Accepted - Sarah from @theadventurouspa

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Undergraduate education: Stony Brook University - Double Major: Biology & Psychology

Overall GPA: 3.6

Science GPA: 3.7 

GRE: 313

Total HCE hours: 3000

Shadowing hours: 200 (Orthopedic PA), 220 (Neurological Surgery Research Assistant)

Other volunteer hours: 320 (Veterinary Hospitals), 107 (Animal Care/Rehabilitation Assistant), 85 (CHOICE Peer Health Educator), 60 (Health Psychology Teaching Assistant), 40 (Undergrad TA for Transfer Students)

LORs: Health Educator, Residence Hall Director, Orthopedic PA

How many times did you apply?: 1

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 5

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interviews (1 acceptance, 1 waitlist), 3 rejections

Any red flags on your application? Right after high school, I went to med school in Poland for a year to see if I would be interested in the medical field. Lacking a background in medicine that many of my classmates had (most were college graduates), I performed poorly in 2 classes. I believe that may have deterred programs from accepting me. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? At the interview at Baylor College of Medicine, I was thrown off by a couple of questions in regards to what the definition of certain words were. 

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

DoseofPA, thepalife

I thoroughly researched the school websites in order to get a better understanding of their mission statement and what made them stand out from other programs. This was helpful for both supplemental applications and interview preparation. I also compiled a list of questions to ask the faculty because not only are they interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them. You want to see if the school is a good fit for you as well. 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

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Don't lose sight of why you want to become a PA. No matter what other people tell you or what you may think, do not be discouraged. I know that I doubted myself for the longest time, but I knew I'd regret it even more if I didn't apply. You'll always wonder, "What if.." I was comfortable where I was in life, working as an Embryologist, but I wanted more patient interaction. Since I was afraid of being rejected, I almost didn't apply. After talking to friends and family members, I tried my best to make up for short-comings in my application, I applied, and expected nothing in return. Seek help from PA students. Have confidence in yourself and try your best. Feel free to reach out to me as well if you have any questions! We're here to help. You got this!! (:

Where can we find you? 

Instagram: @theadventurouspa 

6 Healthcare Jobs That Will Turn You Into the Perfect PA School Applicant

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Guest Post by Mackenzie Martin

In 2013, physician assistant (PA) schools received around 18,510 unique applications, according to a CASPA Data Report. Out of all of these individuals, only a very small number—less than 30 percent—were accepted. 

From these numbers, it’s easy to see that getting into PA school is an impressive feat. So, how do people do it? Of course, they have good grades, test scores and volunteer experience, but what else sets them apart? For many schools, what differentiates a great candidate from a good candidate is hands-on patient care experience. 

If you want to set yourself up for application success, one of the best things you can do is to start working in the healthcare field. Below, you’ll find a list of the top jobs for aspiring PA students to obtain patient care or healthcare experience required to apply:

1) Paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) 

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are healthcare providers who specialize in emergency medical services. Many of them work for out-of-hospital medical care and transportation organizations. That being said, some EMTs work in hospitals, often as emergency room technicians. 

Paramedics, like EMTs, are trained to provide emergency medical care. Many people who work in this field specialize in settings outside of the hospital. For example, a paramedic may work for the fire department with the aim of stabilizing patients before they’re taken to the hospital. 

Overall, there are a few differences between EMTs and paramedics—even though many mistakenly assume they’re the same thing. EMTs are entry-level providers who have completed about 120-150 hours of schooling. Paramedics, on the other hand, are more advanced providers. They generally start as EMTs and then complete 300 plus hours of additional advanced EMT coursework to become paramedics.

2) Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) are individuals who are educated in the general, clinical and administrative responsibilities outlined in the Occupational Analysis of the CMA by the American Association of Medical Assistants. The certification typically requires around one year of schooling, but some positions offer on-the-job training that’s less than a year. 

If you choose to become a CMA, you’ll be able to work in a variety of settings, from private practice to a hospital. In this role, you can expect to do a lot of things, like taking vitals, administering injections and assisting providers in various procedures. 

3) Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

One of the best healthcare jobs that’ll set you apart for PA school is working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Many think that CNAs only work in nursing homes, but there are actually hospital positions for CNAs, too. 

If you decide to work in this field, you may help patients with activities of daily living—such as bathing and dressing. People who opt to work in a more clinical setting may gain experience taking vitals and assisting nurses and other providers when needed. 

CNA training requires at least 160 hours of theory/lab work in addition to supervised clinical training. After you complete your training, you’ll need to pass a CNA certification exam, which is composed of written and practical parts. As soon as you pass both parts of your exam, you’ll earn your certification, and you can start to look for positions as a CNA. 

Individuals who opt to go this route can also try to secure a job before they work as a CNA. Sometimes, facilities will hire non-certified CNAs and fund their training (as long as it’s completed a few months after they start working). 

4) Emergency Room Tech

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Emergency room technicians are CNAs and EMTs who provide patient care in hospital emergency rooms. Their exact role changes from facility to facility, but many of them assist nurses and physicians by drawing blood or inspecting and cleaning equipment. 

The emergency room is a unique place that can help you prepare for PA school. On any given shift, you could see a patient with a headache, a patient who’s taken a fall and a mental health patient. This exposure will help you gain an understanding of a wide variety of fields and may even tip you off to what area you might want to specialize in later on. 

5) Physical Therapy Aide (PTA)/Assistant

Physical therapy aides (PTAs) are medical workers who operate under the supervision of physical therapists. While assistants need to be licensed, aids can generally work without a certification—as long as they have a high school diploma. 

Although there are some programs that don’t accept this type of experience, many appreciate it and count it as direct, hands-on patient care experience. If you are thinking about this role, it’s best to look up your schools of interest first to see if they accept this type of experience. 

6) Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse is someone holds either an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and has passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Out of the previously mentioned jobs, nursing has several advantages. First things first, the starting salary for an RN is around $66,640. Individuals who choose this route generally have the ability to save more money and sustain a comfortable lifestyle while they accrue patient care hours. 

Traditionally, RNs who seek more schooling will pursue a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. That being said, there are a few reasons RNs decide to go to PA school instead of another graduate program. For example, a nurse might go to PA school because they’re interested in the medical model versus the nursing model. Another advantage to PA school is the fact that many programs offer more clinical hours than some NP and DNP schools. 

It typically takes two to four years to become an RN, but there is one other option for individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree. Even if your bachelor’s degree is not in the sciences, as long as you take the necessary prerequisites, you can apply to an accelerated BSN program that takes about 15 months to complete. 

At the End of the Day

Many students are dismayed when they see that some PA schools require their applicants to have hundreds to thousands of hours of hands-on patient care. Truth be told, these numbers can be quite frightening, but they don’t have to be … If you secure one of the roles above, you’ll start accruing hours quickly and ultimately position yourself for PA school application success. 

Accepted!: Breanne from Life With Me - PA Bre

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Breanne reached out to share her Accepted story, and she has some great advice to share. She's also recently started a blog as she begins PA school to show you what life is really like as a PA student!  You can find her at Life With Me - PA Bre. 


Undergraduate education: Seattle Pacific University, major: Applied Human Biology 

Overall GPA: 3.45

Overall Non-science GPA: 3.67

Science GPA: 3.29

GRE: verbal: 148, quantitative: 159, analytical writing: 4.5

Total HCE hours: 2328

Total PCE hours: In CASPA, scribing hours are counted as HCE hours rather than PCE hours. 

Shadowing hours: 96 - I spent my weekends shadowing mainly a pediatric orthopedic PA and an emergency department PA. However, I have also shadowed a neurosurgery PA, orthopedic surgeon MD, and registered dietitian RD. 

Other volunteer hours: 174

LORs: 5 total: I received letters of recommendation from a primary care MD (who I scribe for), emergency department PA (who I shadowed), one adviser/professor, collegiate volleyball coach, and the head of Bailey Boushay HIV/AIDS House (where I volunteered ).

How many times did you apply?:  one

Age: 23

Gender: Female 

How many programs did you apply to? 12

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2, declined one interview, accepted to other 

Any red flags on your application? A downfall for me was that I took AP stats in high school. Most PA schools now require statistics as a pre-req and some of the programs that I applied to did not accept AP stats. I took an online stats course the summer and so the transcripts for this class were pending during my applications. I was also always concerned that my GPA was too low. My career path was not decided during my freshman year and so I did not put as much effort into my classes which ended up lowering my GPA. After talking to my adviser he told me not to be concerned about my GPA and work on excelling in my current classes and on other areas of my application. 

Anything you found surprising about interviews? My interview was designed as MMIs (multiple mini interviews). I was nervous for this experience as I was told that there was no good way to prepare for this as there are standard interview questions, role play, and ethical questions. However, I really enjoyed this interview style. There was a total of 5 MMIs then a group interview. In each MMI, I got to interview with a different member of the PA Program's staff. It was reassuring because if I felt I didn't excel with one interviewer, then I could make up for it with the next interviewer. My greatest advice for interviews is to prepare a few stories about your healthcare of life experiences that have shaped and impacted you.

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

When Breath Becomes Air-Paul Kalanithi

The Applicant's Manual of Physician Assistant Programs-Mark Volpe, PA-C; Brittany Hogan, PA-C

aapa.org

multiple PA instagrams and blogs :) 

Any other advice for other pre-PA students?

1. Don't get discouraged if you run into a bump in the road! The journey can be difficult and stressful at times, but it is so worth it. Keep your head up and keep pushing and you will eventually get to your destination. 

2. Show your qualities rather than tell. By this I mean when you are writing your personal statement tell stories about how you portrayed compassion, teamwork, etc. instead of just saying "I'm compassionate". Also, with personal statement have multiple eyes review it! 

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3. Maintain relationships! Whether this means relationships with providers you shadow or advisers, it is great to have people on your team. This becomes important for letters of recommendation and maybe eventually a job!

4. Lastly, be yourself! :) 

Where can we find you? 

Instagram: lifewithme_pabre

website: lifewithmepabre.blogspot.com

youtube:lifewithmepabre

Guest Post from The Skin Sisters - Why We Became PAs

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You may remember The Skin Sisters from Episode 11 of The Pre-PA Podcast, but they're back today to share a little more of their stories of becoming PAs.  Make sure to check out their blog, "The Skin Sisters," and follow along with them on Instagram (@theskinsisters) for skincare tips. 


Hi! We are Brooke & Lauren and we are The Skin Sisters. We were born just 13 months apart. We went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college at the University of Wisconsin - Madison together. We both joined sororities and studied until all hours of the night at Helen C. White library in Madison. But that is where the similarities in our professional path diverge for a bit.  Lauren was studying biology and anatomy, while Brooke was preparing for a career in Tech PR. There are many different paths to becoming a Physician Assistant; ours happen to mirror just two of them.

Lauren: I always wanted to go into medicine. Our mom was a nurse and our stepdad was a physician; from an early age, my interest was piqued and I wanted to enter the health care field. However, I was unsure about going to medical school and completing a residency; I just didn’t see myself going down that path. I remember one afternoon my sophomore year of college; I was chatting with our stepdad and discussing my interest in medicine, but my hesitation to apply to medical school. He suggested that I explore the path to becoming a Physician Assistant. It was 2001 and the Physician Assistant field was growing quickly. His suggestion made a lot of sense to me, so I started to reach out to every PA, physician and nurse I could find to get his or her opinion. I questioned them on how they chose their career path and spent countless hours shadowing Physician Assistants to learn about their career. It soon became clear that I had found the profession for me.

I applied and was accepted to a great program in Nashville, TN, where I was able to get all of the clinical hours necessary to apply to PA School. It was through an organization called Dialysis Clinics Inc. (DCI) that I was able to spend the summer in Nashville reinforcing my decision to become a PA. I spent hours and hours at St. Thomas Hospital and Camp Okawehna providing basic care to both children and adults who were on dialysis or receiving kidney transplant.

I returned from Nashville and started applying to Physician Assistant Programs. I was fortunate to be admitted to a program in New York City, where I wanted to live at the time. It was an interesting time, because PA Programs were not as ubiquitous (or as competitive!) as they are now. Back in 2004, there were 3 PA Programs in New York City, and there were not many Masters Degree programs like we have now; all of the 3 programs in NYC offered only a certificate or Bachelors Degree at the time.

I started PA School knowing that I wanted to practice Dermatology. Through my shadowing prior to PA School, Dermatology had interested me very much and I thought I would enjoy practicing in the field. However, during PA School, there were many times that I questioned this plan - I became interested in each rotation I completed and realized that I could be happy in many fields. Thankfully, this interest allowed me to actively learn and participate fully in each clinical rotation I completed, as I now utilize so much of my general medical and surgical knowledge in my Dermatology career. I love being a Physician Assistant and am thankful that I realized early on that becoming a PA would provide me with a fulfilling, enjoyable, and challenging career.


Brooke: After college, I moved to San Francisco to start a career working in Corporate Communications for a Tech PR firm, where I stayed for just under five years. In that time I learned so much and had wonderful opportunities to learn, grow and live in some really fun places! Over time, however, I realized that I wasn't pursuing what I was passionate about and began to take steps to figure out my next career move. I was always cautiously interested in science and especially the human body, but never really know how to place my interests into a specific career path.

Over almost a year, I took time to talk to and spend time with anyone I could to expose myself to all different types of opportunities. This led to taking night classes in basic sciences and starting work as a Medical Assistant. During my time working at a Pediatrician's office, I start to notice different things that I would later learn are social determinants of health and health disparities within communities. After much discussion with family members, they to helped guide me in the direction of pursuing a Masters in Public Health. I moved to Washington, D.C. and embarked on two years of study that would significantly change my life. Learning about community health and the social determinants of health has absolutely helped shape me as a clinician for the better. During these years, I had the opportunity to complete a Fellowship abroad in India, which gave me the opportunity to see community health and disparity in action, as well as see how health policy works both domestically and abroad. 

As I entered into my final year in Public Health I knew that something was missing, and that I was craving the training and knowledge to be able to serve individuals at that patient/provider level. I applied to PA school at the same University and was accepted. Fast-forward two years, and countless library hours later, and I was walking across the stage with my degree as a Physician Assistant. 

I was recently engaged upon graduation and was moving to a city where my now-husband would complete a Fellowship and I knew no one, and certainly didn't have any contacts in the medical field! I put my resume up on several different sites and began cold calling offices in the area to see if they were hiring a PA. I initially wanted to work in Emergency Medicine but broadened my horizons and was so lucky when a Dermatologist called saying they were looking for a PA.

The practice I joined trained me in dermatology and specifically to assist in Mohs surgery for the removal of skin cancer. Over the year I spent there I fell in love with Dermatology, in many of the ways I had previously loved Emergency! I love the fast pace of dermatology, the variety and the ability to do so many different things! When my husband and I moved back to Minneapolis, the practice Lauren was at was looking for another PA and the timing worked out perfectly.

There are so many paths to becoming a PA, and no path is right or wrong. We are both lucky to have found a profession we love, and look forward to working in for many years to come.

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Big Announcement from Savanna!

In case you missed it on Instagram, Baby Girl Perry will be arriving in June! :)

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I'm really excited about this new journey and being able to share with you guys about being both a mom and a physician assistant. If you want to read some of my initial thoughts on being a "working mom," check out my most recent blog post on Medelita's blog, Enclothed Cognition! 

We'll have some more exciting announcements for you guys in the next few weeks, so be on the lookout! 

- Savanna                             

Accepted!: Hailey from @haileyblunt

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Undergraduate education: BSHS in Physiology from the University of Arizona

Overall GPA: 3.28 (yikes)

Science GPA:3.10 (double yikes)

GRE: 318

Total HCE hours: Roughly 500 hours as an EMT Program Director.

Total PCE hours: 3600 with experience as an EMT.

Shadowing hours: 60 (Ortho, Emergency, Dermatology)

Other volunteer hours: 1500 hours as a volunteer EMT.

LORs: Two from doctors I worked with and one from a physiology professor.

How many times did you apply?:  Once!

Age: 22

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 14 (my bank account did NOT like this)

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interviews, 2 acceptances, and still waiting for initial responses from a few schools!

Any red flags on your application? My GPA! It was so low that I thought I would need to retake classes and apply multiple times. I even had a D on my transcript! However, I've pointed it out as a weakness at both of my interviews and the faculty didn't seem concerned. One interviewer even laughed and pointed out that she had been through the process herself with a lower than average GPA. Don't use this as an excuse to slack off on your grades though! My low GPA was balanced out with a higher GRE, a unique background in healthcare, and the fact that my degree program was incredibly difficult.

Anything you found surprising about interviews? I was surprised at how calm I was once the process began. I was so nervous going in and thought I would be nervous every second of the interview, but the faculty really went out of their way to make all the applicants feel comfortable and all of the applicants were super supportive of each other.

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Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? I loved the book "How to Ace the Physician Assistant School Interview"

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don't be afraid to be yourself! You are a real person and the faculty interviewing you are also real people! You are very likely to have something in common with faculty aside from your interest in medicine. Look for ways to form real bonds and stick out from the crowd. One of the most memorable parts of my first interview was bonding with a member of faculty over our mutual love of Express clothing, we even had the exact same suit! Those little anecdotes will help the faculty remember you and will make the whole process feel more comfortable. Once you have a good rapport, it feels more natural to talk about your interest in PA school.

Where can we find you? (website, instagram, etc) @haileyblunt on Instagram

Guest Post from Taylor - What I've Learned Being a Medical Assistant (Dermatology)

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Taylor has done some guest posts in the past, and if you haven't met her yet, she's my work (and real life) BFF and medical assistant that I work with most of the time. We're basically side by side for 8 hours while we're at the office, and we share a love of Taylor Swift, vacations, and crab cakes among many other things. Taylor is currently on her own journey to becoming a PA, and I'm thankful that she's sharing some of what she's learned along the way. 

If you're interested in how being a medical assistant can help you towards your PA goals, here's some insight into what you can hope to gain from this type of patient care experience. If you have the luxury of getting certified as a medical assistant, check out The PA Platform Search Engine to see if there's a program near you that fits your needs and get more information


When I first started as medical assistant, I had zero experience in the medical field. I had no idea what BID or TID meant, had no idea how to spell medications (Well, I still don’t. Spelling is not my strength. Ask Savanna.), and did not know a 30-gauge needle from a 15’ blade. 

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I had just graduated with a degree in public relations and had a whopping four science and math classes during my college career. The office that I worked in trained me on sight, which was quite a risk for them. I am not too familiar with Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) programs, but I am sure those students going into jobs find it easier than I did. I had a lot of learning to do and had to catch on quickly. Medical terminology and understanding how a medical practice functions were some of the first lessons that I had to learn.

I started off working at the front desk, but eventually began working full time as our PA’s medical assistant. Even from the beginning of my experience in the medical field, being able to interact with patients and assist the physician was my favorite part. I enjoyed learning about dermatology through being in the exam room with her. There is so much that you can learn while listening to a physician examine a patient!

We get to see some very interesting cases and no day is quite the same as the last. Being a medical assistant has taught me how to multi-task and how to work as a team. The biggest and most valuable lesson that being a medical assistant has taught me is that I really do want a career in the medical field. Being able to see the impact you can have on someone and the chance you get to improve someone’s quality of life is very rewarding.

My experience as a medical assistant has led me to pursue becoming a physician assistant and I do not think I would have known this without taking a risk and trying something new. Make the most of every opportunity that you are given, you never know where it might lead you! 


Other Posts from Taylor: 

If you would like to share how your experience has helped you in achieving your goals of becoming a PA, email savanna@thePAplatform.com to contribute. 

Accepted: Amanda from @thisPAadventure

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Meet Amanda. She reached out to share her story of how she was accepted into PA school this year with a low GPA. This is such a common concern with Pre-PA students, and it can be done! You still have to meet the minimums and make sure your application shines in as many ways as possible, but a few bad grades (or a lot) won't completely disqualify you. 

Make sure to follow Amanda as she starts PA school on Instagram by following @thisPAadventure


Undergraduate education: Central Washington University, BS: Paramedicine

Overall GPA: 3.17

Science GPA: 3.38

GRE: 309 (Verbal:157 Quantitative: 152 Writing:5)

Total HCE hours: 520 hours

Total PCE hours: 8,000+ hours (Paramedic, EMT, ER Tech)

Shadowing hours: 30 hours (Emergency and family practice)

Other volunteer hours: 215 hours (Homeless and at-risk youth)

LORs: Chief of Emergency MD, Emergency PA, Paramedic preceptor

How many times did you apply?:  First time

Age: 27

Gender: Female

How many programs did you apply to? 17

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 2 interview offers, accepted after my first interview and declined the other interview. Withdrew all my other applications.

Any red flags on your application? Low GPA, academically disqualified from my first University, 7 F’s and a few W’s

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The school that I interviewed at, and was accepted to, was incredibly welcoming and made an effort to put the candidates feel at ease. I practiced hundreds of potential questions; but, when it came time for the interview, I didn’t use my rehearsed answers and just went with genuine gut feeling answers.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? The PA Platform, YouTube, Physician Assistant Forum, Facebook groups: The Pre-PA Club and pre-pa rockstars. Book: How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant Interview, by: Andrew Rodican.

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Don’t be discouraged if you have a LOW GPA or some bad grades. Make your application shine in other ways with stellar patient care hours or an amazing personal statement. Be true to yourself and show your passion. Remember, it only takes one!

Where can we find you? Instagram @thisPAadventure

Guest Post from Eryka - How to Optimize Your Relationships with PAs, MDs, and RNs

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Today we have a guest post from Eryka, a student who is currently in the process of applying to PA school.  Eryka and I connected through Facebook, and she has been sharing her advice through The Pre-PA Club Facebook group and I recently did an interview with Eryka on The Pre-PA Club Podcast. We're going to be following her journey so you can get some insight from someone who is going through the process right now. Enjoy! 


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Hey guys! It’s Eryka I am a first-time applicant this year, and I was the previous PA Club president at my Alma Matter, the University of Delaware, Go Blue Hens! I have partnered up with The PA Platform to help share some of the things I have learned along the way to make your journey to PA school much smoother. Today I want to talk to you guys about how to make the most of your relationships with PAs, MDs, and RNs. From every shadowing experience or job I’ve had I made many connections with healthcare providers that have helped me get to the next step in my journey. Using these 5 tips will help you make meaningful connections with clinicians!

1.) Introduce yourself! Every healthcare provider that I have met, I always introduce myself. If there is a new PA at work, I will find a way before the day gets too busy to introduce myself: “Hi, I’m Eryka, nice to meet you. How long have you been a PA? Where did you go to PA school? I will be/am applying to PA school…” This without fail has sparked a conversation about how they got into PA school or what my major was in undergrad. The point is to make a connection. This same strategy works well with nurses and doctors. The key is to let them know you are interested in a career in healthcare and your aspirations to go to PA school. 

2.) Express your interest to learn. If you are shadowing or working in healthcare and you have a question about a patient or about why the diagnosis could be, ASK! For example, I work as a medical assistant in an urgent care, and I can order labs and x-rays for patients. After I triage the patient and take their chief complaint, I talk to the PA or MD. I let them know what the reason for their visit and what I think the diagnosis might be based on their symptoms. Eventually, you start to see that certain symptoms and clinical presentations are often for the same diagnosis. For example, I recently told the PA I was working with that a patient who had a rash on their face that it looked like shingles, as it turns out I was right! I only knew the difference because of a week prior a PA said that one patient’s rash was shingles and she explained how the rash presents clinically and what questions to ask the patient.

3.) Find out more about them. A simple question to get this started is, “What made you want to become a PA/MD/RN?”  You can also ask “Why they chose their path in medicine and what they like and dislike about their profession?”

4.) Always show your appreciation. Even if it was a brief conversation, leave them with a lasting impression of you. Always say thank you for all the advice/information or thank them for teaching me about XYZ. You want them to remember you as respectful, inquisitive, and professional. You never want to burn down any bridges!

5.) Exchange information. If you felt like your interaction was positive, ask for their email! Doing the steps mentioned above, they might even offer their email to you before you even ask! Having contacts in healthcare can lead to shadowing opportunities, letters of recommendations, and potential interviews. Once you get their email, you need to FOLLOW UP! They might not remember if you wait a few days to a week after meeting you to email them. It is very important to follow up within 24-48 hours of meeting, restating your name, thanking them for speaking with you about XYZ and anything you previously talked about, and that you look forward to speaking with them soon. This is a perfect way to jog their memory of you and remind them what they said they were willing to do for you, like writing a letter of recommendation or having you shadow them! If you think you might lose their business card take a picture on your phone to ensure, you don’t lose it!

I hope you like my post, and I will try to write more as my journey to PA school continues. You can follow me on Instagram at @erykalaren, and my YouTube page will be up soon as well!

 

Accepted: Daniela from @d_nicopike

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Daniela is a true example of not giving up and how persistence pays off. She has a really unique story of how she gained acceptance to PA school, and while it may not work for everyone, creativity can work in your favor. Here is Daniela's story, followed by her stats:

I applied for the first time last year and did not get any interviews. I was only waitlisted for interviews to later be removed from that list as well. I gave myself a "deadline hope" until mid spring because one of the schools I had applied to had interviews from about March to April. I followed the that school's thread on physicianassistantforum.com and some time in April people were saying they were the last interview group, so I knew that opportunity had also gone right out the window for me.

I went through my grieving process and eventually accepted the fact that I would be out of school for another two years since I didn't want to apply for this year's cycle because I hadn't done anything to improve my application, so I'd be applying next cycle. One day, early May I received an email from Pace notifying me they were opening a PA program at their Pleasantville campus that would be starting this Fall. I gave it a shot and applied and a few weeks later I landed an interview. I felt I had done pretty well on my interview and was told I'd hear back in 7-10 days. Days passed and I didn't hear anything from them and I began getting so discouraged. I thought, what was the point of this opportunity knocking at my door after I had accepted my fate to only be turned down again?

I discussed my situation with the doctor and PA I worked with and they both encouraged me to be persistent with Pace, to call and tell them how very interested I was in the program, why I was a good choice for them, and to consider me if any spots opened. The PA also called them and argued my case and put in a good word for me. I planned on going to Pace in person to try to speak with one of the admissions people to put a face to my name while I promoted myself for the program. However, the week I intended to do that, I received a call from the program offering me a spot.


Undergraduate education: Queens College    

Overall GPA: 3.6

Science GPA: 3.2

GRE: N/A

Total HCE hours: 3,870

Total PCE hours: 1,470

Shadowing hours: 840

Other volunteer hours: 994

LORs: Internal medicine doctor, dermatology doctor, dermatology PA, orthopedic PA, chemistry professor

How many times did you apply?:  1

Age: 25

Gender: Fermale

How many programs did you apply to? 15

How many programs did you interview with and what were the outcomes? 1. Accepted

Any red flags on your application? Low science GPA and C+ in chemistry II

Anything you found surprising about interviews? The admissions committee were all extremely nice which eased my nerves. They clearly wanted to make the interviewees more relaxed and feel accomplished that we had made it to that interview.

Were there any helpful resources (books, websites, apps) you used to get through prerequisite courses, the application or interview process? How To "Ace" The Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew J. Rodican, The PA Platform Mock Interview, physicianassistantforum.com, So You Want To Be A Physician Assistant by Beth Grivett

Any other advice for other pre-PA students? Be more persistent than you have ever before. I learned that persistence is a wisdom and it will also lead you to learn that it's not over until it's over. I did not lose faith on being invited to an interview until I found out the last interview group had been selected for the latest interviewing program I had applied to. Then, after not hearing back from my only interview, I persisted and had the PA I worked with call the program and put in a good word for me. I also planned on going in personally to speak with an admissions committee to argue my case and put a face to my name in case a spot opened up. 

Where can we find you? @d_nicopike (instagram)

Interview with @caasapa - Future Palliative Care PA

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Catherine Anna reached out on Instagram to share her interest in the field of palliative care as a PA. I can't say that I personally know any PAs who work in palliative care, so I actually learned a good bit from this interview as well. If you have any questions about UAB or Catherine Anna's plans feel free to reach out to her on Instagram by following @caasapa


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Give me a quick introduction and a little bit on your background (name, undergrad, where you're at in PA school, etc). 

My name is Catherine Anna McCarty. I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for undergrad, my Master's in Public Health, and currently for PA school. Go Blazers! I am currently in my first semester of didactic. 

 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a specialty that focuses on improving the quality of life for those with serious or terminal illness. Usually, a team made up of not only clinicians but other specialists such as physical therapists, massage therapists, chaplains, dietitians, and psychologists takes care of patients together. The interdisciplinary team works to treat symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety as well as assist in advanced care planning. 

 

How did you become interested in palliative care? 

I accepted a position within a palliative care department working with breast cancer patients. At the same time that I was starting that job and really discovering what palliative care was, I was also experiencing the health care system for the first time as someone with a chronic condition. I realized the necessity of a specialty that focused on improving quality of life and allowed patients to define what that meant. It’s empowering as a patient to be listened to and to take back control from illnesses that directly impact how you experience life. I wanted to be a part of a specialty that had the ability to do so much good in people’s lives.

 

Why is it difficult to find PAs in specific specialties?

In regards to palliative care, I think it comes down to the history of the profession and exposure. The history of the PA profession is that of clinicians that practice curative as well as procedure-driven medicine; that which palliative care is not. The most recent literature I have found notes there are only 15 PAs practicing in the field of palliative medicine. Therefore, there are limited opportunities for exposure for pre-PA or PA students. I hope to increase the visibility of PAs in palliative medicine throughout my career and see a huge growth of practicing palliative PAs during my lifetime. 

 

What advice would you give to an applicant who is very interested in a specific specialty?

It is great to have a passion for a specific field of medicine, but it's important not to discount the value of other specialties. Most of your clinical rotations will take place outside of the specialty you’re passionate about. It’s important to be open to absorbing as much knowledge and skills as you can from as many specialties as you can. 

 

What has been most challenging about PA school so far? 

Reframing how I think about learning. During my undergraduate career, I was able to study the night before and make an A on an exam. All of my efforts were focused on obtaining a certain letter grade whereas in PA school, my efforts have shifted to learning the material I need to be a competent and capable clinician. 

 

What is your one best tip for Pre-PA students?

Invest the time, effort, and grit it takes to master your prerequisite courses so you have a strong foundation to start from once you begin a PA program. It will make the adjustment to PA school a little easier. 

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

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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 savanna@thePAplatform.com 

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. 

Pre-PA

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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: 

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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

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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. 

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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 danniscribani@gmail.com 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

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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 savanna@thepaplatform.com 

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

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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!
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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 savanna@thepaplatform.com

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 www.pacents.com.