the amount of freedom and ability to explore other options that most typical college students have. Much of your three years in undergrad are spent studying, working and volunteering. Having the quote ‘full college experience’ is hard, although if you time manage, and plan according it is very possible. Being in an accelerated program is extremely stressful, and not for those who do not handle pressure well. It is also not meant for people who wish you explore other options aside form PA. Your classes are pretty much set in stone, and taking classes for ‘fun’ was hard. Another disadvantage I found is that during didactic year, sometimes I would feel years behind the CASPA students, just simply because they had taken gap years, took random courses, or had more clinical experience than I had because they had more time on their hands. In the end, however, it did not really matter. I spent all three of my undergraduate summers taking extra classes to lighten my load during the academic year, and working to make sure my PCE was competed. Although I do not regret my decision to complete a BS/MS program, I do sometimes wish I had had more flexibility with my schedule during my undergraduate years. 

Accepted!: Nicole from @NicoleRuttke


Big thank you to Nicole for sharing her stats today! She's had a very successful first application cycle, and she also shares some great advice for interviews. Nicole does a great job of answering questions in our The Pre-PA Club Facebook group, so make sure you're a member too. 

Undergraduate education: Biological Sciences degree- Arizona State University

Overall GPA: 3.79

Science GPA: 3.85

GRE: 307

Total HCE hours: 2,000

Total PCE hours: 700

Other volunteer hours: 100

LORs: 4: 2 PAs, 1 science professor, 1 employer

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 9

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 5 interview invites- 3 interviews- 1 acceptance, waiting to hear back from other 2 programs 

Any red flags on your application? I fell in the lower range of PCE, but didn't let that stop me from applying and putting my stuff out there!  

Anything you found surprising about interviews? One program invited me to interview 5 days prior to the scheduled interview date! Faculty members at one program were extremely relaxed and personable, while faculty at the second program were extremely stoic and non-receptive of my responses. I figured out quickly which program would be the best fit for me.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I used PA forums and spoke with PAs I worked with daily to get the best idea of what to expect for interviews and how to prepare.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? BE YOURSELF DURING INTERVIEWS. You will hear (and see) it time and time again, but it couldn't be more true. This is the time to figure out if you are a good fit for the program and vice versa. Relax, breathe, and give yourself time to answer the questions to avoid rambling. Also, don't forget to smile throughout this whole process :) The entire process can be a bit exhausting and daunting at times, but in the end it is all worth the sweat and tears. Don't give up! 

Where can we find you?  Instagram: @NicoleRuttke

Flashback to My Personal Statement

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I decided to dig back into my e-mail vault the other day to try to find my personal statement from when I applied in 2011!  There are definitely some things that I would change if I were to submit it again, but it surprisingly wasn't too bad.  And it landed me some interviews, and I was accepted, so it did it's job.  I wanted to post this so you could see what got me to where I am now.  I'm not sure if this was my final edition that I submitted, but it was the most complete one I could find.  

Unfortunately, editing services like myPAresource weren't available when I was applying, but the service would have benefitted me a ton.  The only person who edited my essay was my mom, and she's great at grammar, but she's not a PA or that well-informed with what PA admissions are looking for. 

If hard work, determination, and focus assure one of success, a career as a physician assistant is within my reach.  Strong work ethics, as well as persistence, have directed my actions.  Whether it was a small thing like learning to ride my bike or making a career choice, I know what I want to accomplish and will passionately strive to obtain this goal.  My aspiration is to be a physician assistant that is compassionate, detail oriented, and conscious of each patient’s needs.   

My younger sister, Hanna, began having monthly fevers exceeding 102 degrees shortly after birth.  Many of the medical professionals who were consulted concluded that her condition was mysterious, but not life threatening.  One doctor stands out to me because of the interest he took in my sister's condition. Two years after he first saw Hanna and after many hours of extensive research, Dr. Miller diagnosed her illness as PHAPA, a rare disease with many unknowns and no clear treatment.  

This exposure to healthcare encouraged me to pursue a career as a professional who holds a genuine interest in a patient’s well being.  My father first introduced me to the physician assistant profession during my junior year of high school.   During the next two years I devoted time toward researching options available in the medical field and asking myself what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I sought advice from health professionals, family, and teachers. My greatest strengths are determination, an interest in the intricacies of the human body, and compassion for helping people.  As a physician assistant, I will be able to utilize those characteristics in a field that is both challenging and rewarding.  After having made this decision, I was challenged to step out of my comfort area of literature and social sciences to begin a degree in Biology.    

For the past four years at the University of Georgia, I have immersed myself in rigorous classes, observation, CNA training, and volunteering to help better prepare myself for a career as a physician assistant.  During Spring semester 2011, I drove to Atlanta every weekend for three months in order to complete the Certified Nursing Assistant program while I still maintained a full time schedule at school. 

With my Certified Nursing Assistant license, I have gained further insight into patient care and interaction.  Patients value someone who cares and takes the time to explain procedures and complicated medical jargon.  Being a CNA before going into a profession as a PA has provided me with valuable insight into the team aspect of medical care.  At the hospital, I have worked with many different nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and doctors to ensure quality care for the patients.  Each member has his or her own role, but recovery occurs quickest for the patient when everyone works together to provide the highest quality of care.  

To further enhance my understanding of PA responsibilities, I have shadowed in various fields, allowing me to observe both patient/PA and Physician/PA interactions and procedures, including surgeries.    The ranges of independent levels among the PAs and the professionalism exhibited during stressful situations have been impressive.  There was one incident when a diagnosis of a small cyst was actually an aneurism.  A dangerous situation was quickly averted because of the quick actions and judgment of the PA.    

I have also participated in international volunteer trips with Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry, to Amsterdam and Jamaica.  I now see a need for medical care in other countries, and I hope to utilize my knowledge and skills as an international medical provider.  For example, the project I worked on in Jamaica was to construct a three-room home to replace the leaking, dirt floored shack occupied by a mother and her five children.  She showed her gratefulness with food and tears, while the children showed their excitement with hugs for everyone.  This was a small step toward providing this family with a healthier environment.  Eventually, I hope to contribute actual healthcare to families such as these.   

Flexibility, demand, and growth are all attractive aspects of the PA profession, but my interests go beyond these.  As a PA, I will utilize my skills, intelligence, and compassion while I am helping others.  Although self-sufficiency is important, I enjoy working as part of a team, which increases accountability. An accountability system in healthcare is essential to preventing mistakes, thus providing better care to patients. The possibility of working in different areas and specialties as needs change makes this career appealing.  I am ready to learn and to prepare for my career as a physician assistant.   

Accepted! - Emily from @emilylynstreet

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A huge thank you to Emily from @emilylynstreet on Instagram for sharing her stats and experience with getting into PA school today! I think her story is a great example of just going for it and applying, and also shows that people still get accepted on the first attempt. Enjoy! 

Undergraduate education: Indiana University-Bloomington

Overall GPA: 3.8

Science GPA: 3.9

GRE: 307, 5 writing score

Total PCE hours: ~1500. I have been a CNA since my sophomore year of college at a long term care and rehab facility.

Shadowing hours: Right around 80 hours (shadowing 2 orthopedic PAs, and 1 Family Medicine PA)

Other volunteer hours: 50 hours- I attended a medical brigade in Nicaragua this past summer. 

LORs: I submitted my application with 3 LORS- one from a Family Medicine PA, a Chemistry Professor, and a RN

How many times did you apply?:  This is my first time applying

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 12 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 

I am currently an applicant in the 2017-2018 CASPA cycle, so thus far I have gotten 1 acceptance, 4 interview invitations, and 1 interview waitlist spot

Any red flags on your application? As a younger applicant and a full-time student the past four years, I would have liked to have more time for patient care related experiences at the time of my application. I would not call this a red flag per se, just something I will continue acquiring during my time off before beginning PA school next May.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

The applicant pool really is as diverse as you think. I interviewed with people who were athletic trainers, NICU nurses, and even someone who was a doctor previously in India. Despite the variety of healthcare experience among us, we bonded over our love of the profession. Everyone was so encouraging and non-competitive, which helped with my nerves. After joking about making it through organic chemistry, we all wished each other luck and hoped we’d see each other next May. It was surprisingly refreshing to be reminded we were all in the same boat so to speak.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I recommend getting to know both your science professors and your Pre-PA advisors. They are only there to help you! My advisors were there to help me brainstorm ideas for my personal statement, as well as do mock interviews with me when I received my first interview invitation. Of course, I also love reading current PA and PA-S blogs and hearing their experiences.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

Don’t get discouraged with the average amount of patient care hours you see on PA program websites! I remember looking at those stats and feeling like I was not competitive just because I had 1000 hours less than the average admitted applicant. I almost did not even apply to the PA program I was accepted to because of this. While patient care hours are SO important, just keep doing your best to get as many hours that you possibly can. If you are a full-time student, even working 10 hours a week adds up. Everyone has something different to offer to the PA profession so just keep grinding and remember you won’t be Pre-PA forever!

If you would like to share your stats and story of acceptance to PA school, please shoot me an email at 

80 Study Tips

A while back on Instagram, I asked for your best study tips, and you guys delivered. I compiled them into a list so if you're feeling stuck, unmotivated, or just need a new study idea to get the juices flowing you'll be able to refer back and find some inspiration. These are great study tips no matter if you are in undergrad or PA school. If you have another study tip to add, comment below to share with others! 

  1. Study in groups

  2. Draw out material and make diagrams to visualize it

  3. Rewrite notes on material you don’t understand

  4. White boards!

  5. Use colorful highlighters and pens

  6. Quizlet

  7. Study in the morning

  8. Study after a workout to help clear your head

  9. Study alone first

  10. Make up mnemonics for material retention

  11. Study in a library

  12. Start studying before the night before the test

  13. Make flashcards

  14. Choose a location with no distractions

  15. Talk concepts out

  16. Make visual study guides with colors and pictures

  17. Find videos on YouTube to explain things differently

  18. Highlight your notes for important buzzwords

  19. Take turns teaching the material to someone else

  20. When you feel distracted write down what is distracting your mind on a piece of paper and then come back to it later

  21. Write the material over and over

  22. Practice taking exams in a setting that is similar to your actual testing environment

  23. Take a break when you feel burnt out

  24. Share your resources with your study group and see what they use

  25. If you can’t get motivated, just start and then you’ll get momentum to keep going

  26. Change up your environment to freshen your mind and keep from getting stale

  27. Unplug from all distractions = phone off

  28. Tell your friends and family the periods of time when you’ll be busy studying

  29. Limit your time on social media to designated break times

  30. Use “Focus Keeper” app on your phone or laptop to track your study session and tell you when it’s time for a break

  31. Evaluate whether studying in groups is the best option for you

  32. Snacks!

  33. Find a quiet location

  34. Take breaks every 20 minutes or so

  35. Make a chart so you can compare similar topics

  36. Use different color post-its to keep track of what you understand and what you need to review more

  37. Block time in your planner for studying

  38. Make sure you get good sleep

  39. Eat healthy

  40. Teach the material - even if it’s to an empty room

  41. Use friends to keep you accountable

  42. Record lectures and listen to them again

  43. Review the material each night to keep up the workload

  44. Focus on the material that you don’t know instead of covering what you’re familiar with

  45. Go on a walk to exercise and think through the material

  46. Listen to classical music

  47. Make a summary sheet of the main topics

  48. Listen to podcasts

  49. Use the Pomodoro technique - set a timer and divide your work into intervals with small breaks in between

  50. Make a last minute review sheet for the morning of the test to have a quick review

  51. Study for a shorter amount of time, but more often

  52. Actually pay attention in class instead of having to try to learn it afterwards

  53. Keep snacks and drinks nearby

  54. Drink lots of water

  55. Drink a specific drink or chew a specific gum when studying and do the same thing before the exam to help you recall the material more effectively

  56. Coffee!

  57. Use Google Excel to keep track of important facts

  58. Go over practice questions to practice applying your knowledge

  59. Quiz each other

  60. Take a nap if you are feeling tired

  61. Make up your own questions as you study

  62. Study at a stand up desk

  63. Take mental health breaks

  64. Buy cute study supplies so you want to use them

  65. Remember why you’re studying. What’s the end goal?

  66. Get rid of the computer or internet if it’s distracting you too much

  67. Read about the topic before going to the class or lecture

  68. Figure out your study methods and stick to them

  69. If you’re bilingual, try to think about the material in another language and translate it so you are studying it twice

  70. Use flash card apps if you don’t want to use index cards

  71. Don’t give up!

  72. If all else fails, cram.

  73. Put candy on your notes so when you make it to the next section, you get a treat

  74. Have confidence in yourself and your study skills

  75. Go study outside to get some fresh air

  76. Use Google docs to collaborate with others to make a study guide

  77. Don’t study where you sleep

  78. Link a difficult concept with an interesting story or life event

  79. Use ear plugs

  80. Don’t forget that you got this!

Accepted - Annie from Student/Survivor


Undergraduate education: Grand Canyon University

Overall GPA: 3.66

Science GPA: 3.57

GRE: 311 and 4.5 written

Total HCE hours: --------

Total PCE hours: 1000 (as a CNA on a med-surg floor of a hospital)

Shadowing hours: 50 (Pediatrics, ED/Trauma, Orthopedic Surgery)

{Certifications: CNA and EKG Technician}

Volunteer hours: 240 (Medical Mission, Hospital Volunteer, etc.)

LORs: 3 (one from a professor, one from my RN manager at the hospital, one from a PA I shadowed)

How many times did you apply?: Once 

Age: 22 at the time of application

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 8

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 

  • Program #1: This was my first interview. I had recently been told that there was a 95% chance of my having cancer, and because of the anxiety I was facing from that, I almost cancelled my interview. I was waitlisted for this program.
  • Program #2 (Midwestern-AZ): The day of this interview was the day they were supposed to call with my biopsy results. Again, I almost didn’t show up to the interview because I felt awful and nervous. I was placed on the “Alternate” list, and was later accepted to the program at the beginning of May 2017! This is where I will be attending in 2018 after a one-year deferral as I finish treatment.
  • Program #3: This interview was the day before my first round of chemotherapy. Again I was nervous beyond belief, but managed to put forth a good interview effort. I was waitlisted at this program.
  • Program #4: I had completed chemotherapy at the time of this interview and was awaiting the surgery that would change my life—physically and emotionally. I was bald and sick, so there was no way to hide the fact that I was undergoing treatment. But the faculty was so kind and in the interview offered me a year’s deferral. I was immediately accepted into the program, but declined admission for a couple reasons: 1. I didn’t want to move away from my wonderful doctors in Arizona, and 2. I wasn’t a huge fan of the program after visiting the campus (they didn’t have cadaver labs, etc.)

Any red flags on your application? 

  • In all honesty, I had not one, but TWO C+s on my application. One was in Physics 1 and the other was in a freshman year Intro to Sociology class that I had bombed (I lacked motivation as a freshman). I ended up re-taking the Sociology class my junior year and received a much higher grade. The Physics grade I could do nothing about, except work as hard as I possibly could to raise my grade for Physics 2. I wanted to show initiative and that I could learn from my mistakes.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? 

  • I was surprised in the group interviews by some of the activities we were asked to do. One program asked us to create a TV commercial that would be aired during the Superbowl. We were given no direction as to what it was supposed to be about. It was not something I was prepared for, and required a lot of teamwork from the 4 of us interviewees. 

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? 

  • Andrew Rodican, PA-C’s book “How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview” was the best interview preparation tool! It gave great examples of questions and strong, mediocre, and poor responses to each question.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

  • If you’re going through something difficult during your application cycle (like my being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer) don’t just give up! Talk to your programs about a possible one-year deferral. Or if you have to reschedule an interview, be honest about that something major that’s happening in your life and see if they’ll work with you. (Note: One-year deferrals require some major, legitimate excuse to be approved. I had to write a letter and provide a note from my oncologist.)
  • During undergrad, really make the effort to build good relationships with your professors. Later on when it’s time to apply, you’ll feel comfortable asking them for a letter of rec and they will feel prepared to write a detailed, personalized letter. One of my favorite professors became my mentor throughout undergrad, wrote me a strong letter of rec, and helped motivate me to keep going through the tough and discouraging moments. I truly feel I would not have been accepted to PA school without their guidance!

If you want to follow Annie and learn more about her story and follow her journey, you can follow her on Instagram @anns.binnans and check out her website Student/Survivor. 

If you would like to share your stats and story of acceptance to PA school, please shoot me an email at

Guest Post from PA Cents: Should You Do a PA Residency?

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You’re in the final stretch of Physician Assistant school: graduation, PANCE, new job, it’s in your sights. You’ve been looking online at job openings and are not sure if you’re ready to join the workforce and be a full-fledged certified PA, practicing real medicine on real patients; so you think maybe a residency might be a good choice.

Possibly you’ve been looking for a job in a competitive area and can’t find a job in the specialty that you want so you want to gain more experience. There is a lot to consider if you’re thinking about applying to a residency.

I went to PA school in Southern California where there are a number of PA schools and a large pool of PA graduates to choose from to fill positions. The hospital where my orthopedics rotation was at had a lot of medical students, residents, PA students and PA residents. I asked one of them why they chose to do the residency and she said she was not able to find a job in that location in orthopedics.

If you’re tied to a certain area and really want to be in a specific specialty then more training in that area could be helpful and might help you find a job in that specialty. You will get a lot more training and might feel more competent after a residency.

A residency is by no means a necessity to get a job in any specialty. After I graduated from PA school I had multiple job offers that were all in different specialties. I interviewed for jobs in orthopedics, neurosurgery, and endocrinology. I ended up accepting a job in general surgery.

Surgeons all use different techniques and they all think the way they do it is the best way. My first job was with a surgeon who was getting older, there were four surgeons in the practice and only one used a PA at the time.

The surgeon I worked with saw the value of having a PA in the OR, as well as in the office, and with hospital rounds and wanted to hire one too. By the time I left the practice the PA that was working there before me had already left and one of the other surgeons also hired a PA. All of the PAs they hired, including the one that replaced me, were new graduates.

An advantage of hiring a new PA rather than one that has been doing it for a while is that they could train them to do things how they wanted it done. They did not have to teach old dogs new tricks. If someone else has trained you then you might have “bad habits” or just do things differently than they are used to.

More education is never a bad thing and doing a residency does let you learn more. If you know you never want to do another specialty than taking a year to learn more in that specific specialty can help you learn a lot and possibly be a better clinician.

The first year out of PA school is like PA school part II - PA school prepares you to take the board exam and the first year of being a PA teaches you how to be a PA. When you’re looking at a first job you should look for something that is still going to help you along in your education and where there is a good learning environment.

This does not need to be a residency. There are plenty of jobs that provide a good learning environment without having to do a residency. The job that I currently work at allows new Primary Care PAs to rotate through different clinics and with different specialties before they start seeing their own patients.

Learning is also somewhat dependent on your supervising physician. The surgeon I worked with for my first job didn’t mind teaching/explaining things, but I had to ask questions a lot of the time to get him going.

There was another surgeon in our practice who was recently out of fellowship and did a better job of naturally explaining things. I think a part of this was he was just in the habit of doing it as he was used to working with residents and students at a teaching hospital, whereas the further out from training you get the less you’re in that thought process.

As a PA we have been trained as generalist and one of the beauties of being a PA is that you can change specialties without having to do more training. My first job was in general surgery and when I was ready to move on I had offers from other places in all different specialties. I was not stuck working in general surgery forever. If some people are doing residencies that may soon become the norm and with residency training for PAs if that becomes the standard we will no longer be generalist and the benefit of being able to switch specialties without more training will go away.

If you feel like residency is your only option as you’re not able to find a regular position as a PA, it’s good to know that you’ll probably have to take less money as residencies usually pay less than a regular position.

At the 2017 AAPA conference I did talk to a residency for general surgery and they were offering $75,000 which is better than the $40,000 I’ve seen in the past but it is much less than what you could get in a regular position.

Whenever you’re looking at a job you always have to weigh the pros and cons. There are some benefits, such as more training and ability to network while you’re in the residency. If you can afford to take less and invest the time to do the extra training it may help you with your skills before taking a regular position. If you’re looking at a first job and have decided to take a regular position be sure that it is a place that supports learning and is going to help you as grow as a new PA.

This article was written by the author of PA-Cents a personal finance blog for PAs; to contact the author or for information on PA personal finance visit

Guest Post from Jamie: So You Failed an Exam, Now What?

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Jamie has some great advice today about what happens if you fail an exam in PA school. This will vary based from program to program, but the one thing that's for sure is that PA school is difficult and it's not uncommon to struggle at times. Personally, I failed my very first pharmacology exam. Talk about a reality shock! After remediating, that was thankfully the only exam I didn't pass. Make sure you're following Jamie on Instagram (@jamienicole_pa.s) to get more of her awesome tips. 

Full disclaimer that while I am a student at the University of Detroit Mercy’s PA Program, I am not affiliated with the university and my views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect Detroit Mercy’s. 

First semester of PA school kicked my butt. I did not pass two out of our four clinical medicine exams. Yes, you read that right – only made it through 50% of the exams first semester (and somehow they let me keep going… Kidding!) Failing, for me, meant missing both exams by 1 point. So, then what? That’s what this blog is about: what happens after you fail.

First of all, no one is immune. Second of all, it’s OKAY to fail.

What??? Did I just say it’s OKAY TO FAIL? Yes, yes I did. Because it’s better to fail and truly recognize that you don’t know the material than to memorize/dump it on the exam while never truly learning it. It’s not just Sociology 101 anymore – the content you learn in PA school could be as serious as life or death for your patient. So, if you don’t know it, but you pass anyways, you’re only doing your patients a disservice.

Failing means you have a second chance to relearn and understand the content, to strengthen your weaknesses and become the best provider you can be. There are four things you should do following a failed exam.

  1. Take a deep breath and eat a bowl of ice cream.
    I am not responsible for any lactose-intolerance related side effects that may occur following the consumption of large quantities of Ben & Jerry’s.
  2. Go to your professor’s office hours and discuss your options.
    We will talk about Detroit Mercy’s remediation process below. Some schools do remediation exams, some schools do not require a specific grade per exam and instead do a semester average. This is a great interview question to evaluate your prospective school: “What process is in place if a student does not pass an exam?”
  3. Try techniques to reduce your anxiety during tests.
    Some people need a snack, some people need to wear earplugs, some meditate or pray before the exams, and some have such bad performance anxiety that they do best when they take a beta blocker (but leave this one up to your healthcare provider, please).
  4. Don’t lose your confidence.
    It’s easy to get lost in one bad grade. There is a lot of guilt and self-loathing that comes along with that first score where you don’t meet the mark. I cried both times, even though I knew we had a process for remediation. It’s a scary thing because it means you are one step closer to potentially being dismissed from your career. But if you let this shake you, if you let it ruin your confidence, it WILL affect your study habits for the next one and it WILL cause you to lose focus and potentially even fail again. That’s how I failed exam #2. I failed back-to-back.

Remediating Exams: Detroit Mercy’s Approach

We have a very unique exam remediation policy here at Detroit Mercy. It is a big reason I accepted my seat to this program. Detroit Mercy makes it very clear that it truly caters to student success, from their 3-year, part-time program option to their one-on-one attention from faculty to students. When your program supports you as fully as possible, it creates an incredible platform to learn and grow. So when students do not pass an exam with an 80% or better, Detroit Mercy has a very specific remediation policy and should a student not pass remediation, there is also a very specific appeals process to continue the education.

If you don’t care about how Detroit Mercy runs their remediations, feel free to stop here. Reread the above advice. 

First is remediation. We have a faculty member assigned to meet with students weekly for a remediation course. It is typically about an hour. There, the content from the exam is reviewed again. This goes on throughout the entire remainder of the semester. The Monday after finals week, remediation exams take place. If you do not pass the final, you have one extra day to study because that remediation is Tuesday. You are given a focused review to help guide your studying. This is crunch time; the most important studying of your life. No pressure. You study like crazy until the night before, get a good night’s sleep, and then take the remediation exam.

If you don’t pass remediation, you receive an email from the program administrator informing you of an “adverse determination regarding academic progression”. In this phase, you are considered “dismissal pending”. This means you have received your appeal letter and can set up a meeting with the appeal committee. To do so, one must write a letter to the program administrator describing the basis or circumstances for the appeal within 5 business days of the email. Once this hearing is established, you are expected to demonstrate why the decision should be overturned. The committee is described below.


Refer to the College of Health Professions academic appeals policy and procedure at this link.  

Composition of the Appeal Committee: The program chair will appoint an Appeal Committee as a sub-committee of the Promotion and Progress Committee and designate the chairperson. The Committee shall consist of: PA faculty members (1-2), the public member of the promotion and progress committee, the medical director and one CHP faculty member who is not a PA. Any person selected for the Committee may decline to participate due to perceived or real conflict of interest in the proceedings. A simple majority of the invited members of the Committee will constitute a quorum. Decisions must be approved by a majority of the members in attendance.

This hearing includes a full assessment of the grades from the course, clinical performance, advisor notes, compliance with previous conditions of probation and external conditions impeding success. The committee then sends a “recommendation” to the program administrator based on the student’s potential for success. The program administrator makes the ultimate decision and sends that information to the Dean, who can affirm or conduct a further appeal. If the decision is overturned, the student re-enters the program on academic probation. They must then meet certain criteria throughout the following semester. 

Typically, if the student was full-time initially, they will continue on as a 3-year, part-time student, finishing the courses like pharmacology, anatomy & physiology, and the online courses. The following year, they finish the didactic year PA core classes like clinical medicine, diagnostic & therapeutic techniques, and physical exam practicum. If the person was instead part time to begin with, they typically will have already taken the non-PA classes the year prior (it’s clinical medicine that gets most students). In this case, they repeat that second didactic year. It also highly depends on which semester and the circumstances of the specific student; some repeat all courses, some repeat only clinical medicine. Some don’t have to repeat first semester, but do repeat second semester. 99% of our students will be approved after their appeals process and have a second chance. Ultimately, the program strives to help the student succeed in any way they can.

I passed both of my remediation exams, so I did not have to pursue the appeals process. I referred to my student manual to make this post. I had to remediate cardiology, which is one of the specialties I am considering working in after graduation. After remediation, I feel strong in cardiology and I honestly enjoy all things cardiac muscle, pacemaker and ECG. I really expected to feel scarred from the whole experience, but it honestly helped me grow as both a student and a person. And with that, I will end this blog with a quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

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Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!

Accepted! - Sarah from @SarahandherStethoscope

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My name is Sarah and I’ll be starting PA school in just a few weeks at Western Michigan University! I’m SO excited to finally be able to learn and practice medicine. I love all things make up and enjoy mentoring and guiding pre-PA students along their journeys, so please send me a DM if you’ve got questions! You can find me on Instagram at @sarahandherstethoscope

Overall GPA: 3.41

Science GPA: 3.45

GRE: I received a 291 combined score (yikes!). Quantitative: 142, Verbal: 149, Analytical: 5.5

Total HCE hours: ~6,000 hours as an urgent care medical assistant. ~50 hours as a clinical volunteer leader at the HUDA Clinic which is a free clinic located in Detroit, MI

Shadowing hours: ~50 hours shadowing urgent care and internal medicine PAs

Other volunteer hours: ~30 hours volunteering through pre-PA society, ~100 hours volunteering at the HUDA Clinic as a clinical volunteer leader and outreach coordinator, 35 hours volunteering as an ESL tutor, 4 years as a youth camp counselor

LORs: Microbiology professor, PA, and MD

How many times did you apply?:  Once!

Age: 23 at the time I applied and I’m 24 now

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? Six. WMich, EMich, Toledo, Marquette, Rush, and Northwestern.

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? I only interviewed with WMich. I unfortunately got rejected elsewhere. I thought my interview at WMich went well! I was thrown for a loop when I found out they started holding MMI style interviews and I had been practicing for a traditional interview the entire time. Luckily, I had a friend who interviewed at several medical schools and she told me about her MMI experiences and I think that definitely helped shape my answers to the scenarios they gave at my interview! 

Any red flags on your application? The only red flag I can think of is that I was placed on academic probation for a semester back in sophomore year of undergrad. I don’t think that was the reason I was rejected at the majority of the schools I applied to, however. My rejections mostly came from my subpar GRE score. But, yes, you can still get into PA school with bad grades! You just have to be able to explain what you learned from your mistakes and how you plan on doing better!

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised that PA schools were starting to hop on the MMI bandwagon. I thought only medical schools interviewed students this way! I really enjoyed the MMI style interview because I had to think on my feet and because of that, I think my answers were a lot more genuine.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? When I studied for the GRE, I made sure to go back to the basics because I’m really bad at math. So, I used CliffNotes Math Review. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to solve easy, medium and hard math problems that you’ll find on standardized tests. I also used the Magoosh flashcard app to practice for the verbal section. When I applied, I used the Getting Into the Physician Assistant School of Your Choice book by Andrew Rodican and it helped to show me what a well-rounded application should look like. For interviews, I used the How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview book by Andrew Rodican. It gives you three different answers to frequently asked interview questions and it explains which are good answers and which are bad answers. I wrote my answers down to each question in my copy. Also, shout out to for having an ultimate PA school checklist! It helped to keep me organized before and after I applied!

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? I would highly recommend getting involved with underserved communities, especially medically. Working at a free clinic humbles you and gives you the opportunity to connect with people you are different from in every aspect. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, keeps you grounded, and you’ll develop great bedside manner! Also, it’s important to not to beat yourself up over your stats. Your experiences are unique and they’ve shaped you to be the person you are today. Not every school will accept you, but it only takes that one interview and one acceptance to make it! 

If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to share your stats and advice, please email me at to be featured. 

Nurse Mates Review - Scrubs and Align Shoes


By now, you know that I am a scrub junkie and I love trying out all of the different brands on my mission to finding the best scrubs ever. I also want you to be able to make the best decisions possible when choosing your medical wear and equipment. Nurse Mates sent me some scrubs and shoes to try out, so keep reading to hear my thoughts. Some of the Amazon links are affiliate links so I'll get a percentage of the purchase if you use them! 



For the scrubs, I am wearing a Maci Top in Small and Brooke Pant in Small Petite, both in Navy. I've found that some scrubs tend to run small or the Petite versions will be too long, so I went with the Small size, but I think these actually run true to size. Whenever I order more, I'll go with the XS, but these still fit fine, and I've been wearing them to work frequently.  My most favorite thing on these scrubs are the pockets on the Maci Top. There are so many of them! Not only are there front pockets, which is where I usually keep my pens and phone, but there are also side pockets. It's awesome. 




For the pants, I really like the zippered pockets, which is nice for holding my credit cards when I run out to get lunch. The petite length with a 29 inch inseam is really great on these. I'm 5'1'' so I either need a shorter version or I have to get my pants hemmed, and ain't nobody got time for that. There is a tall version as well. The color is deep on these scrubs, and they've held up well in the wash with no noticeable shrinkage or fading. The price point on these scrubs is around $25 for each piece, which isn't unreasonable for a high quality set of scrubs with good fit. 




My underscrub long sleeve tee is the Willow Top in Smoke in XS. Underscrub is great for a few reasons. It keeps you warm in a cold office, and it gives you some protection from any stray bodily fluids that you may come in contact with. It also looks nice! This cotton based top is very lightweight and easy to wear under any scrubs. I love the color of this top and I've been wearing it as quick as I can get it washed. The little embroidered heart on the sleeve is a cute touch too. This top is around $18. 




Now let's talk about the shoes. These are the new Align Velocity shoes in Grey, and these are my absolute favorite! Nursemates got it right with these. I've experimented with many different shoes since I've been working in medicine, even when I started as a CNA, and I've developed some requirements: lots of support, comfortable all day long, and look cute and professional. These shoes check all of the boxes. I had been switching between Danskos and regular tennis shoes, but the Danskos were kind of hard and made my feet hurt if I wore them too much, and the tennis shoes didn't have the best support. 


I was skeptical that these shoes would offer enough support based on the appearance, but I was proved wrong, and since I've gotten these, they are all I've worn to work and often outside of work when I'm just running errands. I would 100% recommend these shoes if you're looking for something that will be comfortable and stylish. They are easy to clean and resistant to stains and water. There are many other colors and styles of the "Align" line of shoes from Nurse Mates, and I have my eye on the slip-on style now that I know how great the support is. These are around $90, but so far they've held up well and totally worth it. The elastic lace in the shoe can be replaced with traditional shoe laces as well. 

I hope that helps to give you some more information if you're looking for scrubs or shoes, and I would love to hear your opinions in the comments below!

Guest Post from Jamie: Clinical Medicine Study Tips

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Jamie's back guys! Today, she is sharing some of her Clinical Medicine Study Tips to help you succeed during didactic year of PA school.  You may remember her previous posts, but check them out if you haven't already! - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School, Letters of Recommendation: How Do You Ask? and How Do You Get a Good One? and What's in My Medical Bag? Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means Jamie will get a few cents from Amazon if you purchase one of her recommendations! 

For Clinical Medicine:

I always read the relevant chapter of Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Easy before we start a unit. 

Then I take notes from the PowerPoints. I reformat my professor’s PowerPoint slides into a format that suits my study technique. For me, that means creating a new PowerPoint document organized the same way as the book. 

 I try to keep each disease or disorder to one page, but sometimes they spill over. I typically start with epidemiology and pathophysiology, followed by clinical presentation, relevant labs or imaging, treatment and then complications.

Some of my classmates make charts instead in Microsoft Word. They’ll do diseases down the first column and then the columns following will be:

  • “Etiology” (who gets the disease)
  • “Pathophysiology” (why the disease happens)
  • “Signs and Symptoms” (what brings them in)
  • “Diagnosis” (labs and imaging needed to confirm)
  • “Treatment”
  • “Complications”.

I spend about a week creating this document and then I print it. Everything typed is guaranteed to be from the lectures, which makes it easy to reference when I study. 

These are the books I use to supplement my notes as I go: 

  • PANCE Prep Pearls (the 2nd edition just came out and I love that sweet, sweet index). If you’re a PA student and you don’t own PPP, you’re doing something wrong. It’s like a super condensed version of everything you need to know. Great review before an exam, great way to highlight your own notes with the absolute most important stuff. 
  • Step-Up to Medicine (worth buying new to get the physical copy AND the eBook). I love this book, very well organized and just the right amount of depth. It’s technically a USMLE Step 2 Prep Book but it’s perfect clinical medicine! This book has more pathophysiology and epidemiology than PPP. 

Once my notes are printed, I go through with multiple pens and highlighters. I highlight the top of the slide based on its importance level on the NCCPA’s PANCE Blueprint. Then I handwrite in additional notes from the books I recommended above. They’re color-coded by source so I know where I got each piece from (everything typed is always from my professor’s notes, and then handwritten comes from Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment (the course text, in dark blue), Step Up (green), and PANCE Prep Pearls (pink). I usually don’t add any written notes from Patho Made Easy, but I do read it before a unit starts and again the night before an exam. This takes me about one full hardcore day of studying. Anywhere from 10-12 hours. I usually will take two or three days to do it, unless I’ve done a lot of procrastinating, and then I’ll sit down and do the entire thing in one day instead. 

I spend about a week creating the typed study guide, about a week adding notes, and then a week studying what I’ve created and taking practice exams. For practice exams, I like the following:

Lange Q&A Physician Assistant Examination. This technically goes with the course book, but there are a lot of mistakes in treatments and labs. It seems outdated for about 10% of the questions. For this reason, it’s usually the last test I take. It does have full explanations for each answer at the back of each section, though, and the added bonus that it’s a physical book. I like real paper. All of our exams are online, though, which brings me to my next recommendation: 

SmartyPANCE! I LOVE their practice tests. They are broken down by subject, so you can use them before an exam to see how you’re doing. It also has a review by subject with “pearls”. 

The other review site I recommend is HippoEd. Same thing, they have study materials and videos, and practice exams broken down by subject. I find them to be a little more challenging than SmartyPANCE and usually take these closer to the unit exam. 

Finally, a lot of people really like Rosh Review, but I consistently score 55-60% on every exam I make for myself, which is terrible for my self-esteem. I did not purchase after my free trial expired. Some of my classmates don’t mind the difficulty because of how amazing the answer breakdown is. I love that it tells you how you compared to other people taking the exams, so you can see, “Okay, well I got this wrong, but so did 72% of the other people” or “Well, I’m the only 1% that answered this question this way, so clearly I need work on this.” It’s helpful for sure, but like I said, proceed with caution in terms of confidence before an exam! 

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Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!

Accepted! - Jazmine (@jazminek_pa on Instagram)


I'm so excited to share Jazmine's stats with you guys!  Jazmine has just recently started PA school at Western University, and she's been sharing all kinds of insight and amazing information on Instagram.  You can find her @jazminek_pa and she gives great updates, so follow along if you want to see what PA school is really like. Something interesting is Jazmine applied to PA school 3 times! She didn't give up, and now she's making her dream a reality.  Thanks for sharing with us Jazmine! 

Undergraduate education: University of Southern California


Overall GPA: 3.43

Science GPA: 3.33

GRE: 305

Total PCE hours: 3200 (EMT, MA, ER Tech)

Shadowing hours: 608 (Orthopedics, Dermatology, Oncology/Hematology, Pulmonology and Pediatrics)

Other volunteer hours: 800 (Medical Mission to Africa, Skid Row, Spanish Translator, Elementary School Educator)

LORs: Orthopedic PA, MD, Anatomy Professor and Oncology/Hematology PA

How many times did you apply?:  Three cycles!

Age: 25

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 12 programs

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 5 interviews, 2 waitlist, 2 rejections, 3 acceptances!

Any red flags on your application? Low GPA

Anything you found surprising about interviews? At a few interviews, I was exhausted from the all day interview that included essays, one on one interviews, group interviews, MMI and medical terminology tests. I realized I rambled quite a bit at my first one so I practiced mock interviews for the upcoming ones.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process?, How to Ace the PA School Interview book by Andrew Rodican, PA-C (affiliate link), DoseOfPA Blog, and

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Seek advice from PAs and PA-S and ask many questions. Start on your patient care experience early on and retake prerequisites if your GPA is low like mine. Keep working at your passion, let the fire inside you burn brighter than the fire around you! 

If you've been accepted to PA school and would like to be featured in an "Accepted!" post, please email me at or comment below with your contact information.  

How To Get Married During Physician Assistant School

I question I'm sometimes asked about, and one I feel like people don't want to ask is how to handle relationships in PA school. It's not the easiest, but it can be done! I applied to PA school with a boyfriend, went in with a fiance, and came out a wife! I can't say that was necessarily encouraged, but it was important to me. 

I know this may not be of interest to some readers, but I think it's still important to address. PA school is very time intensive and can take a toll on relationships at any stage. It takes understanding on both sides to come out successful.  My particular program very strongly encouraged students to wait until after school to plan any big events like weddings.  At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be a PA, I wanted to marry my best friend. 

My (now) husband and I had been dating for 5 years at this point (yes, we met in high school), and we were going to both be in grad school.  If you've followed along for a while, you probably know that while I was in PA school, my husband was in medical school.  So double stress.

I lived at home with my parents for the first year and he had 2 roommates.  Basically the only time we saw each other was to study or grab a quick bite to eat.  Wedding planning was put on the back burner, and if it wasn't for my mom, I'm not sure what my wedding would have turned out like.  

All this to say, we made it work, and if you have concerns about being able to maintain a relationship or take the next step while in PA school, know that it's possible. My wedding was during the break between the spring and summer semester at the end of didactic year, and I had classmates who got married during clinical year.  Some even met their future spouses while in PA school! I'm always happy to answer questions about how I was able to make it work, and if you want to hear more about my story, check out the video below, or at this link.  

Advice From Current PA Students - From White Coat Dreaming

I recently connected with Alex on Instagram (@whitecoatdreaming), and she introduced me to her awesome PA blog - White Coat Dreaming. Apart from sharing her own awesome advice, Alex has also interviewed her fellow classmates in PA school to get their advice as well.  In this post, I'm going to share some of the best points to help you succeed in PA school! If you want to see more, make sure you head over to her blog to see the interviews in their entirety. 

Interview Tips:

Advice from Current PA Students - From White Coat Dreaming.png

I think that schools like to see that you have other interests besides medicine and that you make time for the things you care about.  - Megan

I would really recommend going on a mission trip before PA school starts because it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the medical field and prepares you for PA school. Not to mention, it shows the interview committee that you are well rounded and more than just your grades. -Norin

Career change?  Be totally honest with yourself about who you are deep down, what you like, what all of your motivations are, whether you could get what it is you think you’re looking for while staying in your current spot or with a less drastic change. -Craig

The number one tip I can give you is to just be yourself! And I know that probably sounds super cliché, but it’s so true. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to put on an act, or memorize all the right answers to ace an interview or personal statement.
— Giftson from White Coat Dreaming

I didn’t do anything to practice so I just showed up thinking I could charm some people. And then they were tough and I bawled in my car after 2 or 3 of them. - Megan

I would truly recommend helping out the community as much as you can. During interviews, they look at more than just your grades. They want to see that you are a caring individual that does more than just study.  -Norin

There is a lot of competition for spots in PA school for good reasons, you’ve got to show that you are the cream of the crop and are a good bet for the school in terms of being able to one day be a skillful, practicing PA. -Craig 

It is so easy to compare to others and feel like you fall short, but it is so not true. We are all worth so much more than how we perform or measure up to the world’s standards. Finding my worth in Christ and knowing that He loves me no matter how small I feel was the biggest game changer. -Michelle

Applying Tips: 

Don’t get discouraged if you are waitlisted! I know plenty of people who were waitlisted and got in as late as April. -Megan

I took a year off before starting PA school because there were still some pre-requisites that I needed to complete and volunteer hours that I needed to add into my application. This really helped me focus on my application and make it stronger. -Norin

While getting into school and becoming a PA might seem like the most important thing in your life right now, don’t fall into the belief that whether you become a PA or not determines your value. You are so much more than your career! Work hard, but rest in the idea that you are going to end up exactly where you are meant to be. You are no more valuable as a PA or less valuable as something else! -Jill

Find yourself a good group of friends who will provide you with love, tissues and wine nights. They will be your backbone throughout the ‘process.’ - Alexa

People are afraid to major in something non traditional (like English, Poli Sci or philosophy), but I think it’s best to follow your own passions and interests. That will show that you are true to yourself, and are not just trying to do what you think you are ‘supposed’ to do.
— Erica from White Coat Dreaming

For me the hardest thing about applying was the cost.  - Erica

I’ve tried to make the best out of every situation. I know right now school is kind of rough, and you have to give up a lot of things that you used to have, but in the end it’ll all be worth it. -Giftson

 It is good to always have a plan B after you apply and focus on areas that you need to work on before you know if you got in that cycle or not! -Norin

The hardest part of applying was sorting through all the various requirements and prerequisites for each program. -Jill

Also, I would recommend a strong personal statement. It summarizes who you are as a person and your purpose for wanting to pursue medicine. Every part of the application is important, however, the personal statements gives them insight into your life so make sure it is strong. -Norin

I feel like location was a big factor in my decision. I knew I wanted to be in an area where I could still be around family, and having a support group nearby definitely influenced that decision but I also was excited to be out of my comfort zone. -Giftson

When the competition is so steep, you want to have as good of chances as you can, and applying to multiple programs is one way to do that! - Jill

PA School Tips: 

Know what you are getting into before you come to PA school. I was not mentally prepared for the amount of dedication that it would take to be a PA student, and it took me about 2-3 months to truly grasp how much my life was going to revolve around studying. - Erica

If your heart is not in it and this is not something you truly want to do, then stop yourself before it gets too late. PA school is hard, and honestly the pressures of the program is going to take a huge toll on you…physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you’re not doing it for yourself, then you’re going to crack under pressure. - Giftson

Once you get accepted, stop trying to ‘better yourself’ academically or otherwise– and just relax and enjoy yourself, as much as logistically and financially possible. If you can take a vacation beforehand or some time off, definitely do- you will be so glad later. - Erica

PA school ends up taking all of your time, so you don’t really get a chance to think about how much time you’re not spending with family and friends.  -Giftson

I faced some of my darkest moments in PA school, because, surprise…it’s hard.  And the thing that kept me going above all else was having compassion for where these long nights of studying would take me.
— Silas from White Coat Dreaming

It helped to have a running schedule that I would try my best to stick to. That forced me to workout most days after class even when I didn’t feel like it. -Michelle

Being professional and acting in a way that shows respect to others is honestly far more important than the number of years you have under your belt. I was always worried that patients or even other classmates wouldn’t take me seriously because I was so young, but over time I’ve learned not to worry about things I can’t change. -Giftson

Also, make efforts to stay balanced while in school. So many people seem to put everything aside for their grades- mental health, relationships, exercise, sleep– but those things are necessary to be successful. -Erica

We all are starting at different parts of our life, and just because you don’t have experience doesn’t mean you can’t do well. You have to understand your limitations, and strive to push those limits every day! You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them, and keep pushing forward so you can be the best PA you can be! -Giftson

I realized when I ate healthy, it definitely helped my energy level and helped me focus better and not get so tired studying. -Michelle

Self-doubt was a huge problem for me. I would always see other people that knew so much, and wonder if I would ever get there (still haven’t got there by the way). -Giftson

Sometimes it can be challenging when you compare and think how far ahead your kiddo classmates are in terms of being about to start their career when you would have still been waking up at noon on a Wednesday to go do a half-shift of bagging liquor- but hey, whatever path you take, you are bound to have learned something that someone on another path hasn’t. - Craig

You learn quickly that your classmates are in the trenches there with you, and you depend on each other far more than for just explaining a concept you didn’t understand in lecture.  -Silas

5 (More) Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School


A while back, I did a post for Brittany at PA Fanatic on 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School.  When I was working on that article, I found it difficult to come up with only 5, so here are 5 more! 

  1. Don’t worry about loans, but be aware of them.

    For the majority of PA students, loans are a fact of life (unfortunately).  There's no need to dwell on your loans while you're in school because there's really nothing you can do about them at that time because most PA programs do not allow working while in school. And honestly, I think you would be crazy to try because PA school is a full time job. While you don't want to let your impending debt weigh on your shoulders too much, don't go crazy.  I had classmates who ate out for every single meal (using loan money), and then promptly bought a new car after PA school. If you've read my story, you'll know that I worked as hard as possible to pay off my loans after I graduated, but I also tried to be frugal throughout school.  Here's some tips to help you save money while in PA school! 
  2. Don’t be afraid of your teachers or preceptors

    The faculty of your program should be part of your support system.  Whether it's an advisor, teacher, director, or preceptor, find that person you can go to if you're struggling. And be honest about any challenges you may be facing.  If you're finding a particular section difficult or not sure how to study most effectively, ask for help! This goes for undergrad too. Your teachers and preceptors are the people who will be able to help you get a job in the future and they'll be your best references. I would frequently visit my advisor for advice or even just to decompress and talk about how stressed I was, and it was nice to talk to someone who had been there and understood what I was going through. You'll also want to keep in touch with these people after school. 
  3. Make time for yourself. 

    This is something I was terrible at when I first started PA school. I would go to school, study constantly, and basically never do anything else. I was living at home for the first year, and even if my parents asked me to go grab a quick dinner, I refused and stayed hoe to study. I was also supposed to be planning a wedding at that time. About halfway through didactic year, I loosened up a bit. I started going out to eat and doing some fun things (like going to see Taylor Swift with my classmates), and my grades actually improved while my stress decreased. The lesson I learned is that 30 extra minutes of studying when I'm tired or hungry won't make a huge impact on my grade. I also never read a book for fun while I was in PA school, and I love reading! Why did I do that?
  4. Be honest about what you want to do. 

    Somewhere during clinical year, I decided that to get a job, I needed to tell every preceptor that I wanted to work in their field. Basically, I was trying to suck up. In my heart, I knew that I had a passion for surgery or dermatology. Once I started being honest about that with my teachers and preceptors, I actually started hearing about the open jobs in the area and getting more valuable information that would actually help me find the job I wanted. If I could do it again, I would have taken this approach from the very beginning of school. 
  5. Always be professional. 

    I feel like this should go without saying, but as a PA student and future PA just always carry yourself in a way that exhibits professionalism.  Whether that's in class, on campus, when you're having fun on the weekends, or certainly on rotations. Just always keep in mind that you are representing your school and the PA profession. 
That's my girl Taylor Swift back there!  Last minute floor seats can't ever be passed up! 

That's my girl Taylor Swift back there!  Last minute floor seats can't ever be passed up! 

What tips do you wish you knew before starting PA school? Comment below to share! 

Guest Post from PA Cents: What is the 2017 Salary of a PA?

PA Cents is an awesome new blog about all of the financial stuff that comes along with being a physician assistant: salary, loans, debt, negotiations, and so much more. I'm reposting one of my favorite articles from the site today, which goes over everything you need to know about the current status of PA salaries.  And one of my posts was republished over there as well, so if you want to read about how I was able to pay off my PA school debt, check it out! 

A Breakdown of 2017 Physician Assistant Salary Reports

It’s a common question that everyone wants to know, whether you’re thinking about PA school, currently in a PA program or a practicing PA. How much do PAs Make? There are a few different sources for this information and each has it’s own benefits and drawbacks.

BLS Employment Statistics

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics is one source for salary information for all types of careers. They use data collected from employers on salary and benefits information. The data is collected over 2-3 years and is averaged. The salary includes incentive pay and production bonuses.

Per the Occupational Employment Statistics the mean annual wage for Physician Assistants from 2016 is $102,090; with the bottom 10% making $65,620 and the top 90% making $142,210.

The Good
As these surveys go out nationally and is done by the employer the information covers most PAs, which makes for a good sample size. The survey was for 104,050 PAs which would be almost all certified PAs. Not sure it is good or bad but the BLS reports is collected from employers and is not a self-report survey.

The Bad
Their is some delay in the data due to the time it takes to collect it. The data is averaged over a couple of years so it might not be the most up to date. Also, the salary is based on gross compensation so it combines both the base salary and bonus.

NCCPA Annual Report

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants is the certifying body for PAs and collects data through PA profiles. Of the 115,547 certified PAs, 109,592 provided responses for at least a portion of the profile. How this works is that if you are a certified PA and you log in to your profile on the website they ask you a number of questions about who you are and they collect this data to make the report. Some people probably have not answered all the questions or have only partially completed their profiles at the time the data was collected, however overall this a large sample size as it covers 94.8% of certified PAs. The data is collected by a rolling collection and is reported based on total gross income from all PA positions.

According to the NCCPA Annual Report the average salary for certified PAs was $104,131. With the highest median salary going to those in emergency medicine and dermatology with $115,000. The lowest median salary of $85,000 goes to those working in adolescent medicine, gynecology, ob/gyn and pediatrics.

The Good
If you’re a certified PA you most likely filled out the profile so this report covers most PAs, which provides for a very large sample size. It also provides data for the breakdown of salaries in different specialties.

The Bad
This report is not as comprehensive as other reports as far as salary goes. It does look at things like practice setting and specialty but as far as the break down of base salary, bonus and benefits it does not go in depth. Also, the data is collected in a rolling cycle so it might not be based on the most recent year’s salaries.

AAPA Salary Survey

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is the national professional society for PAs. The AAPA advocates for  PAs and provides educational opportunities. It sends out an annual salary survey to all the members who have not opted out of communication from the AAPA. For the 2016 survey, it was sent out to 89,228 PAs and PA students with a total number of respondents of 15,999. The data is collected from the previous calendar year.

The median salary for the 2016 AAPA annual salary report was $97,000. Highest pay awarded to surgical sub-specialties and PAs working out west. The lowest going to PAs working in primary care and those in the Midwest. The 50th percentile for bonus amount was $5,000 for full-time PAs.

The Good
Of all the salary reports the AAPA salary survey is the most comprehensive. It breaks the data down by state and even shows data for the breakdown of benefits including time off, insurance, retirement, etc, so you can really see what other people are receiving and how others are getting paid. The data collected is from the prior year so it should be the most up to date. Also, it breaks it down from base salary and bonus and for full-time compared to part-time employment.

The Bad
The sample size is small and quite possibly the 75,000+ PAs who did not respond to the survey are the ones that are making so much money they don’t have time to respond to the survey. The survey is only available to AAPA members for free, non-members can purchase a copy. is another self-reporting survey. It has only 5,479 individuals who have reported on Physician Assistant salary. The data is collected through creating a personal report. When you go to the website you can get an individual salary report and in order to do this you must answer all the questions that pertain to yourself, including your salary and bonus.  The salary amount does not include bonus.

The median salary as of May 2017 was $91,402, with bonus ranging from $1,012 – $17,588.

The Good
Its the first thing that comes up when you google “physician assistant salary” (not sure that is a good thing or not). It breaks down salary to base salary and bonus.

The Bad
Very small sample size. Who knows when the data is from. They collect data from individual profiles so although it might be updated recently, the individual profiles are probably reflecting old salaries as I doubt most people are updating their salaries annually.

The Bottom Line

From the 2017 salary reports we looked at, the average salary for 2017 is in the low $100,000 with a couple thousand difference (The reports are actually from the prior year but released in the current year, so 2017 data is collected in 2016 then the report is compiled and released in 2017). The AAPA and looked at base salary and bonus separately, where as the NCCPA and BLS reports looked at combined base salary and bonus.

The AAPA salary survey is by far the most comprehensive with that data that it provides but it is a smaller sample size. (Here’s my plug for doing the AAPA salary survey. If more members responded to the survey we would have better data. It does take some time but if you want help with negotiating its best if everyone takes part in it. Also, you need to be a member in order to participate so it is worth keeping up with your AAPA membership). To look at the survey it is free to members or you must pay a fee.

The report is the least valid as it has the smallest sample size and probably not very current. I wouldn’t recommend using the number for anything more than a general idea of what PAs make.

Overall, PA salaries have been increasing over time and the outlook looks good for increased salaries in the future. I know compared to 5 years ago and after a job change my base salary has increased almost $20,000.

Salary Reports are helpful for anyone interested in the Physician Assistant Career. If you’re looking at becoming a PA you might be interested to know how much PAs make and above are some resources to look at.

If you’re a practicing PA or graduating soon you can use the salary information to help you negotiate a fare wage and you can use these salary reports to help you see what others are getting paid.

Don’t forget to comment below the original article and share with your friends!

Guest Post from Jamie - Letters of Recommendation: How Do You Ask? and How Do You Get a Good One?

I'm really excited to share another post from Jamie with you, which was first published on Reddit.  This will shed some light on how to get a good letter of recommendation, which is so important for your PA school applications. You may remember her previous posts - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School and What's in My Medical Bag?

Hi all! I thought I'd do a post today, since I start my hardest semester next week and I might disappear for a little while. I've been seeing a lot of comments and posts about letters of recommendations. Please start here with the Wiki FAQ for LOR.

Now that you've read that (or skimmed pass the link to keep reading), we can talk about some more specific details.

One thing I did when asking for letters of recommendation was to mention a specific reason I was asking the person.
— Jamie


One thing I did when asking for letters of recommendation was to mention a specific reason I was asking the person. For example, I worked in the tutoring center as a chemistry tutor and was a crucial part of the development for our walk-in services. I was the first tutor hired, trained other tutors, opened the center most mornings, etc. So I asked my boss, a professor at our university, to write me a letter. But when I asked, I mentioned specifically, "You have been one of the biggest witnesses for my interpersonal skills, as well as my application of sciences. I was hoping you could speak about your experiences of those things with me. A strong letter of recommendation will be very important to my acceptance into PA school."

Notice how I didn't just ask for the letter, but mentioned something that I wanted her to talk about. It wasn't demanding, just gave her an understanding of why I wanted HER to be the one to write it. I'll paste her letter below, she sent it to me just recently so I could make this post!

Another example was my nurse supervisor. She is an RN and supervises each shift. She sees how things go on the floor and facilitates the flow of the shift. I had asked her to write my letter because she sees how I work in a team with the other CNAs and the nurses. She has asked me to train people, and I am the one she would go-to for greeting a new admission because she loved how bubbly I was. I asked her to specifically mention how personable and friendly I am, as well as my teamwork.

It is important that when you do this, you are not demanding. You do not want the person to think that they HAVE to talk about what you mentioned. But this will help them to write a more specific letter. Anyone can receive a generic letter of recommendation. "Jamie has good communication skills" is completely different than "Jamie also stands out as an excellent communicator. She is personable and approachable, and students feel comfortable asking her questions. Additionally, she is adept at communicating with both her peers and chemistry faculty members."

And with that, here's my letter of recommendation from my boss at the tutoring center.

May 11, 2015

To Whom It May Concern,

It is my pleasure to submit this letter of recommendation for Ms. JamieNicole3x. I direct the Chemistry Success Center (CSC) at [University], a center that provides free walk-in chemistry tutoring services. Jamie works as a tutor in the CSC, and I have been her supervisor since August 2014. Scientific knowledge is a prerequisite for employment as a tutor, and Jamie demonstrates an excellent understanding of general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. However, the traits that make Jamie stand out as a truly exceptional tutor extend far beyond her strong scientific background. In the ten months I have known Jamie, I have been greatly impressed by her professionalism, communication skills, and initiative.

Jamie consistently demonstrates an incredible level of professionalism. Jamie is, without a doubt, the most dependable and responsible student I have had the privilege of supervising. She is punctual and responds to all communications quickly and professionally. This past semester, Jamie opened the CSC two days per week. I typically stop by the CSC every morning to make sure things are set up and running smoothly. However, I quickly realized that I did not need to check in on the CSC on days when Jamie opened the center – I could rely on her to get things done correctly.

Jamie also stands out as an excellent communicator. She is personable and approachable, and students feel comfortable asking her questions. Additionally, she is adept at communicating with both her peers and chemistry faculty members. She manages to connect with people through humor, excellent listening skills, and a positive demeanor, all while maintaining appropriate professional boundaries. Students appreciate Jamie’s strong communication skills, and she consistently receives praise on student evaluations for her ability to explain things clearly.

Finally, I would be amiss not to mention Jamie’s initiative. Jamie excels at recognizing where help is needed, and never hesitates to deliver needed assistance. Whether it’s stepping in to help when another tutor needs support in dealing with a difficult student or taking the time to organize CSC resources, Jamie always pitches in to help without being asked. She truly leads by positive example.

I am confident that JamieNicole3x possesses the personal characteristics and academic preparation needed to succeed in a physician assistant graduate program. I recommend her for admission to your program without reservation.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need additional information.

Best wishes,

[Name Removed]

Affiliate Professor of Chemistry

Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!

Hey there! Check me out over here!

As I've shared in the past, I'm a H.I.P Ambassador for Medelita, which is a medical apparel company that was actually started by a PA!  Part of being a member of that community includes contributing to the Medelita blog. 

If you've been following me for a while, you know that I went on a medical mission trip to Kenya previously this year. The post I wrote for Medelita is titled "What I've Learned From International Medical Missions."  So if that's an area you're interested in, make sure you check it out!  They have a great blog, and you'll find some other posts from some of the PA students who have done guest posts here as well.