Physician Assistant school is one of the most competitive medical graduate degrees out there. People have caught on to what a wonderful career PA school offers. In fact, people have gotten so caught up in the coolness of the career that they forget to ask themselves if it is the right career.
That is why health care experience is such a key part of the journey to get into PA school.
I often hear people ask if their experience will count towards their required hours, or what type of experience will look best on their application. This is the wrong attitude to have. Yes, there is a component of pragmatism that we can’t ignore. BUT, there are two other reasons why healthcare experience is important.
- Do you understand all the roles in healthcare? If you don’t have exposure to medical settings, how will you even know if the PA role is right for you? Learning about how different people function in their jobs will give you a clearer picture of what kind of position is right for you. You may find out that what really excites you is nursing. Or that you would rather be counseling patients solely on nutrition. If you don’t see these other people in action, than you won’t have a full understanding of how you want to fit into the system.
- Do you have what it takes? Exposure to patient care allows you to really find out if you can handle frustration. Managing sick people isn’t always fun. It can be annoying, tiresome, and draining. Some situations are just plain tragic. Not everyone is cut out for it. Being a PA has given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but for every mountain there is a valley.
I know there are programs out there that don’t require any hours of healthcare experience. But you need to look at the big picture. The last thing you want to do is to commit your time and finances to a career that you don’t know anything about. Being a Physician Assistant is a way of life, not just a 9-5 job. There needs to be a passion that drives your desire to help people. So instead of worrying about how something will look on your CASPA application, think about how your experience will strengthen your resolve to care for patients. Or maybe your experience will show you that medicine really isn’t the right place for you, and that’s OK!
Becoming a PA is one of the biggest decisions you will make in life. Make sure you go into it with full knowledge of what you are committing to.