Message for Prospective Physician Assistant Students
March 27, 2010 in Prospective PAs
Hello prospective Physician Assistant world… I’d like to start out by saying you are expressing interest into an amazing career that is one of the fastest growing careers in the country. I am a first year PA student who has had an amazing experience thus far and I’d like to share that with you. I am also going to talk a little about my drive for entering the physician assistant world and how I went about accomplishing that.
To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about PAs until I started working as an x-ray and CT tech in 2006. I now know that growing up in Bruce, WI my primary caregiver at our local small town clinic was a PA this whole time. I guess I always thought she was a doc, as most people do.
I had a great job in radiology and computed tomography in Green Bay, WI. I worked with an amazing group of people, learned a ton about the imaging world, performed a number of procedures, and developed great patient care skills. I have always been a people person and can pretty much hold a conversation with any English speaking conscious human being. The one thing that I disliked about my job in radiology is that I never knew what happened to my patients post exam/procedure. I wanted to be more involved in their care. Therefore, I knew once I was finished with radiology school that I was not done yet, but I was not sure in which direction I should head. Of course medical school was in the back of my mind, but the amount of school and lack of family life was not enticing at that point in my life.
One of my closest friends was married to a physician assistant and I sat down one day and began talking to him about his job. Then I shadowed him among many other PAs that I worked with in the ER. It sounded like the best of both worlds…. A rewarding career with the ability to educate and make a difference in someone’s life, the ability to implement a plan of care and follow up with them, an ideal amount of knowledge that is both rewarding and provides professional satisfaction, and the opportunity to be involved in my family life, but still have a tremendous amount of autonomy in the health care field.
So then it began, I worked full time and went to school at UW-Green Bay full time to finish my degree and get all the prerequisites I needed to apply to Physician Assistant programs. With determination in mind, lack of sleep was the last thing that I let interfere. The one and only program I applied to was UW Madison’s, because that was my #1 choice. Did I put all my eggs in one basket and take a risk? Yes… and it worked out for me, but I don’t recommend it! Apply to many schools. Do as many interviews as possible. I wish I would have so I could have gained more interviewing experience. The interview is by far the best experience and a very important aspect in the acceptance process… practice practice practice… on your little sister, little brother, dog, cat, plant, best friend, parent, while looking in the mirror, etc. Of course, health care experience is VERY important as well to even get an interview. Many of my classmates have wonderful experience as CNAs, lab techs, paramedics, nursing, radiology, athletic training, etc.
A few things I found helpful to prepare for the application process was really asking myself why I want to become a PA and getting it down on paper in preparation for the essay I knew I had to write for the CASPA application. Keep a list of accomplishments, work experience, and goals, as it is a great way to remember everything. I purchased two books: “Getting Into the Physician Assistant School of Your Choice ” by Andrew Rodican and, “An Applicants Guide to Physician Assistant School and Practice ” by Erin Sherer. I found both of them useful tools that really prepared me for what to expect in the CASPA application, how to write a personal statement, what to expect during the interview and once I was accepted, school, career, etc. I researched the school website, Wisconsin Association of Physician Assistants (WAPA) website, and American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) website. I became an affiliate member to AAPA and received their monthly articles so I knew what was happening in the PA world when it came time to interview and well, it just looked good… really showed the committee how much I was interested in this profession.
Just realize that if you are thinking of applying to Physician Assistant school it is a tremendous amount of work and it takes more dedication than you can imagine. I know it has been a very humbling experience for me thus far, but it is amazing how much I have learned in such a short period of time. Anyone up for the challenge has to be willing to devote a large portion of their personal life to their PA education. It is definitely a rewarding opportunity to be in a PA program, but can be a difficult time for students and their families who don’t get to spend very much time together. Although, speaking for myself, my classmates and faculty have been the best family away from home I could have asked for! It really is an amazing experience… and I’m on spring break right now and already miss them!