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!