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Guest Post: Benefits of Attending a Provisional PA Program

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I was so excited when Pooja Sitapara reached out to provide her insights on being part of a brand new PA program. I get a lot of questions about whether or not it's a good idea to apply to provisional programs or just new programs in general. Now we get some personal opinions! 


Hey, ya’ll! I’m a PA-S1 in the inaugural class at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. With so many new PA programs opening up next year, I wanted to share why I chose to attend a new program instead of a continuous-accredited program. 

There are so many reasons I love being part of a new PA program! In my opinion, newer programs tend to have more updated facilities and resources to teach you. My program has a state of the art building that’s brand new, a cadaver lab and SPECTRA table, multiple simulation mannequin patients, and OSCE rooms with a two-way window with a debriefing room on the other side for our professors and classmates to watch and provide constructive criticism. The OSCE rooms also have cameras and microphones so our professors can record our patient interactions and play them back for us. My program also has a lot of other equipment such as dermatoscopes, otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes in each exam room, and models of patients with detachable parts, such as different ears that have different pathological conditions. Most of these resources weren’t available at some of the older and more established programs I interviewed at. 

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Another benefit of a new program is that your feedback and opinions carry much more weight with the faculty and administration. The director of my program has monthly meetings with my class to ask about our concerns and feedback, and our administration is very readily available to help us at any time. Almost all of our suggestions are immediately implemented, or the faculty explains to us why they can’t implement our wishes. The faculty also makes it a point to ask us how they can teach us better

A newer program is much more flexible in making changes and trying newer and better ways of doing things. I also feel as if newer programs want you to succeed just as much, if not more than you, because the student’s success and feedback is an integral component of their accreditation process. My program even pays for a tutor to come in after each body system we finish to provide supplemental materials and learning!

Lastly, being a part of a new or newer program means that you get to play an active role in the ARC-PA accreditation process of a program. Throughout your time in PA school, you get to share your feedback through interviews and surveys. This is definitely a skill that you can use to market and set yourself apart from other PA students! 

On a personal note, I know it can be nerve wrecking to consider a new PA program. However, on a logistical note, if you start a provisionally accredited/new program, the ARC-PA mandates that the program graduates you and lets you sit for the PANCE. This really took a lot of the worry off my plate. And I know the process of applying to PA school is one that is very much driven by your brain, but trust your heart and your gut when you decide which program to attend. Honestly, a new program wasn’t high up on my list, but after interviewing at CSU, I was so impressed with the director of the program and the faculty and it just felt so right that I knew this program was the right fit for me. When choosing programs to apply to and interview at, remember you are interviewing the program just as much as they are interviewing you. You’re investing a lot of time and money into your PA education, so find a program that will not only educate you, but will also align with your personal mission statement and goals. 

Good luck with the 2018-2019 CASPA cycle! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at pvsitapara@csustudent.net. I’ll try my best to read as many of them as I can!

Fun Fact: I chose to become a PA after I figured out what I wanted to do! My short/midterm goal is to get experience in the PICU, orthopedic surgery, and general pediatrics. My ultimate goal is to open a behavioral health center and use my medical experience to treat abused and neglected children in South Carolina. I needed a career that allowed me to work in multiple specialties and get a diverse quality of medical experience, all while being flexible enough to let me keep volunteering locally and abroad, which is really important to me! Physician assistant was the perfect career for my goals and checked off every single one of my boxes!


Guest Post from The Skin Sisters - Why We Became PAs

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

How exactly does a combined BS/PA program work? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!


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 


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 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.


Personal Statements: Tips from a Reapplicant

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I'm so excited to bring you guys an awesome guest post by Meghan from the PA blog, Meghan in Medicine!  Enjoy!

Ah, the dreaded personal statement talk. Personal statements can be uncomfortable, strange, and odd to write. Writing or talking about myself has never been my strong suit, and always makes me feel awkward. There is a thin line between coming off confident, well balanced, and self-aware opposed to cocky, conceited, and arrogant in person, and this line is even thinner on paper.

I was a second time applicant to PA school when I got acceptance offers. I altered my personal statement in between application cycles to really encompass who I am, what I've been through that would make me stand out as an applicant, and who I want to be as a Physician Assistant. These are such vague ideas but they helped steer me in the right direction. I was not 100% happy with my first personal statement and am glad that I reached out to get opinions on revising it.

I was fortunate enough to visit with a PA-C who was formally on an admissions committee board for a PA school about my application during my off time. She told me some harsh words about my first personal statement. She told me to nix the dramatic introduction - something I've been told to include since undergraduate workshops, and really focus on 1. what makes me stand out as an applicant 2. what I can bring to a PA class in terms of diversity, and 3. what I will bring to the table as a Physician Assistant.

To help those that are needing some direction I am going to share some major points I made in my personal statement that corresponds with the advice I was given.

  1. What I think helped me stand out as an applicant is that I am an African American woman in a health care field that is 3% African American. I touched on that in my introduction and I gave background on why I wanted to be in the healthcare field. 
     
  2. I bring diversity first in my ethnicity and second in my experiences. I have taken two Medical Service Trips that I am so proud of and am thankful for. The second one made the most impact to me due to an interaction with a citizen who said he'd "rather die" than receive help from the public hospitals around him. This trip was a moment where I realized I wanted to dedicate myself to serving the underserved in medicine and in my community one day.
     
  3. This section was at the end and it included my goals as an aspiring Physician Assistant. Touch on the patient care you want to provide, the kind of provider you want to be recognized as, patient advocacy, health education, etc. 

I really do hope this will help someone reading this because I know how awkward it is to write an essay about yourself. Try to be as honest and forthcoming as possible. Do not include things that aren't genuine because they will notice and will take note. Remember, these admissions committees read upwards of 2,000 personal statements per application cycle, and they know what they are looking for.

Make sure to check out Meghan's website, Meghan in Medicine, for more awesome Pre-PA advice, and you can e-mail her directly at Meghan.ross12@yahoo.com if you have any questions!  I'm excited to hear more of her advice once school starts, and I hope you guys will show her some love in the comments.  And if you're looking for the best personal statement editors that are specifically for PA school, check out myPAresource, and make sure to use the code "thePAPlatform" for a discount on your revision!.  What are your tips for personal statements as a reapplicant?  


Tips from an Undergrad: Preparing for the Medical Profession

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I'm so excited to share a guest post with you from Emily at The Organized Undergrad.  She's doing an amazing job of documenting her journey towards the medical profession, including all of her experiences and process of deciding between PA or medical school.  I recently did a post for her about this that you can find on her blog. 


Hello readers of The PA Platform!

I’m Emily and I’m a pre-medical/pre-pa student that runs TheOrganizedUndergrad. I’m currently a sophomore in college and I’m a Health Science major/Human Biology minor. Since I have a full year of undergrad under my belt, I would love to share some insight on the things that I’m doing to better prepare me for the medical profession.

First off, I am in a sorority (Chi Omega) and I hold a leadership position as the Director of Campus Activities. This is just a fancy title that means I keep my sorority chapter involved with the school and other on-campus organizations. I act as a liaison between us and the Director of Greek Life, as well as plan various events such as Greek Week. I can’t stress enough how Chi Omega keeps me feeling supported and motivated when I’m stressing about school. It is my creative outlet away from science and medicine. I have also gained a wonderful friend group and support system by joining Chi Omega.

Second, I foster good relationships with my professors. Whether you’re pursing medical school or PA school, you are going to need outstanding letters of recommendation. Showing up to class every day, on time, communicating, asking for help, and following through are excellent ways to show your professors that you are worth recommending. Even if you make a sub-par grade in the class, if the professor knows that you have given your 110% effort, they will respect you for that. I also let my professors know that I appreciate them by sending them a thank-you card at the end of the semester. This helps them remember you with a positive impression. If possible, I take multiple classes with the same professor (if they are good!) to help solidify relationships and keep consistency.

Third, I think it’s important to keep balance in your academics and extra-curricular activities. I was the queen of “over-doing it” when I was in high school. I spread myself so thin that my grades and my relationships started to suffer. I am keeping myself limited in what I will say “Yes” to during college. I think that maintaining friendships and a social life positively impacts grades and academics. It’s very possible to burn yourself out in college by doing things that don’t really interest you. This spring, I will be taking an EMT-Basic class at my local community college to gain health-care experience and make some money for school. I am very excited for that!

Lastly, be brave, it’s amazing what people will tell you when you ask. I reach out to every medical professional that I can about their experience in health care. I have spoken with Nurses, NP’s, Physicians, and PA’s. I have narrowed down that I love the medical model, thus I am deciding between PA and MD. You can’t ever have enough information or perspective, so ask everybody and anybody what their opinions and experiences are. Also, I would caution prospective health care professionals to stay away from websites like studentdoctor.com. They are forum-based and tend to become negative and discouraging frequently. Speak only with people who have real experience and knowledge, rather than someone hiding behind a username.

I also wanted to highlight some very cool things that I have seen while shadowing! So far, I have shadowed a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, a Cardiothoracic PA, and an Anesthesiologist. As far as full-length surgery, I saw three CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting) surgeries and a Cesarean section. I also ran around the surgical unit with the Anesthesiologist and saw small portions of a vaginal hysterectomy, a robotic lung surgery and an abdominal surgery. On my days shadowing the PA, we rounded on patients all morning and I watched as he updated their medications and discharged some patients. He removed their chest tubes and also showed me a patient with subcutaneous emphysema (air bubbles under the skin) and it felt like a rice krispie treat. My best experience was with a patient that had surgery (that I watched) on Sunday morning that had a very high mortality rate. They pulled through and I actually watched them get discharged on Friday afternoon. It was very gratifying to see them make it home. A big thing that I learned from this experience is that I really love talking to patients, and I don’t think that the surgical environment is for me.

I start my sophomore year of college in just under a week, and I will (hopefully) be expanding my experiences and learning more about the healthcare profession that I love!

Please feel free to contact me through my website, www.theorganizedundergrad.com. I would be happy to answer any questions and would love to hear about your experiences!

Meet Emily from The Organized Undergrad!  

Meet Emily from The Organized Undergrad!  

A big thanks to Savanna for inviting me to post on The PA Platform!

Best of luck to everyone!

Emily (The Organized Undergrad)

 


So Why Do You Want to Be a PA?

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This is a question that you can be expected to answer multiple time, even daily when you make the decision to become a PA.  Here is one PA's answer to the common question of "Why PA?"


I stumbled upon the profession by chance. I was a junior in high school when a friend of mine casually brought up the title Physician Assistant. I had no concept of what it meant to be a PA but I was intrigued. Luckily for me the internet was swarming with information so I quickly learned the vital role PAs play in medicine.

Once you graduate from a PA Program and receive your license you can start working in the specialty of your dreams - it seemed unreal. In addition, as a PA you have the autonomy to actively manage patients beside a doctor. Your job description can widely vary depending on the area of medicine which you are employed. Although all PAs require a "supervising physician" in order to practice, this does not mean that a doctor is present during all of your patient interactions. Many PAs actually have their ownschedule of patients they independently care for. Picture this: You see a patient, obtain a history, perform a physical exam and find that they have developed an infection. As a PA you are then able to initiate a treatment plan. If your plan includes ordering lab tests and writing a prescription for antibiotics, you can make those decisions without having to consult with a doctor. However, if something seems unusual or you are not quite sure how to proceed forward, you have the comfort of asking your supervising physician for guidance. I feel that is actually one of the most comforting aspects of the profession, I am never alone. I always have someone I can bounce ideas off of and to rely on if I hit a crossroad.

Another appealing facet of the profession is you can work as little as 3 days a week in some specialties and consider yourself full time! In other words, working as a PA it is possible to establish a great work life balance. In addition, if your ever need to supplement your income there are ample opportunities to pick up extra shifts. I am constantly receiving job opportunities from recruiters for per diem and locum tenens positions. Working part time or even taking a hiatus from your career is not uncommon. In 2015 the NCCPA found 1,481 PAs were not in clinical practice due to family responsibilities. For example, I am taking time off from my clinical duties to be at home with my newborn daughter. I love having the comfort in knowing that when I am ready to re-enter practice again, I will be able to find a job suitable for me.

Duke University established the first PA program in 1965. For a profession that birthed its first three PAs in 1967, PAs have come a long way. At the end of 2014 there were 101,977 board certified PAs in the country. I consider myself lucky to be a part of the movement, and so should you!

Charishma Nayyar Mankikar, PA-C, is a plastic surgery physician assistant and the founder of PAsRISE.com


How To Prepare for PA School in Undergrad

I'm excited to share a guest post with you from a soon-to-be PA student, Aashna!  Make sure to check out her site for more great advice and to follow her journey through PA school.  

1. Pre-reqs

You don't have to be a biology or chemistry major to apply to PA school. I know a lot of applicants that majored in exercise science, HHP, and even in history before applying to Med/PA school. If you are a non-science major, make sure you take all the pre-reqs required for the programs you're looking at. This takes a bit of planning and something your advisor would be able to help you out with.

2. GPA & GRE

Every year PA schools are becoming more and more competitive and the minimum GPA and GRE scores required keep rising. It's important to keep in mind that the minimum required GPA & GRE scores and the average GPA & GRE scores of the accepted students are two different things. You want your GPA & GRE scores to be either in the same vicinity or higher than the average scores of accepted students. That doesn't mean that you won't get in if you have a GPA that's lower than the accepted average, but it definitely makes you a stronger applicant.

3. Shadowing

Most programs REQUIRE you to have a certain amount of minimum PA shadowing experience prior to applying to PA school. I would suggest shadowing at least two PAs in different specialties so you can a look at what all is out there and if becoming a PA is something you're still interested in. It's a good idea to start shadowing a few years in advance during your summer breaks to accumulate your shadowing hours.

4. Volunteering

Again, depending on the program, volunteering in a hospital or a clinic can count as part of your healthcare experience. It's a good idea to call and ask the program you're looking at what exactly they require. Not all of your volunteering needs to be in a clinical setting. While non-clinical volunteering won't count towards your healthcare experience, it's a nice way for you to show what else you're interested in and are passionate about. 

5. Hands-on healthcare experience

Depending on what program you're applying to, they'll either have a set number of recommended or required hands-on (paid or unpaid) healthcare experience. While one program may accept shadowing and volunteering as part of your healthcare experience, others might not. At some programs, if you have 200-300+ hours of healthcare experience, you are considered a competitive applicant. But there are also programs out there that require a minimum of 1000-1500+ hours of hands-on healthcare experience. Don't let this intimidate you. These programs are usually for people who are considering becoming a PA as their second career. There are plenty of programs that you can apply to that don't require as much experience.

6. Research

At one of my interviews, I was asked if I had any research experience. Although it is not required for you to have done research in order to apply to PA school, it can bump up your chances of getting an interview invitation. And it's even better if you've been published in a scientific journal. If you think you don't have the time to do research during the school year, try to find out if you can conduct research at your university during the summer. Another option is to look up summer internships that might available for undergrads in your area.

7. Letters of recommendation

A lot of people don't think about developing a strong professional relationship with their advisors, professors, or healthcare providers they shadow/work with until it's time to apply to PA school. Try to keep in mind that the people you work with or learn from can write a stronger and more personal LOR than someone who doesn't really know your strengths or your abilities.

 

These are just some of the things I suggest you consider while you're preparing to apply to PA school. It's important to keep in mind that every student is going to have a different background and experience, and that is okay. The admissions committee doesn't expect all of us to be the same. It's also okay to have a gap year or two in between, as I did, and still be considered a strong applicant. As long as you're passionate about becoming a PA and are willing to work hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to! 


 Hi! I’m Aashna, a Physician Assistant student, documenting my journey of becoming a PA. When I was thinking of applying to PA school, there were not a lot of resources available to me where I could read personal experiences of other PA students or practicing PAs. I decided to start blogging as a way to provide support, encouragement, and advice for anyone that is looking into the PA profession. On my blog, I share advice and tips for pre-PAs and will soon start posting about my experiences as a PA-S. Sometimes, you’ll also get to read my random musings about life and how I try to stay organized. To read more articles, head on over to my blog at apthepa.blogspot.com