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

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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.

Payscale.com

Payscale.com 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 payscale.com 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 Payscale.com 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 Payscale.com report is the least valid as it has the smallest sample size and probably not very current. I wouldn’t recommend using the payscale.com 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. 

Guest Post from Jamie - What's in my Medical Bag?

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I'm really excited to share this post today from Jamie, which was first published on Reddit.  It does contain some affiliate links, which means if you purchase any of the products from Amazon, Jamie will get a small cut. You may remember her previous post - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School

What’s in my medical bag?

Firstly, I carry two bags. The salmon colored bag is a little backpack by Dickies and the black bag is actually a diaper bag from Eddie Bauer. The Dickies bag was ~$23 at Sears and the Eddie Bauer bag was $39.99 at Target, but I used a 10% off coupon. On the outside of the backpack, I have a hand sanitizer (just Purell). I also carry a water bottle (Contigo brand because I hate having to bite the straw) and an umbrella. Because it’s a diaper bag, these pockets are actually insulated, which I think is funny, but awesome.

I don’t actually plan to carry both bags every day. I just don’t carry a purse and the med bag has stuff that I don’t really need on days like today or Wednesday when I only have one lecture. I do need the med bag on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though.

LET’S DIVE IN!

Medical Bag: Front Pocket(s) from left to right

Medical Bag: Inside View of Main Pocket

Laid out so you can see contents left to right

I am horrendously guilty of forgetting to put on deodorant, so I keep a little one in my bag along with some Kleenex!!

Backpack Front Pocket

Backpack Main Pocket

  • Microsoft Surface 3, 128GB Internal Storage, 4GB RAM ($399.99 from Best Buy) – this for me is an absolute MUST. It is lightweight, so I can carry it easily in my bag, it can be charged with an external USB power bank if the classroom doesn’t have outlets on the table, and it has the full functional Windows 10 operating system, including Microsoft Office. I live by OneNote for my notes. I use the cloud to store everything (with hard backups, of course), but it’s SO nice to be able to pull up my lectures from my phone or tablet, or my laptop at home. I can’t suggest this enough. I just hate that you have to buy the keyboard separate, and $400 is the cheapest I’ve ever seen it. I’ve had a Surface since the initial RT, though, and I’m a fan.
  • Microsoft Surface Type Cover - $116
  • Microsoft Surface Pen - $44.72 – I love this puppy, but you don’t need it if you prefer typing. I like being able to handwrite things easily, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
  • Tablet sleeve - $14.99
  • Bare Bones Anatomy textbook by Dr. Tracey Bee - $213
  • Flashcards for Unit 1: Intro and Back (came with textbook)
  • Folder - $1
  • Planner (MY LIFE) - $10
  • Pencil case - $1
  • Pilot G2 Pens - $10
  • Chargers, extra headphones
  • Glasses

And again, super forgetful with deodorant, so my backpack gets one, too – remember, I said I don’t always have both bags? And hey… sometimes I go to the gym… Also lip balms and a prescription topical steroid cream for my hands – I have contact dermatitis that gets bad with excess glove usage.

What’s in my pockets?? I just wore scrubs today, but this is the contents of my lab coat pockets!

  • Bath and Body Works lotion - $3
  • Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer - $1.50
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Pilot pen
  • NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Antwerp - $6
  • $2 for possible snacking needs
  • My locker combination

Not pictured:

  • Lab goggles - $1
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich, peppers and carrots with hummus, grapes, cantaloupe, and strawberries, Goldfish crackers.

Grand total: roughly $1600


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!

Medelita + ERKA Stethoscope Review

While Medelita has become well-known for their scrubs and lab coats, they have more recently entered the medical equipment field. As a HIP Ambassador for Medelita, I was able to give their new stethoscope a try. 

Medelita teamed up with ERKA to create a high quality stethoscope that is an easy competitor for any well-known stethoscope.  ERKA originates from Germany and has been around for a long time.  They are well known for their stethoscope design and amazing functionality. 

Aesthetically, the ERKA stethoscope is so nice. There are tons of color choices to choose from including black, red, lime green, violet, ceil blue, pink, light blue, burgundy, dark green, navy blue, light grey, and rose pink. I went with the light grey because I wanted something neutral, and if you were to see my T-shirt drawer, you would find about 10 grey shirts (it's a problem). This stethoscope is very comfortable in the ears and easy to throw around your neck. They also come with a very nice storage case. 

There are 3 different types of stethoscopes available.  The Finesse2 is $100 and is equivalent to a Littmann Classic III. The Precise is $156 and is equivalent to a Littmann Cardiology IV. The Sensitive is $178 and is equivalent to a Littmann Master Cardiology, and this is the type that I chose because it's most similar to what I trained with. 

When it comes to sound quality, there's no doubt that the Medelita stethoscope is of the best quality. I don't use a stethoscope frequently in dermatology, so I sent this one with my husband to the hospital to try out.  He's an internal medicine resident, so it's important that he has a great stethoscope. He was impressed, and now it's uncommon for me to find that my stethoscope has gone "missing." 

Medelita always offers free shipping and free returns. For $20 off a purchase of $70 or more, use this link to set up your account, and use the code THEPAPLATFORM1 at checkout for an additional 15% off! There's also a 5-year warranty on these scopes. Let me know if you check them out!

Guest Post from Holly: How To Study and Succeed in Didactic Year of PA School

Holly has some awesome tips on how to survive didactic year of PA school.  If you thought getting into PA school was the hard part, you better get ready for the didactic portion.  This post is great for whether you are just getting ready to start school or already pushing through PA school. I agree with so many of these tips, and I experienced or learned a lot of this stuff myself in PA school. 


Congratulations! You’ve finally made it to didactic year of PA school (likely your ultimate dream, just as it was mine). It’s a HUGE accomplishment so be proud, but now it is also time to start working the hardest that you ever have academically (or at least learning in a fast-paced environment that I definitely had not experienced prior to PA school). Didactic year was definitely something I was absolutely terrified of when I first started the journey a year ago, but I am here to tell you that it is not impossible, and in fact, was one of the best years of my life! Being fresh out of didactic year, I’d like to provide some study tips I learned throughout my time as a PA student in the classroom. 

  • Don’t be afraid to completely change your study habits. Your previous study habits may or may not be as effective during your time as a PA student. This was something I was initially super resistant to (I always took hand written notes in all of my past college classes), but I quickly learned it was hugely beneficial to tailor my note taking to each individual class, and what I needed out of lectures in order to properly study and succeed in learning the material. Think about how you might best benefit during lecture for retaining the material long term. I used print out PowerPoint slides for Anatomy (they were all pictures, so I would bring a bunch of colored pens to color in what I was writing about and then write any additional notes about the structure we were discussing). In most of my classes, I realized it was most time efficient for me to type out notes on PowerPoints, and either study from them or create Word document study guides to print out. Pharmacology and Laboratory Medicine were 2 classes I struggled with, especially when only viewing the PowerPoints with my notes, so I made sure to create my own personal study guides for each of those, organize the material in a way that made sense to me, and would print out and write additional notes on my notes especially a few days prior to exams. Flash cards are also a great idea for subjects that require a lot of route memorization (Infectious Disease, for example). Figure out what works best for you, and constantly be willing to re-evaluate if that method is working well for you.
     
  • Work with others and study alone. This was another thing I was initially resistant to as a new PA student. In undergraduate classes, I never studied in groups because I assumed I wouldn’t be as productive. And it worked for me then, but I found it took way too much time to figure out everything on my own in PA school. I tested out quite a few study groups before I found the right group of people, but it was especially helpful to have a few classmates and friends to rapid-fire study. During finals, we usually had about 2 exams every day for 2 weeks straight, so even if we tried not to wait until the last minute, sometimes it was inevitable, and having others to quickly help me retain information and make me think about aspects I wouldn’t have on my own was extremely beneficial. Again, do what works for you, but definitely don’t be resistant to change if you have not tried a study technique in the past!
     
  • Use any mean of studying you can think of! Some examples include (but are certainly not limited to!) videos, audio, flashcards, study guides, charts, pictures, writing on chalk/white boards, sketching out images, and more. Really, use anything that will help you to retain the information and truly understand it on a fundamental level. Some of my favorite tools included Khan Academy, Online Med Ed, PANCE Prep Pearls (I highly recommend this book, even for didactic year! It is meant as a review for Boards, but I found it quite helpful for exam reviews and also for freshening up prior to OSCE’s and the PACKRAT exam), Physician Assistant Boards (I found both the Pharmacology and Boards Review audio files particularly helpful for my commutes, especially for solidifying information prior to exams), and the Physician Assistant Exam Review podcast. Many of my classmates shared groups on Quizlet so that we were able to use each other’s Quizlet online flashcards. Our class even had a shared DropBox where we would upload any helpful information or study guides we completed for the rest of the class to utilize. I found it super helpful to hear information over and over through multiple sources, and it has certainly helped me to retain a lot even after exams were finished. 
     
  • Connect the dots. I cannot emphasize this enough, but making connections between classes is super important. This helped me to not only better understand material in all of my classes (everything eventually starts to overlap!), land a pretty awesome PACKRAT score (the PA student exam that predicts how well you might do on the PANCE, or certifying PA exam), and helped me to feel much less stressed when it came to OSCE’s where we had to put all of the information together in order to diagnose and treat a hypothetical patient. It certainly shows if you are learning the material for life and not just for exams, especially at the end of didactic year when your professors will expect much more out of you. Don’t let yourself fall into a place of complacency – after all, as one of my favorite professors stated, “you are learning this for life and to keep your future patients alive”. It’s a pretty serious task, and I always want to make sure I am doing my best for my future patients. 
     
  • If you are losing speed and struggling to continue studying, change gears! This happened multiple times to me. Didactic year was a lot of studying. If I found myself losing focus or feeling burnt out, I would make sure to have some fun or reward myself to keep up my motivation. My friends and I often made trips in between classes or during day-long study sessions for coffee, cupcakes, chocolate, ice cream, you name it! Of course, it wasn’t the healthiest choice, but it kept us going and motivated to move on to more material. Another tip I can provide you with is to exercise! I didn’t do much exercising during my first 2 semesters, but at the beginning of my third semester, my friends and I decided it would be a great idea to attend work out classes twice a week through our school’s gym. It was actually a brilliant idea because we held each other accountable to attend every class, and we got in a great work out and felt mentally and physically refreshed afterward to continue studying if needed.
     
  • Know when you need help. This is probably the most important piece of advice, in my opinion. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are at, and you don’t want anything to get in your way of continuing through the program and becoming a future PA. Know your limitations and shortcomings, and realize when you need to ask a professor, advisor, classmate, friends, and/or family members for help. Didactic year is super challenging, mostly because of the amount of information they throw at you all at once, and because of the time constraints you might find yourself in because of your dedication to studying and passing your classes. Unfortunately, 2 of my classmates were disqualified from continuing the program due to poor academic performance, and from what I observed, both were too late in asking for help. If you see a classmate struggling, make sure you reach out if possible. Had I known these students were struggling, I definitely would have, but by the time they let me and other classmates of mine know that they needed help, it was too late to bring their grades up enough to pass. I personally struggled with Pharmacology and with my first Psychiatry exam. It was actually a double whammy because I failed both exams in the same week, and immediately went to both professors (one while I was in complete tears). Take your professors’ advice – they are there to help you and it certainly will only benefit you if you can obtain tips for how to succeed in their specific classes. I also let my friends know that these were 2 subjects I struggled with, and asked them for advice especially if they did well in the classes. I studied with classmates that were able to help me in these classes, while I was able to help them in other subjects, and it worked out really well. I also made sure to change up my study techniques to ways that helped me retain the information in a more efficient way, and was able to pass both classes with pretty decent grades! 
     
  • Know that you might not be perfect, and that is perfectly okay! I watched a few of my classmates strive for perfection, and sometimes it worked but other times it simply stressed them out more than they needed to be. I learned that even though I may not be the smartest person in the class, and certainly did not receive straight A’s by any means, I could still succeed in PA school and make sure I was learning everything I needed to along the way. My hard work paid off and was evident with my PACKRAT score, and if you keep motivated and work hard, I am positive you will succeed! 

Holly is a second-year PA student at Marywood University. Prior to attending PA school, Holly graduated from Temple University Honors Program in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and minor in Psychology. She then worked for two years as a mental health worker, direct service professional in an autism center, and as an emergency department scribe. You can find Holly on Instagram at @xohollyd and on her blog XOhollyd for more PA tips!

Up and Coming: South University (Richmond, VA)

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Location:  Richmond, VA

Number of students:  36

Application Cycle:  April 1st - September 1st through CASPA

Interview dates:  July-September

Start date:  January

Length of Program:  27 months

Public/Private: Private

HCE:  Recommended, but no specific requirement

GPA:  Minimum 3.0 overall; minimum Biology-Chemistry-Physics GPA of 3.0

Shadowing:  Recommended, but no specific requirement

The Good Stuff:

  • Quarter system
  • Working is not recommended, but allowed up to 15 hours during the didactic year
  • GRE is required, and preference is given to scores greater than the 50th percentile
  • Behavioral interview style
  • Pending accreditation September 2017

Program Link:  South University PA Program Website - Richmond, VA

Maevn Scrubs Review

You guys are probably getting tired of hearing about my favorite stuff, but I feel that part of my responsibility to is to make sure that you're well-dressed and look nice as you pursue your dreams.  So today, I would like to introduce you to Maevn Scrubs Eon Collection

I love that my daily uniform consists of scrubs, but sometimes I want to mix it up and try different ones. It's important to me that I'm comfortable, well-covered, and able to move easily. I also like my scrubs to fit well. One day I didn't have any clean scrubs, so I borrowed a pair of my husband's generic unisex ones, and I just felt a little frumpy all day. I went all out and did a video review of these scrubs, so if you want to see that, you can check it out at this link, or at the end of this post. (Fair warning - I'm so awkward.)

 

These 2 sets of Maevn scrubs were provided to me for free in exchange for my honest opinions. So let's go! Some of the links I've included to these scrubs on Amazon are affiliate links, which means I'll get a little bit of credit to buy more awesome scrubs if you use them. No pressure.  The Eon scrubs are interesting because they are made with special "COOLMAX" fabric that is supposed to keep you cool and dry, and also resist wrinkles and shrinkage. For reference, I'm around 5'1'' and 115 lbs. 

This first pair I got in navy since that's the color of my daily uniform. And since I've been seeing these fancy Eon waistband scrubs all over Instagram, I was pumped to try them out. After wearing these a few times to work and washing them a few times as well, I can honestly say they hold up to wear and tear. They have been christened with exploding cyst already, so we're good to go.

The top I'm wearing is the Sporty Mesh Panel Top in XS, and the color of these is "True Navy." This top has some mesh panels (that aren't see through) and lots of pockets. I do feel like it's a little bit long for me, but that hasn't stopped me from wearing them. I don't usually tuck my tops in, but I wanted to show off the cool waistband on these pants.  The pant style I'm wearing are the Waistband 7-Pocket Cargo Pant. I was told that these can run a little small and instructed to consider ordering up a size, so I'm wearing a small petite.  The length is perfect, and the size fits well too. These are very comfy with the waistband, and still have a drawstring, but also lots of pockets.

I do have to say that I love this color. It's almost a gray or slate blue version of navy, as opposed to being in the blue family. Even other people in my office commented on how nice the color looked and noticed that I had some new fancy scrubs. 

Now for the wine scrubs.  This color is my absolute favorite. I love it. If I got to choose a color to wear everyday, it would be wine (or maybe gray). The style of this top is the V-Neck Pocket Top in XS. The pants style is the Full Elastic Zipper Pocket Cargo Pant in XS Petite. These are a much more traditional style of scrubs, and the fit is true to size. Still tons of pockets too. Whenever I'm due for scrubs again, I'm planning on ordering this style in the navy color.  

Overall, I would definitely recommend these scrubs, and I do plan on getting more in the future. I may get my husband some of the men's versions to try out too! 

Comment below with your favorite scrubs! 

Guest Post from Shelby: How Research Helped Me Get Into PA School

Shelby is our gracious guest poster for today.  I'm really excited because she is able to offer a perspective on research experience that I can't give you, and I appreciate her honesty in the struggles she has had on her journey to becoming a PA. 


Since I was a child all I ever wanted was to become a healthcare provider. I did not realize the journey towards this goal of mine would be a bumpy path, but I am glad to have the experiences that came along with this untraditional path. They have shaped me to be prepared for Physician Assistant (PA) school. 

Standing out to get into PA school can be rather challenging. There are many applicants with great GPAs, tons of patient care experiences, and stellar GRE scores, but how do you shine in a sky full of north stars? 

Coming from a difficult period of my life in undergrad I sought out ways to improve my application because my GPA was not going to cut it to gain admittance. After graduating, I took courses post-bacc but I knew I wanted more. I had always thought research, teaching, and graduate level thinking would challenge me in a positive way. The following is just one way to standout that I found helpful and I hope this may also help others since each applicant’s journey is unique and they are unique themselves.

I chose to apply to a Masters of Science in Biomedical Sciences. The degree includes 3 quarters of didactic work followed by 4 quarters of research. When you complete the degree, you have a thesis manuscript, oral defense done, and many other opportunities if you choose not to proceed into medicine, but instead research. 

I had the option of taking a minimum of 12 credits per quarter, but I elected to take extra classes because I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I was ready for this challenge. I realize that at this level of education it was a slippery slope taking extra intense science classes, although in the end, it paid off for me.

One of my favorite courses I took, and excelled in, was pharmacology - a two quarter long class. It allowed me to apply my clinical knowledge and my enjoyment of physiology and pathophysiology. I tutor and work as a teaching assistant for the same course this year where I help run review sessions, create test questions, and am able to teach the students some of the material. Another class I thoroughly enjoyed, and was an extreme benefit, was taking physiology for two quarters. At my current school, the class is paired with the PA students so the same material they learn for their future, I got to learn alongside them. It was great exposure to what to expect in my future and I could excel at this course with the great teaching.

The classes I decided to take challenged me and I received a GPA I never thought I could obtain. But it has been the research experience which has shaped and challenged me more than I ever would have expected. My very first presentation was with my first principle investigator (PI). I had not done much public speaking before this, especially with something I was extremely passionate about. We had to do a 10-minute presentation on our proposed research project to the faculty, staff, and other students in my cohort.

I walked up to the podium, loaded my PowerPoint then proceeded to start the presentation, although I had massive anxiety attached right at the beginning. I started crying, breathing heavy, then just walked out of the presentation. My peers and some of the faculty thought I might not come back to finish the presentation. I had to calm down, and then decided to try again. I stuttered and barely made it through. It was traumatic and some peers were not very nice about it, both during and after my presentation.

The next time I did a presentation was with my current PI, yes I switched PI’s and projects. WOW! What a difference it was. I practiced word for word what I was going to say for a week. My PI spent hour upon hours with me to perfect it. Ultimately, it was a good presentation when said and done. I felt better about giving presentations, although this was mostly background about the project at that point, and then my next presentation was with data which made me more nervous. I walked into the room, and something did not feel right. I started out again with the shaky voice and teary eyes, but then I talked myself down. Earlier that week I found out I was accepted to PA school, and I realized I can do this and took a deep breath then nailed it. I was congratulated by multiple faculty with how impressed they were that I could come from being so nervous to jumping back in and doing so well. 

I changed research mentors in between my first and second year, which was rather challenging. I took on a whole new research project. I took extra classes, including anatomy with the occupational therapy students, and did very well.  Additionally, I gained positive encouragement as I gained confidence in my ability to give public presentations. I have achieved so many things since I started. I think one of the more important things is I grew to learn even more about myself. During my time, I have learned several laboratory techniques. There were days where I would cry, and days I would pat myself on the back. It is, and has been, a learning experience. For me, it's been important to have a research mentor who believed in me and who was there for me no matter what time of day. I am so grateful for what he's done for me this past year and I will be working on finishing my thesis in the fall before starting PA school in January at MCPHS.

You will make mistakes. Research is not easy, especially with a thesis project. It is a lot of hard work and dedication to go into the laboratory when you do not want to. But it has taught me how to be patient, pay attention to details, be a critical thinker, and enjoy being challenged. These will help me in more than just research, these are valuable things as a PA student and a PA-C. In healthcare, it’s extremely important to pay attention to details and to be able to think critically about your patient so you can provide the best care. There will be times you will be frustrated, but you should look at it analytically or take a step away for a while.   

Other aspects that have helped shaped who I am are having CrossFit. It has made me more mentally and physically fit. I highly suggest finding a good outlet like this. Any exercise can help you to manage your stress levels but find something that you truly enjoy. I always make sure to take care of myself as a priority before anything else because if you're not taking care of yourself, you're not going to be successful in all aspects of your life. 

Other aspects of my application that I feel helped me stand out was naturally creating a theme. My theme is oncology. I volunteered for three years at a pediatric oncology camp, I worked as a patient care technician in an oncology unit for almost two years, (I also worked other positions, but this one was my favorite), and my research is on non-small cell lung cancer. This shows how I have a strong interested in pursuing oncology as a profession. 

My biggest piece of advice is to never give up. There is not one path that will work for everyone or a normal path. You must make it work for you. I had many setbacks from my health, personal life, family, and finances, but this did not stop me from living the dream of attending PA school. Life is a continuous learning process, but make it an enjoyable one. 

It's a lot of hard work and if you ever need advice about how to study better and change your methods, feel free to reach out because I learned a lot along the way and it's helped me be more successful. It's a lot of trial and error frankly. 

I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone because that's what drove me to be better. It is important to have a strong support system, and if you don't, you need to believe in yourself. I cannot stress that enough because you are the one that's going to get you through each day. You need to show yourself that you are worthy, you are important, and you're a rockstar. 


Shelby will be graduating from Midwestern University with her Masters in Biomedical Sciences this fall and will be attending Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for PA school in January. Her biggest passions revolve around CrossFit, coffee, being a dog mom, and giving back. Feel free to follow her journey through PA school and beyond. Instagram: @student_shelby 

Medelita M3 Ellody Lab Coat Review

I'm really excited to announce that I am now a HIP Ambassador for Medelita.  That means that I get to share all of their awesome products with you, and tell you more about why I love them so much. One of my favorite things about Medelita is that it was started by a physician assistant! I love fellow PA-preneurs, and it's really cool to see the impact that Lara Francisco has been able to make in creating high quality medical wear. She took the idea of seeing a problem and finding a solution to the next level. 

In this particular review, I'm wearing a Medelita M3 Ellody Petite Fit Lab Coat. For reference, I am around 5'1'' and I'm wearing a size 2.  In normal clothing, I usually wear a 0-2/XS or Small, and I've found that these run very true to size, and that the size chart provided is accurate. 

When I first graduated from PA school, I was so excited to also graduate from my short coat to my long coat.  It's a sort of rite of passage. I was also extremely eager. I visited the local scrub store, looked at the 2 options available, and picked the one that was the better of the 2.  I can't say I was super impressed with the quality, but at the time it didn't matter that much to me. I was a PA! 

Once I started working, I noticed that my supervising physician's coat was a nice, crisp white and just looked a little better than mine.  After a few washes and a couple of months, my white coat was starting to look a little dingy and the already thin fabric was just getting thinner and thinner.  I asked her about it, and she said it was by a brand called Medelita

I looked further into Medelita, and I knew I was ready for an upgrade.  I was a little nervous about ordering a coat without trying it on, and since it would be embroidered, I wouldn't be able to return it. I used the size charts, took some measurements, and took the plunge. Best decision ever.  

It's important that your first impression with patients is a good one, and usually that comes from your appearance. I know that I tend to look young for my age (because my patients tell me everyday), so it's even more important for me to look professional.  Your white coat can do that. It lets the patient know what your role is, and gives confidence that you are there to take care of them.  Or it makes pediatric patients cry, but usually it's the opposite effect. Even if I see a new patient, when I walk in with my white coat on, they instantly know who their provider is. 

When I received my white coat, I was so excited. The fabric that Medelita has crafted is so nice. It's thick, bright white, and actually repels liquids, which is nice in a field like dermatology (think Dr. Pimple Popper).  The Ellody coat is perfect for me because it is a petite fit designed for women under 5'4'' and has a great tailored fit.  But if you are blessed with height or a guy, there are options for you too!  Medelita has many different designs and styles, so you should be able to find something to suit you.  My husband (internal medicine resident) is still jealous that my coat looks better than his, so I may end up having to get him one too. 

On these coats there are plenty of pockets to hold any equipment you may use on a daily basis, and the pockets are large enough for an iPad. There's no need to dry clean, and even after many washes, my coats have maintained their fresh white appearance, and the embroidery hasn't faded at all. These coats may be a little more pricey than some other options, but I can guarantee you'll be happier with the quality and durability.  The current options range from $128-162, but be on the lookout for discount codes by signing up for the Medelita email list or checking their Instagram. 

For $20 off a purchase of $70 or more, use this link to set up your account, and use the code THEPAPLATFORM1 at checkout for an additional 15% off! 

Medelita offers embroidery on their lab coats and scrubs.  There's the option of 2 lines of print, and 3 different fonts and 18 colors available. It costs an additional $12 or is free for orders over $175. There's also an option of having a logo uploaded on the right side of the coat. 

This coat was provided to me for review, but I can honestly say that I have been a customer with Medelita for a while, and I don't see that relationship ended for a long time. I will never recommend anything that I don't fully endorse and that I wouldn't pay for, and I can promise you will not regret your decision of purchasing a Medelita white coat. 

Guest Post from Jamie - The Unexpected Expenses of Interviewing and Attending PA School

This post was originally posted by Jamie on Reddit, but has been published here with her permission.  I'm really excited to introduce you guys to Jamie.  If you haven't ever heard of Reddit, you're missing out!  The prephysicianassistant sub-Reddit is awesome and a great place to get questions answered.  And FYI, some of the links in this post are affiliate links with Amazon, which means Jamie gets a couple of cents if you buy something, you don't pay more, and we can keep giving you awesome information for free! 

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The Hidden Costs for Physician Assistant School

I wanted to write a post about expenses because a lot of this stuff caught me by surprise. Please keep in mind while reading this that these are expenses specific to my experience and my university. I imagine many of them will be pretty universal, but some may differ by school.

A few that are universal about interviewing:

  • Purchasing your interview outfit. You need to dress professional – that means a full suit for men, and either a business dress (sheath dress, or something similar) with a blazer (think Claire Underwood from House of Cards), pencil skirt with a matching blazer, or pantsuit for women. If your interview is over the course of two days, inquire to your program about the attire. Your actual interview day will always be professional, but you may be able to get away with business casual, or even casual on the meet and greet day. Regardless, you can’t wear the same professional outfit both days, so you need at least two nice shirts.
  • Cleaning up before the interview. For example, I got my hair cut because my hair was kind of crazy looking. Looking clean and put together will give a good first impression. I’d love to live in a society where we aren’t judged by our appearance, but we don’t, and you have to look nice. You just need to look somewhat put together, but even a $12 haircut will add a bit to your interview costs!
  • Potential hotels or transportations: maybe you need to fly to the schools you applied for, maybe you need to stay in a hotel.
  • Days off work: if the interview falls on a day you usually work, you will have to miss a day of pay. While that doesn’t literally cost you any money, it does take away a day from your paycheck. Consider switching shifts with someone if that makes a big difference in your budget for the week or month.

A few that are universal (probably) regarding school itself, once you’re accepted:

Vaccinations: Hep B is the only one you can decline at UDM. Others are required: rubella, measles, mumps, varicella. For UDM, you must have titers done to prove that you are immune to each. It’s probably smart for them to do that because I had vaccination records of Hep B and rubella/MMR, but my titers came back negative. I had to re-do those.

Physical: Typical physical + Tdap and TB test (If your TB test is positive, you then have to follow up with a chest x-ray or you can ask your primary care provider for a blood-based TB test instead)

Dress code: Some programs require a specific scrub color or require only professional attire - if you have to buy either of those, that will cost you a decent amount, especially for nice dress clothes. Definitely check out Marshall's or TJMaxx if you're on a budget. My favorite dress clothes come from Express, but I wait until there are sales and I have a coupon. Thankfully I'm able to wear any color scrubs, and I have a ton from being a CNA!

Equipment: (Do not buy these based on this post, but wait until you get a list of requirements from your program! Yours may differ or they may require specific brands or something. Just gives you an idea of what to expect.)

  • You will absolutely need a stethoscope. A nice Littmann Cardiology III runs about $150, a little more if you engrave it or something, a little less if Amazon has some sort of sale or you pick an ugly color that no one buys.  You can absolutely buy a cheaper one or a more expensive brands, but this is the most recommended by the MDs and PAs that I have spoken to, both in real life and online. I love mine, it’s my favorite color and it was engraved with “Jamie Nicole”.
  • Diagnostic kit: Otoscope/ophthalmoscope set. Welch Allyn comes highly recommended and is VERY expensive. Somewhere between $300-$1000 depending on the handle material and used/new condition. You could definitely buy a cheaper one from Amazon or something, but you won’t be able to see as well and may need to borrow a friend’s for exams (I’m on the fence about buying one).
  • Lab coat, probably. Sometimes 2. Usually embroidered with program name, your name, and PA-S or sometimes just student.
  • Pen light (okay, you can buy this one if it makes you happy, it costs like $2 – some other cheaper things are latex-free gloves if you have an allergy, tongue depressors, gauze pads, alcohol wipes)
  • Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) – these aren’t too expensive and a lot of you probably already have one for some reason or another.

Some that might be unique to UDM, but may happen to you:

  • Fingerprinting (Michigan legislature changed RIGHT after I paid to be fingerprinted, and the State will no longer release finger print information with criminal records, so UDM dropped this requirement and half of us had already paid for it and had it done, so that sucked. Way to go to the procrastinators! Your program may not make you do this, or they may pay for it, or you may not have to do it at all).
  • Drug testing (You will absolutely have a drug test, but your program may pay to have it done instead of making you pay for it).
  • Criminal Background Check (same as drug testing, it varies by program who pays for it).

MISC

  • MOVING: If you get into a program away from home and need to move, you may need a wide variety of things! You might live with your mom now and need furniture for your first solo place. You might have a place already but need to rent a moving truck. You might have to buy all your friends pizza or beer or both for helping you assemble Ikea furniture.

Feel free to comment with anything I may have missed or things required for other programs!


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!

Guest Post from The PA Life - Accreditation, Location, and PANCE Rate…Oh My: How to Pick a PA Program That is Right for You!

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Jourdyn from The PA Life graciously offered to share her advice with you all about how to choose what PA programs to apply to and attend.  This is such important information because you don't want to waste your money or time on programs that may not actually be a good fit for you. I love Jourdyn's enthusiasm and she has some amazingly informative posts on her site, so make sure you check it out.  And if you don't already follow her on Instagram, you can find Jourdyn at @thepa_life

I also did a post for Jourdyn's site on 5 Tips for Finding a Physician Assistant Job, so make sure you don't miss it! 


To start this post off I would like to say “congrats”! You may ask why I’m congratulating you? Well, it is because you have decided to embark down an amazing journey to becoming a Physician Assistant! Are you excited about your choice? You should be!! Not only is it a growing career field, but it is also a career that comes with a great deal of satisfaction…and to that, you deserve some recognition for your amazing choice!  Now that you have picked this field, you may question what the next step is in order to achieve your goal of becoming a PA. You will dive into the world of CASPA, interviews, and upon a simple Google search find a vast array of information on how to successfully matriculate into a PA program. After working your way up to a large amount of healthcare hours, spending many hours perfecting your personal essay, and reading what feels like a small library of books and articles on how to crush your interviews…you might find yourself wondering: how do I actually pick a school to go to? How do I know if this is going to be a good fit for me? What if I pick the wrong one?

This, my friends, is where I come in. I was in your shoes once, and I had the same exact questions. I stressed about what school would be the most conducive to a gratifying PA experience, as I knew my choice in program would pave the way for my career as a Physician Assistant. So, stress no more! I am here to give you my top 5 tips on how to pick a PA program that is right for you!

  1. Always check to see if they are accredited. PA schools go through a process where they need to be nationally reviewed to ensure their curriculum and faculty follow certain standards. This is super important because if your school happens to not get accredited, you won’t be able to attend that program until they do. A really good site to look at is http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation/accredited-programs/, which has an extensive list of programs that are accredited, and when the next time they will be reviewed! This is a simple factor to check, but is really an important one to do!   
     
  2. Another important factor on choosing what school will be right for you is to look at PANCE pass rates. You will be working incredibly hard through your curriculum, no matter what program you go into, so it only makes sense to check on a potential school to make sure their curriculum will prepare you well for the PANCE. The closer they are to 100% the better!
     
  3. Location, location, location! Some PA programs are located on undergraduate campuses, some on their own campus, some in the heart of enormous cities, and others are located in small rural areas in the mountains. By the time people apply to PA school, you generally have a feel for which setting you feel most comfortable in. In PA school, really anything that is going to make the school year easier and more enjoyable for you is going to benefit you in the long run. If you get annoyed by traffic, you may find after a long day of listening to lectures and studying, even a 15 minute delay makes for an even more stressful day. So before you spend money on a program, make sure the location is factored into your choice. Although, it seems minor or that you could “fight through” an un-ideal location for a year or so…it really will make your life easier in the long run. 
     
  4. Research the school to see what their emphasis is. Some programs love volunteering, others have a stronger focus on research, and still others have a passion for public health and infuse it into their curriculum. In addition, some programs offer global educational trips, others have non-profit clinics you can work at, and the list goes on and on of many other curriculum-enriching experiences you can partake in. It is little characteristics like this that will help you connect to a program and make for a more worthwhile experience!
     
  5. Be passionate about your choice! Don’t apply to programs that aren’t going to be the right fit for you. Yes, it is amazing to get into a PA school, but when you are spending thousands of dollars on your education and 2-3 years of your life, you want to make sure that it is THE PA program for you. When you are at an interview, yes you are being interviewed, but also realize that the program is interviewing for a spot in your life too. Ask questions to the interviewing panel to ensure they are the right fit for you. Do you want an anatomy lab where you can dissect the whole cadaver? Ask that question! Do you want a program that has workout facilities because running is what you do to de-stress? Then ask that too! Are you curious what measures they have in place to ensure student success such a tutors, remediation examinations, or 24/7 access to a library or study area? Totally worth asking about! Allow yourself to be selective and don’t settle for anything less than a program that sparks an excitement in you as you embark on your journey to becoming a PA student. 

Yes, picking a PA program can be a hard, as getting into a PA school is a daunting enough task. But when you ask the right questions and do your research, you are one step closer to making a better choice on the PA program that is right for you. 

Out of all the tips I can give you, the most important one is to trust your gut and your heart. When you find the right program, you will know it. 


For a little more info on Jourdyn - I am currently a PA student at UW-Madison and will begin my clinical year in 1 short month! My favorite thing about being a PA student is the ability to learn and grow from all the valuable resources around me. I have so many knowledgeable, genuine, and compassionate people that have already guided me in my career as a PA student, and I will hopefully be able to surround myself with similar individuals once practicing. In addition, being a PA means that I can make a positive impact on a patient's life every single day. Not many careers can say that, and that leaves me awestruck and humbled every day.

Some things I have done up to this point include becoming a head student leader for a medical mission trip to Belize, being nominated as a student speaker for my undergraduate commencement ceremony, and am a member of one of the only rural based PA cohorts in the US. In my free time I enjoy traveling, spending time with my family, friends, and wonderful boyfriend, running, taking pictures, and drinking coffee in local coffee shops! 


 

 

May 2017 Webinar: Healthcare + Patient Care Experience for Physician Assistant School

Hey guys!  I wanted to remind you that the May webinar will go live today at 8 PM EST.  In this month's talk, I'm covering everything associated with the healthcare and patient care experience needed for PA school.  We'll talk about why it's important to get experience, what types of opportunities are available and where to find them, how to track this information for CASPA, and I'll be answering all of your questions too!  You can check back at this link at 8 PM to tune in to the session on The PA Platform, or you can watch on Youtube here where you can also submit questions to the chat.  Looking forward to seeing you there! 

Med Couture Scrub Review - Activate Collection

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Scrubs are a big part of my life.  I spend at least 50% of my life wearing scrubs since I work as a dermatology PA.  It's really important to me that my scrubs are super comfy, long-lasting, and I like for them to look nice too. 

Scrubs can be hit or miss.  While I've found some great pairs at Wal-Mart, I've also ordered some pretty terrible ones from Amazon or scrub stores.  

I was really pumped to get the chance to try out a type of scrubs that I've never worn before by Med Couture.  This company prides itself on being both fashionable and high-quality.  They have a few different collections of scrubs, including Activate, MC2, and Med Couture.  They offer scrubs for men and women, and also have maternity scrubs, petite and tall, underscrub, jackets, lab coats, and even scrub dresses.  (I don't know that I'll ever need the dresses one, but good to know!)

The scrubs I was sent to try are part of the new Activate line, which advertises 4-way stretch for an active lifestyle.  (These scrubs were provided to me free of charge, but all opinions are my own!  I only want to share things with you guys that I support, and I want you to have all the info before deciding if you want to buy!) The top I'm wearing is the Med Couture Activate In-Motion V-Neck Top and the pants are Med Couture Activate Transformer Cargo Pants.  For reference, I'm 5'1'' and I weigh 115 and I am wearing an XS in the top and XS Petite in the pants. 

Let's start with the things I love!  First of all, these scrubs feel awesome right out of the package.  I would describe the fabric as silky with a good bit of stretch.  I'm constantly bending down to took at the bottom of patient's feet or to make sure there aren't any funny moles hiding, so I need my scrubs to move and stretch with me. These scrubs are also very light and super comfy, which is awesome for our hot Georgia summers.  The style and fit is spot on - really flattering without being too tight or boxy.  There is an abundance of pockets, and even some with zippers and snaps.  I've been loving using the front pocket as a dedicated spot for pens, and the zipper pockets are nice when I'm running out for lunch and don't want to take my usually massive purse with me.  

The color is also definitely a true navy.  I typically wear navy scrubs at work, and I don't want them to be too light or more of a black navy, and these are perfect.  They have some cool lime green accents too on the drawstring and some of the pockets, which I appreciate! The other thing to note is the cost of these scrubs is awesome.  They range from around $20-30 per piece, which isn't bad at all for scrubs that are durable and have a good fit.  

My only complaints, which aren't really a big deal, is that the petite pants are almost too short.  Like maybe they needed a 1/2 inch more.  The inseam on the petite pants for this particular type is 28.5 inches.  That being said, I would rather have scrubs almost too short instead of a foot too long that I would have to get hemmed.  I alternate between wearing Danskos or my Nikes, and for this pair of scrubs, I'll stick to my tennis shoes because they're a tad too short with Danskos.  

I think I would also size up on the top personally.  I have what could be called an hourglass shape (AKA - I do have hips.) so the top was slightly tighter around the hip area, but not enough that it would prevent me from wearing these scrubs or even enough that I would want to exchange them.  

If you're interested in purchasing any Med Couture scrubs, you can check out their online scrub shop or order them on Amazon to use that awesome Prime free 2-day shipping.  Also make sure to follow @medcouture on Instagram so you don't miss out on any promotions! Comment with your favorite scrubs so I'll know what kind to try next! 

**This post does contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I get a few cents to keep my site running!  

Guest Post from Lorae the PA - The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Your Personal Statement

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I'm so excited to share a post with you from Lorae Schafer, a PA student who is killing it on Instagram (@Lorae.the.pa) and Youtube.  If you want to be encouraged and get some great tips, make sure you're following her on social media. 


The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement is the ultimate balancing act. In 5,000 characters or less, you are asked to showcase who you are, highlight your strengths, elaborate on your experiences, and showcase why you would make a great PA. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to emphasize what makes you unique and explain why programs should want to turn you into a PA. The prompt seems so simple – yet navigating your response can be a challenging and overwhelming task.

As an applicant, I felt I had to create a strong, memorable personal statement to compensate for an otherwise lackluster application. My GPA was average. My patient care/healthcare experience barely met the minimum, and I wasn’t 100% confident in my letters of recommendation. Heck, my prerequisites weren’t even complete by the time I submitted my application. Overall, I felt like a total work in progress! My saving grace was my ability to write about what I felt made me worthy of PA school. 

The personal statement is a powerful tool for communicating your individuality to admissions committees. That’s probably why there is so much pressure to make it perfect. But here’s the thing – you don’t have to be the greatest writer in the world to create a killer essay. All you need to know are the do’s and don’ts to create a solid framework for your personal statement. You can always build up from there!

DO…

Consider using a theme. Admissions committees read hundreds to thousands of personal statements every year. A theme allows you to tie your personal statement together by giving you something to bring all your thoughts back to. Even better, it gives your reader something to remember your essay by. Incorporating a positive theme can help increase your memorability as an applicant.

Draw in the reader. If your first paragraph is off to a slow start, you are setting the tone for an uninteresting essay and a blasé reader. Perhaps the most common way of creating a hook is with an interesting (and relevant) story. Whatever you decide – make the reader want to keep reading.

Be honest and transparent. Writing your personal statement isn’t about what you think the admissions committees want to hear; it’s about staying true to who you are. So, before you answer the prompt, make a simple list of the reasons why YOU want to be a PA – not things you found on the internet or heard from your mentor. Then draw on your own meaningful experiences to back up those reasons. By being honest, your personality should naturally start to shine through.

Edit, edit, edit. Continually revise your essay. Nothing ever comes out perfectly the first time around. Then ask your friends, family, colleagues, and/or mentors to look over your personal statement as well. This is useful in ensuring you have no grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes. It is also a great way to validate that your essay is genuine. The more eyes, the better!

(myPAresource is a fantastic site that uses certified PAs as editors. You may consider submitting your essay to them for revision after a few drafts.)

DON’T…

Define what a PA is. The admissions committees are reading your personal statement to learn something about you, so don’t waste precious time and space explaining something they already know. Instead, ask yourself how you know you could fulfill those same duties – and why you want to.

Restate your resume. Again, this will not contribute to your application. This is what CASPA is for! Use your essay to explain the “how” and “why” behind your resume. Why did working as a CNA confirm that the PA profession was right for you? How does your experience as an EMT substantiate your capabilities as a future PA?

Detail your life story. Yes, the admissions committees want to know you – but primarily the parts of you that are relevant to PA school. Instead of walking the admissions committees through your path to applying step-by-step, focus on specific experiences. Keep personal details and family struggles to a minimum unless they contribute strongly to why you would make a fantastic PA. Even then, focus the majority of your writing around your non-familial life.

Dwell on mistakes. It is tempting to fill up space justifying a failing grade. You are better off briefly touching on issues like these in no more than a couple sentences. Don’t let yourself be distracted from the task at hand. Stay focused on responding to the prompt, painting a picture of your strengths, and maintaining a positive emphasis. Academic hiccups or other potential red flags in your application can be left to a more thorough discussion at your interview.

Remember – you CAN do this! Just think back on how far you’ve come to be able to apply to PA school. This is just one more challenge along the way.


Lorae graduated from the University of San Diego in 2015 with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. She worked as a medical scribe in women's health for two years and is currently a first year PA student at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Guest Post from Brittany at PA Fanatic - My Top 5 CASPA Tips

I'm so excited to bring you a guest post today from Brittany at PA Fanatic.  I first got into contact with Brittany on Instagram, and she did an amazing job with sharing some tips.  If you want more advice from Brittany, and to follow along as she starts PA school shortly, check out her website or follow on Instagram @PAfanatic.  I did a post on Brittany's site with 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School, so make sure you read that one too! 


Every pre-pa needs to know these CASPA hacks. 

If you’re applying to CASPA right now, you already know how time consuming this process can be, but I promise it’s worth it! All the effort you’ve put into your application will be worth it once you get your first interview invite! I had my fair share of struggles with CASPA so I came up with 5 tips to help when applying to CASPA!

  1. Since I know you’re all busy little bees and have been volunteering, working, trying to have a social life, all while tying to get good grades, life can get hectic pretty quick and it’s easy to get disorganized. That’s why one of the most important things you can do for yourself when applying is to create an excel spreadsheet to help you organize all your activities! I found myself frequently changing my experience description up until I submitted my application. I found it way easier to work in excel than to keep changing things in CASPA until I submitted. I recommend finalizing everything in excel before plugging and chugging it all into CASPA.  
Example of Excel Sheet to Record CASPA Information
  • I made a tab for each category in CASPA
  • I made a table with columns for each piece of information needed to add an experience in CASPA

2. Keep track of all of your school deadlines! This is harder than it seems since so many schoolshave varying deadlines ranging from August all the way to December or even January! I found it helpful to write down each school’s deadline in my planner as well as having a post it note with each school’s deadline kept on my desk. It’s really important to pay attention to the deadline because some schools require you to be “completed” by the deadline, meaning your application (and supplemental if required) has been submitted and considered complete, while other schools require you to be “verified” by the deadline, meaning that you application not only has to be considered complete, but also reviewed by CASPA. The verification process can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks depending on when you submit so keep this in mind when deciding on when to submit your application!

3. Don’t underestimate the power of your supplementals! It’s easy to get burnt out completing your CASPA application and personal statement, but it’s still important to put a lot of effort into your supplementals. With the thousands of applications that each school receives, it’s hard to stand out on paper. Supplementals allow you to personalize your application a little more and if done right, could be the difference in you getting an interview spot over someone else. When I filled out my supplementals, I tried to treat each one like my personal statement. I periodically tweaked it and had 3+ people read them all over to ensure I had no grammatical mistakes. 

4. Always remember to update your application! As someone who applied my junior year of college (I was personally aiming to not take a gap year), it was important for me to continually send colleges my updated transcripts so that they could see what upper level science courses I was taking (schools love this btw). It’s also important to do this if you’ve accrued volunteering hours, or have continued to rack up PCE hours at your job! It shows that not only are you gaining more experience, but you also care to specifically update the program. If it were to come down to deciding between two similar applicants for who should get an interview spot, I think admissions would go with the applicant still gaining patient experience. I took the opportunity to reiterate why I was excited about a certain program when emailing them updates on my application. 

5. Set a deadline for yourself on when you want to submit your application! For me, I set the deadline as my birthday because I didn’t want to have to worry about CASPA on my birthday or the days following. Personally, I think this was extremely helpful because it was a solid date that I had to hold myself accountable for to finish my application by. If you’re anything like me, you’re a little type A and either 1) want to finish your app as fast as possible and rush through it or 2) will keep tweaking it forever. Setting a deadline helps you decide how many hours a week to devote to CASPA without getting overwhelmed and gives you a cutoff for when you just need to stop critiquing your app and have to just trust yourself! 

Lastly, but most importantly, have faith in yourself. If you’re not confident in yourself, how can you expect someone else to be? If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve worked extremely hard so hats off to you! During this arduous process it’s important to remain positive, you’ve got this!


Brittany recently graduated from Drexel University and will be attending Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for PA school this June! She originally thought she wanted to be a PT, but after more exposure in healthcare, she knew PA was for her and is excited to see where this journey takes her!  For more of Brittany's posts, check out PA Fanatic. 

My Thoughts on CASPA's Changes to Healthcare and Patient Care Definitions

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First of all, take a deep breath.  It will all be alright.  

This past week right before CASPA reopened for the 2017 cycle, there was a lot of buzz around some recent changes to the recommendations on how to classify experience on applications, and whether it should be categorized as healthcare experience (HCE) or patient care experience (PCE).  In the past, HCE was defined as working in a medical setting, but without directly interacting with patients in a way that involved their care (receptionist, billing, transport, etc.).  PCE was defined as any job in which there is direct patient interaction and care, such as nursing, EMT, paramedic, CNA, MA, etc.  These were more of roles where you were performing skills and had more responsibility.  Scribe has always fallen somewhere in between.  

Moving on to the new definitions. Here is a screenshot from the site, but you can see more here. 

CASPA's Healthcare and Patient Care Experience Definitions  

CASPA's Healthcare and Patient Care Experience Definitions  

This made a lot of people angry.  CASPA basically changed it so that CNA and MA are categorized as HCE instead of PCE, according to their guidelines.  The idea is proposed that a role is only PCE if you are more responsible for a patient's care and contributing to decisions about a patient's care.  CASPA also stated that these changes were made based on feedback from PA programs.  Obviously, this has many people who have worked hard for their hours feeling like they've wasted their time.  

I get it.  I worked as a CNA, and it's no joke.  I work with MAs all day long, and there is no denying that they are very involved in patient care.  But this may not be the case for all positions deemed CNA or MA, and I think that has been part of the problem.  If you work as an MA, but you're usually in the front office answering phones or working on prior authorizations and paperwork, that is more accurately HCE.  If you're taking vitals, performing venipuncture, and counseling patients, that's more PCE.  

Let's talk about why this will all be ok.  The final decision is up to each program, and unless they decide to change requirements last minute, all of the experience you've accrued should be fine.  CASPA gives you some discretion with statements like these: 

  • "Please review the definitions below, consider the duties which you performed during your experience, and use your best judgment to determine which category your experience falls into."
  • "CASPA advises applicants who have prerequisite requirements to confer with their individual programs if they are unsure how these programs will consider their experience."
  • "If you have any questions in regards to your experiences fulfilling an individual school’s requirements, you should inquire with that school directly."

Ultimately, you can decide where you feel like the experience should.  If it were me, I would list the experience where it was recommended based on CASPA's preferences.  But I would be very thorough in describing what my experience entailed and what my responsibilities included.  Make it clear to the programs how involved you are in patient care, but as always, be honest.  

If you're unsure about how a program will categorize your experience, the first step is to check the website and see if it's listed.  If you are unable to find an answer, consider contacting your top few programs to clarify.  Just keep in mind that they are probably getting a lot of these calls right now, so be patient.  

I hope this gives you some clarity, and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer or find an answer. CASPA is complicated (and confusing) at times, and I do my best to keep up, but I am not the final say!  It's also convenient that I planned for the May webinar to cover HCE and PCE (before CASPA even changed anything!).  Make sure to mark May 24th at 8 PM on your calendar so you don't miss out.  Comment below with your questions! 

Up and Coming: Florida Gulf Coast University

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Location:  Fort Myers, FL

Number of students: 20

Application Cycle:  CASPA, this year was open January-March 1, but this may change once the school is accredited with the FGCU Graduate School application

Interview dates: Late winter and spring 

Start date: August 2017 (if approved)

Length of Program: 27 months 

Public/Private: Public (significantly cheaper tuition for Florida residents)

PCE/HCE: Minimum 250 hours PCE - most competitive if requiring certification and paid 

GPA: Minimum 3.0 for last 60 credits of Bachelor's degree and minimum 3.0 for Biology/Chemistry/Physics

Shadowing: 20 hours strongly encouraged 

The Good Stuff:

  • Minimum of a C in prerequisites
  • Prerequisites must be done within 7 years
  • GRE required
  • Required letter of recommendation from a PA 
  • No out of state rotations allowed - all will be in Florida

Program Link: Florida Gulf Coast University PA Program Website

Physician Assistant Virtual Fair - April 2017

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Attention all Pre-PA students!  This is something really cool that you need to know about.  PAEA is the organization that is over physician assistant education, and occasionally they do virtual fairs.  This wasn’t around when I was in undergrad, or if it was then I was clueless, but it’s a great opportunity for you.  And the best part is that it is FREE! 

The dates for the upcoming fair are April 19-20, 2017.  All you have to do is visit this link to register.  On the days of the event you’ll be able to sign on and interact directly with the PA schools you are interested in.  There is a chat option, and video as well.  Start compiling your questions so you can finalize the list of where you’ll be applying.  This is perfect timing with CASPA about to open for the 2017-2018 cycle.  

If you can’t make it to this event, it looks like there will be another one in July, but I’ve heard great things about these virtual fairs.  It’s something you don’t want to miss. If you’ve attended one before, comment below to let me know how it was and if you have any tips for other Pre-PA students who are interested in attending.  

And don't forget about the CASPA/Applying to PA School Webinar on April 19th at 8 PM EST!