With the opening of CASPA approaching quickly, and my time in PA school winding down, I thought it would be a great opportunity to go back and revitalize some of my older “Pre-PA” post. I originally created this blog to help pre-pa students after my own experience (read: confusion) while applying, and while I’ve strayed from this motive during my time in school, I definitely still have a large desire to help all my pre-pa friends out there. When it comes down to it, I love my profession and I am so thankful everyday that I choose to go this route.
And so, here is the first #FuturePAFriday
should I apply to PA school?
I probably get asked some variation of this question daily. And as much as I wish I could look into the future and see what would happen if you applied, I can’t. So I tend to fall back on asking you a question in return.
Will you be happy as a PA?
I honestly can’t tell you if applying to PA school is the right choice for you. At the end of the day its your decision, and you need to do what’s best for you! If you have doubts or hesitations, there’s probably a good reason why, and it’s important you sit down and figure out why you’re feeling like that. My goal in asking you this question is to encourage you to think about these things.
However, I can tell you that applying, and choosing, to go to Physician Assistant school was definitely the right decision for me. Growing up, my mother was working her way through NP degree. My parents worked hard to give my brothers and I every opportunity in life. They also instilled in us the importance of holding out a helping hand to those in need. So, I knew that no matter what, I wanted to be involved in medicine and I wanted to be part of a team, I just had to figure out what avenue I wanted to take to get there. When choosing to apply to PA school, there were a couple of things that stood out for me when compared to other careers. I liked the form of learning that was used, the length of time it would take me, how young I would be when I started my career (depending on when I got in), and that I would have the option of being able to switch my specialty field if I wanted to.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about why each of these aspects matter to me, and I encourage you to think about them as well! Also think about other things that matter to you and will make you happy.
PA school uses the medical model of learning – ie very similar to what medical schools use. This means there is a focus in diagnosis and treatment, and less of a holistic view of the patient and their problems (like what some of the nursing model classes focus on). While there are many different approaches to this model, you can learn by system (cardiology or endocrine or nervous system) or the school can teach a section of the body (head, thorax, abdomen) and you learn about the different systems that interact in this part of the body and what they do.
Most PA programs run for two to three years. While there are Residency/Fellowship programs out there for PAs, most jobs don’t require them and new graduates are able to start working as soon as they pass the PANCE and become credentialed. This does mean that there is a lot more “on the job” learning than you might encounter in an MD/DO residency, but I didn’t view this as a negative.
I made the decision early on (at 16) that I wanted to become a PA, so I spent a lot of time working towards that goal. I spent two years working as a CNA to get my patient contact hours and I ended up getting into PA school directly from undergrad. This means I’m going to be out in the “real” world and practicing medicine at the ripe-old-age of 24. This was a HUGE selling point for me. I’ve always considered myself an old soul and I wanted to have the ability to start my life earlier – which as naive as it sounds was something very important to me when I was deciding to apply. I’ve realized now that being in school or residency doesn’t mean that you’re not in the real world and that your life hasn’t “started”. It’s just a different kind of life experience.
But the thing that drew me the most to PA school, and the main reason I decided to go this route instead of MD/DO is the ability to switch specialty fields. One thing I’ve learned about myself is how much I love medicine in general. I’ve never been hooked on one specific field, and I probably never will be. Even now as I’ve gone through clinical year, I can honestly say how much I’ve loved all of my rotations. I get as much enjoyment out of being in the OR with a c-section as I do helping a patient clear up their acne. And becoming a PA means that I will have the ability to switch fields. Yes, it can definitely be harder than it’s made out to be, and it might mean applying to a LOT of job openings, but it’s definitely a possibility.
At the end of the day, if being a PA is what is going to make you happy, then you should apply.
Don’t worry about the thoughts of others, and focus on your own feelings. And if you know that deep down you will always be disappointed to not be Dr. so-and-so, you need to go to medical school. Being a PA is not a fallback plan or a second best choice, as much as it is a second career for some people. It’s a wonderful career with tons of opportunities for motivated individuals.
I would LOVE to learn about your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to comment or reach out to me individually. And if you’re wondering if you’re ready to apply and were hoping I would help answer that in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint! But I’m going to be posting my updated thoughts on that next week.
Also, if you ever have ideas for a topic you want me to cover for #FuturePAFriday, shoot me an email! I’m also going to be covering one pre-pa “ask me anything” question a week for #SparkleSunday – you can find the form to ask this question on my CONTACT page
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