The Physician Assistant Life

Made by PA: Labulator is an app to help expand differential diagnoses via laboratory results

Labulator is an app to help expand differential diagnoses via laboratory results. Made by PALabulator isn't your average lab values app!

It's an intersection between medicine and technology and an educational tool to help clinicians, medical students, and healthcare professionals better interpret laboratory data.

Designed by Daniel Johnson PA-C, Labulator is a tool to help expand differential diagnoses via laboratory results.

dannyI created the app while working in an emergency department.  In a high-pressure environment such as the ED, I didn't have time to search multiple references to get the most out of the patient's lab results. I needed something quick but succinct.

Labulator was slowly refined through constant use, research, and feedback from my colleagues in the ED.

What came from this experience is a dynamic medical reference tool unlike any other.  Don't let the simplicity on the front end fool you!

How it works is simple:

  1. Enter in basic patient information. Age, sex, fever or no fever.
  2. Drag any test or panel of tests from the column on the left to the column on the right and press "Next".
  3. Select whether the test result is high, low, positive, or negative. Press "Evaluate".
  4. Disease results will be ranked from most likely to least likely. Select a disease for more information. Additional recommendations to further narrow your diagnosis are given in this area. Pressing the name of the condition links to additional information and pressing the relevant test name cites the reference.

Click the images below to enlarge:

What people had to say

"Love this thing!"

"This app has saved me a ton of time. I’ve used a few apps like this from 9.99 all the way up to 19.99 and this app blows them away. The compiled data is way more extensive and the user interface is simple and clean. I’ve already recommend this to a few student buddies of mine and they were really impressed with the app."

"I highly recommend this app to anyone who wants to save some time and check their accuracy while also dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s just to be safe."

"I'm sure many people will find Labulator to be useful and easy to navigate just as I did. Simple easy, a differential tool using labs. It helped me wade through my own lab work, I couldn't believe it was spot on."

Download Labulator

LABULATOR APPLabulator is currently on sale through iTunes and is designed for both the iPhone and iPad.

It is a must have app for clinicians and students in all practice settings!

Click here to not only get a wonderful app but also support the wonderful PA who made it: Download Labulator on iTunes


Are you a PA who has made something cool and amazing?

If so let me know and I will happily feature it in my "made by PA" blog series. Just email me at with the details or leave a note in the comments section below.

Reproductive System 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 39

Reproductive System Board Review PodcastWelcome to episode 39 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Join me as I continue to cover topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA™ content blueprint.

Click here to download my interactive content blueprint checklist

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific OBGYN/reproductive board review questions.

The reproductive system accounts for 8% of your PANCE/PANRE board exam.  

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full reproductive review includes over 107 reproductive system content blueprint specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy or my new site SMARTY PANCE!!

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Reproductive System PANCE and PANRE Podcast Quiz


Congratulations - you have completed Audio PANCE and PANRE OBGYN 1. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.


Looking for all the podcast episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be releasing new episodes every few weeks. The Academy is discounted, so sign up now.

Resources and Show Notes:

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Google Play: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Google Play
  3. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher


How to Write “Physician Assistant” The PA Grammar Guide

How to Write Physician Assistant The PA Grammar GuideTo capitalize or not?

How do you write the plural of physician assistant?

For that matter, what is the proper name of the profession?

All these questions are real — We know because we see the mistakes in capitalization, grammar, and worse, the name of the profession just about every day as essays roll in.

If you want to get it right, read on!

How to Write Physician Assistant


The general rule is no, physician assistant is not capitalized.

If you doubt my word, check (other 😀 ) reliable sources — medical dictionaries for one, like the U.S. Library of Medicine.

Many medical schools, PA studies programs and universities have writing guides with the correct way to spell or cite various professions. They’re usually on the school’s website.

Of course, there are exceptions.

The main one relates to formal titles. Anytime you’re citing a specific program name or degree title, you’ll capitalize the words. For example, it’s “Rutgers University Physician Assistant Program,” and “Master of Physician Assistant Studies.”

It’s also possible that a specific school will have a different opinion about the subject. Always check the school website to see if physician assistant is capitalized and if so, in what context. Follow the school’s lead!

Examples of correct usage:

“I will be the best physician assistant the world has ever seen.”

“In order to be the best physician assistant the world has ever seen I need to complete the Brown School of Physician Assistant Studies.”

Examples of incorrect usage:

“I will never get into Physician Assistant school because I don’t know the rules.”

“My interest in becoming a Physician Assistant started when my parents said they wouldn’t pay for medical school.”

By the way, most professions are not capitalized. That includes physician, doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner and dietitian to name a few. Look it up before you use it.

A mistake in capitalization doesn’t mean your application will necessarily land in the reject pile. However, there is one mistake that pretty much guarantees your application will go out with the recycle.

That’s getting the name of the profession wrong.

It is not physician’s assistant. Ever. 

When I interviewed Admissions Directors and faculty across the country about writing these essays for our book, “How To Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement,” all said getting the name of the profession wrong is a big red flag. It tells them that people likely just looked at a website to learn about the profession and have no clue what it’s really about.

Examples of correct usage: We repeat, there is never a time when you will write physician’s assistant.

Examples of incorrect usage:

“I want to be a physician’s assistant because it sounded like fun when I read about it on the Internet.”

“I want to be a Physician’s Assistant because it sounded like fun when I read about it on the Internet.”

The Possessive and The Plural

Just to be clear, the possessive of physician assistant is physician assistant’s or if using the acronym, PA’s. The plural is physician assistants or if using the acronym, PAs.

Examples of correct usage:

“The physician assistant’s demeanor was warm and welcoming.” (possessive)

“The PA’s demeanor was warm and welcoming.” (possessive)

“The physician assistants I shadowed were warm and welcoming.” (plural)

“The PAs I shadowed were warm and welcoming.” (plural)

Examples of incorrect usage:

“The physician assistants demeanor was warm and welcoming.”

“The PAs demeanor was warm and welcoming.”

“The physician assistant’s I shadowed were warm and welcoming.”

“The PA’s I shadowed were warm and welcoming.”

We’ve spelled it out for you. Now it’s up to you to spell it right!

adobe pdfYou can download a FREE PDF version of this guide: How to Write Physician Assistant the Definitive Guide

Stephen-Pasquini-Work-PicA note from Stephen:

To show you just how important this is, here is a personal email I received in July of 2014 from Janette Rodriguez, editorial director at The American Academy of Physician Assistants. She knows a thing or two about writing the word physician assistant and here is what she had to say about my poor PA prose:

From: Janette Rodrigues
Subject: Apostrophes

Message Body:


We haven't talked for a while but you know I'm a fan. You are one of the best PA bloggers out there, and you've created something amazing with The PA Life. But you're killing me with the creative grammar.

The plural of PA is PAs, not PA's.

Take care,

Janette at AAPA

See, none of us are immune to looking like an idiot  😉

So please, don't repeat my mistake, spell the name of our profession right.

Not only will your essay or blog post avoid the trash compactor, you may find yourself outsmarting many well-intentioned pre-PAs or PAs like myself who just didn't know any better!

PA Personal Statement Help

Looking for some more inspiration?

31-Physician-Assistant-School-Essay-and Personal Statement-Examples-and-SamplesTake a look at these 31 sample PA school personal statements shared through members of our community. Use it as a guide to see what works and possibly what doesn't as you sit down to write your 5,000 character CASPA essay.

How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!

Admissions Directors and faculty share their expectations for your PA school personal statement and we teach you how to write it!

What Makes This Book Unique?

We have worked with 1000’s of applicants through our Personal Statement and Essay Collaborative and have interviewed PA school faculty and Admissions Directors from 12 top ranking PA schools across the country to give you the inside scoop and provide you with a guaranteed formula for success.

Chapter 1: The Expert Panel
Admissions directors and faculty from 12 top ranking PA schools tell you exactly what they want in your personal statement.

Chapter 2: Writing Your Personal Statement
Now that you know what PA school admissions directors are looking for in your essay it’s time to get to work. In this section we offer you the tools you need to write an essay that will resonate with the PA school admissions committee.

Chapter 3: Personal Statements That Worked
These essays resulted in PA school acceptance letters. What’s their secret? We give you real-world samples and step-by-step analysis.

Chapter 4: Wrapping Up
When we sit down to write our essay, we take a risk. We risk our words being rejected, we risk our work being compared to others, we risk revealing parts of ourselves we may not want others to see, we risk money, time with our loved ones, or worse yet, proving the naysayers right. That's the nature of creating something meaningful; we're trading time for the pursuit f something bigger than ourselves.  Sharing a part of ourselves and sharing who we are is always risky. Writing a meaningful essay takes courage. Is there something stopping you from writing an essay that matters? Here we explore common barriers to success and how to overcome them.

Total pages: 83

Here is what people have to say

Holy cow! I wanted to let you know I have been accepted to PA school.  I will be attending the Franklin Pierce Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2019 in West Lebanon, NH. I cannot thank you enough for being part of my journey.

If you are reading this you might have been like me skeptical and trying to find a way to write a stellar essay for your PA application.  I want to share with you my exceptional experience using this service.  First, do yourself a favor and BUY the eBook, “The Insider’s Guide to Your Personal Statement.”  I read it twice. Once before I started my essay draft and then again during.  I cannot stress how helpful the book was in clearly stating what the Admissions Directors are looking for in application essay.

Next, the book reviews how to formulate a proper essay with clear instructions, easy reminders of the writing process, and excellent examples of good and bad writing choices.  After several drafts of my essay I made an appointment to work with Duke Pasquini, one of the authors of the guide, through the internet and via phone to help with editing and my length issue.  Duke’s professional experience and kind and straight forward demeanor allowed me to create a winning essay that was an authentic representation of me.  Not only did I receive an interview from my top choice of PA school I was accepted a week later into their Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2019.  Thank you, “PA Life” for being a part of my journey.Michele Williams

Fantastic read. If you're applying to PA school, you've most likely taken a writing course or two as an undergrad, written countless papers for other classes, and faced the dreaded GRE's writing portion. You know how to write.

But when faced with the personal narrative prompt "write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant.", where do you even begin? And how do you carry that momentum forward into a compelling story that will grant you the invitation for an interview?

This book helped me drastically in what was expected in a PA narrative. It covers the things you should do and the mistakes you should avoid. Before reading this book, I felt quite confident in my personal statement. Upon finishing the 90 pages, I realized my essay was great, but not for PA school. I had made several mistakes mentioned in this book, such as focusing too much on certain experiences, and writing excessively about them, instead of focusing on what I have to offer schools.

Although this is the only book that I have purchased on writing a personal statement, I would not hesitate to recommend this for others to read. Herro

This book is a great resource for anyone that is pursuing PA school and wants to write a great personal statement to complete their application.

The book helps provide direction for students who have not started their essays AND for those who are just beginning. The content is very useful and VERY easy to digest; this book definitely provides all the tools you need to make an impact on your personal statement essay.

Your statement will undoubtedly have the potential to be as persuasive and as clear - an absolute gem of a resource to have in strengthening your application.Sanitha B.

We have created two special companion resources - available only through the website




12 interviews and 12 rules to writing your physician assistant personal statement

Learning what Admissions Directors and PA school faculty want in your personal statement is only the first step. We have created this accompanying workbook to help you put this advice into action.




Expert Panel Audiobook

HOW-TO-WRITE-YOUR-PHYSICIAN-ASSISTANT-PERSONAL-STATMENT-AUDIOBOOKIf you're like me you may have more books on your shelf than you have time in the day to read them. For this reason, we have summarized the PA school admissions directors quotes and recommendations for how to write your personal statement into a companion audiobook for easy listening in the car, at the gym or even in the shower (although we strongly advise against the latter).



How to get your copy

1. Special Website Only Digital Download Workbook + Audiobook

Because we are selling our book through Amazon Kindle direct publishing I am unable to offer the ebook on the site for download (you will have to purchase through Amazon).  But, you can purchase the complete expert panel audiobook which includes all the PA school admissions directors recommendations along with the companion personal statement workbook as a digital download instantly, securely, and best of all CHEAPLY through Gumroad by using the link below.


2. Amazon Paperback or Kindle Instant Download

You can purchase the print book and Kindle versions directly through by clicking here




3. Personal Statement Collaborative + FREE eBook Package

Everyone who buys one of our essay review service packages will receive a free instant download of our complete digital ebook package: audiobook + ebook (mobi and PDF) + workbook

This is a wonderful deal, when combined with the free e-book package  your professional edit is only $45!


What are the Best PA Schools? Physician Assistant School Rankings

PA School Rankings - The Physician Assistant Life

Does the PA school you attend really make a difference?

When it comes to finding a job, probably not so much, but when it comes to obtaining superb clinical experience along with solid faculty, excellent academics, and a top rate student body - then yes, the PA school you attend does matter.

Below is a list of the very best (Duke University and University of Iowa) and worst physician assistant schools based on a survey of academics at peer institutions.

This table is updated annually to reflect the most recent PA school ranking data and populated from the latest US News and World Report annual summary.

Physician Assistant School Rankings

Last updated 05/09/2016

#1 Duke University
Durham, NC
#2 University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
#3 Tie Emory University
Atlanta, GA
#3 Tie George Washington University
Washington, DC
#5 Tie Oregon Health and Sciences University
Portland, OR
#5 Tie Quinnipiac University
Hamden, CT
#5 Tie University of Colorado
Aurora, CO
#5 Tie University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
#9 Tie University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE
#9 Tie Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC
#11 Tie Interservice Physician Assistant Program
Fort Sam Houston, TX
#11 Tie University of Washington
Seattle, WA
#13 Tie Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX
#13 Tie Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA
#15 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, TX
#16 Tie Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Piscataway, NJ
#16 Tie Shenandoah University
Winchester, VA
#16 Tie Stony Brook University—SUNY
Stony Brook, NY
#16 Tie University of Alabama—Birmingham
Birmingham, AL
#20 Tie Midwestern University
Downers Grove, IL
#20 Tie Midwestern University
Glendale, AZ
#20 Tie Northeastern University
Boston, MA
#20 Tie Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
North Chicago, IL
#20 Tie University of Southern California (Keck)
Alhambra, CA
#20 Tie Yale University
New Haven, CT
#26 Eastern Virginia Medical School
Norfolk, VA
#27 Tie Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, PA
#27 Tie Northwestern University
Chicago, IL
#27 Tie Seton Hall University
South Orange, NJ
#27 Tie St. Louis University
St. Louis, MO
#27 Tie University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
#27 Tie University of Wisconsin—Madison
Madison, WI
#33 Tie Cornell University
New York, NY
#33 Tie Philadelphia University
Philadelphia, PA
#33 Tie Stanford University
Palo Alto, CA
#33 Tie St. Francis University
Loretto, PA
#33 Tie University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY
#33 Tie University of North Texas Health Science Center
Fort Worth, TX
#33 Tie University of Texas Health Science Center
San Antonio, TX
#40 Tie Arizona School of Health Sciences
Mesa, AZ
#40 Tie Augsburg College
Minneapolis, MN
#40 Tie Butler University
Indianapolis, IN
#40 Tie DeSales University
Center Valley, PA
#40 Tie Marquette University
Milwaukee, WI
#40 Tie New York Institute of Technology
Old Westbury, NY
#40 Tie Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
#40 Tie Pacific University
Hillsboro, OR
#40 Tie Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Philadelphia, PA
#40 Tie Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY
#40 Tie Rush University
Chicago, IL
#40 Tie Touro University—California College of Health Sciences
Vallejo, CA
#40 Tie University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
#40 Tie University of Oklahoma—Tulsa
Tulsa, OK
#40 Tie University of Wisconsin—La Crosse-Gunderson
LaCrosse, WI
#40 Tie Wayne State University
Detroit, MI
#40 Tie Wichita State University
Wichita, KS
#57 Tie Augusta University
Augusta, GA
#57 Tie Daemen College
Amherst, NY
#57 Tie Grand Valley State University
Grand Rapids, MI
#57 Tie Idaho State University
Pocatello, ID
#57 Tie Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
Lock Haven, PA
#57 Tie Mercer University
Atlanta, GA
#57 Tie Mississippi College
Clinton, MS
#57 Tie Pace University
New York, NY
#57 Tie University of California—Davis
Sacramento, CA
#57 Tie University of Mount Union
Alliance, OH
#57 Tie University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA
#57 Tie University of Texas Medical Branch—Galveston
Galveston, TX
#57 Tie Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI
#70 Tie Arcadia University
Glenside, PA
#70 Tie East Carolina University
Greenville, NC
#70 Tie Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY
#70 Tie James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
#70 Tie Jefferson College of Health Sciences
Roanoke, VA
#70 Tie Loma Linda University
Loma Linda, CA
#70 Tie Seton Hill University
Greensburg, PA
#70 Tie Springfield College - Baystate Health System
Springfield, MA
#70 Tie SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Brooklyn, NY
#70 Tie University of South Alabama
Mobile, AL
#70 Tie University of South Dakota
Vermillion, SD
#81 Tie Albany Medical College
Albany, NY
#81 Tie Anne Arundel Community College
#81 Tie Barry University
Miami Shores, FL
#81 Tie Chatham University
Pittsburgh, PA
#81 Tie Des Moines University
Des Moines, IA
#81 Tie Gannon University
Erie, PA
#81 Tie Missouri State University
Springfield, MO
#81 Tie Nova Southeastern University—Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL
#81 Tie Nova Southeastern University—Southwest Florida
Fort Myers, FL
#81 Tie Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL
#81 Tie SUNY Upstate Medical Center
Syracuse, NY
#81 Tie University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, MI
#81 Tie University of Saint Francis
Fort Wayne, IN
#81 Tie University of Texas—Pan American
Edinburg, TX
#81 Tie Western University of Health Sciences
Pomona, CA
#96 Tie Howard University
Washington, DC
#96 Tie Kettering College of Medical Arts
Kettering, OH
#96 Tie King's College
Wilkes-Barre, PA
#96 Tie MCPHS University—Boston
Boston, MA
#96 Tie Red Rocks Community College
Lakewood, CO
#96 Tie South University
Savannah, GA
#96 Tie University of New England
Biddeford, ME
#96 Tie University of Toledo
Toledo, OH
#104 Tie D'Youville College
Buffalo, NY
#104 Tie Harding University
Searcy, AR
#104 Tie Le Moyne College
Syracuse, NY
#104 Tie Louisiana State University—Shreveport
Shreveport, LA
#104 Tie Marietta College
Marietta, OH
#104 Tie Methodist University
Fayetteville, NC
#104 Tie Samuel Merritt University
Oakland, CA
#104 Tie Touro University—Nevada
Henderson, NV
#104 Tie Wagner College - Staten Island University Hospital
Staten Island, NY
#113 Tie Campbell University
Buies Creek, NC
#113 Tie CUNY Medical School—Harlem Hospital
New York, NY
#113 Tie CUNY—York College
Jamaica, NY
#113 Tie Franklin Pierce University
West Lebanon, NH
#113 Tie LIU Brooklyn Hospital Center
Brooklyn, NY
#113 Tie St. John's University
Queens, NY
#113 Tie Touro College—Bay Shore
Bay Shore, NY
#113 Tie University of St. Francis
Albuquerque, NM
#121 Tie Cuyahoga Community College - Cleveland State University
Cleveland, OH
#121 Tie Keiser University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
#121 Tie Marywood University
Scranton, PA
#121 Tie South College
Knoxville, TN
#121 Tie South University
Tampa, FL
#121 Tie Trevecca Nazarene University
Nashville, TN
#121 Tie University of Findlay
Findlay, OH
#121 Tie University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM
#121 Tie Wingate University
Wingate, NC
#130 Tie Alderson Broaddus University
Philippi, WV
#130 Tie Indiana State University
#130 Tie Lincoln Memorial University
Harrogate, TN
#130 Tie MCPHS University—Manchester
Manchester, NH
#130 Tie Mercy College
Dobbs Ferry, NY
#130 Tie Miami-Dade College
Miami, FL
#130 Tie Pennsylvania College of Technology
Williamsport, PA
#130 Tie Union College
Lincoln, NE
#130 Tie University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT
#139 Tie Bethel College
Paris, TN
#139 Tie Carroll University
Waukesha, WI
#141 Rocky Mountain College
Billings, MT
RNP Our Lady of the Lake College
Baton Rouge, LA
Unranked Central Michigan University
Mt. Pleasant, MI
Unranked Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC
Unranked Moreno Valley College
Moreno Valley, CA
Unranked Nova Southeastern University—Orlando
Orlando, FL
Unranked Salus University
Elkins Park, PA
Unranked San Joaquin Valley College
Visalia, CA
Unranked Texas Tech University
Midland, TX
Unranked Touro College—Manhattan
New York, NY
Unranked Towson University - Community College of Baltimore County Essex
Unranked University of Maryland—Eastern Shore
Princess Anne, MD
Unranked University of Missouri—Kansas City
Kansas City, MO
Unranked University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, OK


Musculoskeletal 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 37

Musculoskeletal PART 1 - The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review PodcastWelcome to episode 37 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Join me as I continue to cover topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA™ content blueprint.

Click here to download my interactive content blueprint checklist

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific Musculoskeletal board review questions.

The Musculoskeletal System accounts for 10% of your PANCE/PANRE board exam.  

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full genitourinary board review includes over 72 GU specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Musculoskeletal PANCE and PANRE Podcast Quiz



Congratulations - you have completed AUDIO PANCE AND PANRE MUSCULOSKELETAL.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%

Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.


Looking for all the podcast episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be releasing new episodes every few weeks. The Academy is discounted, so sign up now.

Resources and Show Notes:

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Google Play: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Google Play
  3. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher


Made by PA: Through the Eyes of a Young Physician Assistant

Through the Eyes of a Young Physician Assistant SmallMy Name is Sean Conroy, I am a Physician Assistant, and I wrote a book.

The question I encounter the most is “What inspired you to write a book?”

The answer is not straightforward.

As PAs we all have experiences that change us, some touching, some devastating, some hilarious.

I don’t claim that mine are any greater than anyone else’s, or that I was moved in a way different from anyone else.

The only answer I have offered so far is that one patient moved me more than any of the rest. His story stayed in my mind, begging to be told.

In my introduction I discuss how this patient inspired me: a war veteran facing his approaching death from pancreatic cancer, in a way only a hardened soldier could.

Stoic, with resolve, and with as much strength as he could, muster, not only for himself, but for his family as they suffered helplessly alongside him.

The more I thought about his story, and yearned to share it, the more other stories also leapt to mind, begging to be shared as well.

It was in 2011, while in my first position in Kansas City, that I decided it would be best to just start from day one on my rotations, and jot down some stories. I would work my way up to the Internal Medicine rotation featuring my pancreatic cancer patient, then move on to the final, and greatest chapter: ED/Trauma.

Getting Started

For years this word document was titled simply “Book Idea.” Little by little it grew, a paragraph here, sometimes pages at a time.

I likely could have made an entire book out of my final rotation. After almost a year of seeing patients, and one of just about everything, not a day went by without a new surprise.

I enjoyed this rotation the most, saw the widest variety of patients, and had the most extreme emotional roller-coaster ride of any I experienced in PA school.

That being said, I did not want half the book to be all emergency medicine, so though it runs the longest, I tried to keep it reasonable.

My PA program (Union College, Lincoln Nebraska) did ask to review the manuscript early, to make certain it was HIPAA kosher, and quickly signed off on the project. I think that is another part of the answer to the original question: I had so much support from my wife, family, colleagues, and PA program that I kept moving forward, even after growing weary about a year after I initially began.

There were so many people who believed in me, so it was easy to believe in myself and push forward after this brief pause in momentum.

After about three years the manuscript was complete, and with prodding from my wife I began the process of inquiry to publishers with hopes of my book being delivered into the world. I counted my rejection letters, just for fun, hoping that in the end I had at least one acceptance letter.

Dealing with Rejection

Fifty-three rejection letters, spread out over a year; followed by two letters of acceptance in the same week (then five more rejections.)

Some rejections were very impersonal “Dear Author,..”, others stinging with criticism I certainly needed as I entered the world of publication with no guidance. It was due to the assistance in learning the ropes, as well as the faith they expressed in the book moving forward that led me to select Open Books Press out of the two publishers who accepted the manuscript.

I have to admit that it has been a wonderful experience, and very fulfilling. I have had a few colleagues tell me that the book would be perfect for pre-PA, and PA students to read prior to PA school and rotations, respectively.

If I had not become a PA I might have gone into education, likely at the college level. Thus, I am very flattered by this assessment, and the idea that my book might become part of the PA curriculum, much like The House of God has been for medicine in general for decades now.

For the time being though, I am happy to just sit back and look forward to the release of the book in May. I do hope it succeeds, but already feel like I have accomplished a great deal just in seeing it to publication.

About the Book

Through the Eyes of a Young Physician Assistant

Sean Conroy started his career in the lab, but had a burning desire to enter the clinical side of medicine as a physician assistant.

Through-the-Eyes-of-a-Young-Physician-AssistantAfter completing the first two years of book work, he spent a year learning from doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and others on the front lines of medicine in hospitals and clinics across the state of Nebraska. He entered his first family practice rotation as a well-spoken but inexperienced PA student, and in under a year was bedside with severely ill and injured patients in one of Nebraska’s busiest level-one trauma centers.

This memoir follows Conroy around the state, from one rotation to another, as he grows in knowledge and maturity. It tells the tales (some humorous, some harrowing, and occasionally heartbreaking) of patient encounters in wide variety of settings with individuals from all walks of life.

From the delivery of a newborn, to the terminally ill at the end of their lives, and many in between, Through the Eyes of a Young Physician Assistant will leave you laughing and crying and with a deeper appreciation of PAs.

The book is now available for pre-order through Amazon.

About the Author 


Sean Conroy PA-C was born and raised in McCook, Nebraska. He matriculated first from Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska with a bachelor’s in biology (human biology option), then the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska with a bachelor’s in clinical laboratory science.

He concluded his studies with a master’s in physician assistant studies from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has practiced medicine in Kansas in primary care, including family practice and emergency medicine, since 2010 and a physician assistant at Manhattan Urgent Care in Manhattan, Kansas.

Connect with Sean on his website, Facebook or Twitter

Made by PA

Note: This is the first post in a series I am calling "Made by PA" which features PAs who inspire us through their work and their creations. This post is by physician assistant extraordinaire and first-time author Sean Conroy PA-C.. If you or someone you know is a PA and is making the world a better place through their creations I would love to feature your work here on the blog. Just drop me a line and send me the details.

Genitourinary 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Board Review Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 35

The Audio PANCE and PANRE Genitourinary Review 1Welcome to episode 35 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Join me as I continue to cover topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA™ content blueprint.

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific Genitourinary board review questions.

GU accounts for 6% of your PANCE/PANRE board exam.  

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full genitourinary board review includes over 72 GU specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

  • You can download and listen to past FREE episodes here, on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
  • You can listen to the latest episode, take an interactive quiz and download your results below.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Genitourinary PANCE and PANRE Podcast Quiz


Congratulations - you have completed The Audio PANCE and PANRE GU Quiz 1. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
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Looking for all the podcast episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be releasing new episodes every few weeks. The Academy is discounted, so sign up now.

Resources and Show Notes:

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher


How to Survive PA School as a Dad: Advice from a PA School Parent

How to Survive PA School as a Dad

My name is William Seibt and I was a PA student and a dad.

We moved out to Miami from Phoenix to attend PA school when my son was 9 months old.

"One of my son's first semi full sentences was, “You have to study?” I imagine it will be the same when I have to finish up notes at home from work… “You have to work?” - William Seibt PA-S

We arrived in Miami in a Penske truck the evening before classes started and stayed with my sister-in-law for the first week.

The first weekend of school, we moved into our new place where we still live today.  I have to give my wife the credit for setting up the house and taking care of our son while we started our new journey.

The first year of PA school was the toughest;  I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with my family, and my wife bore the burden of taking care of our son on her own.  I was either at school or studying at the library.

I knew that finding balance between life and school was important, but this was a difficult transition.  I didn’t always feel that I could afford the time away from the books and still pass;  the workload was just too great at some intervals.

Looking back on it, I feel that I just sort of popped in on the family every once in a while, either for dinner or just before going to bed.

I made every attempt to spend time with my family for the last hour of the evening, but that didn’t always work out. 

I made it a point to be available on the weekends and my wife was wonderful at planning events and finding activities to do.

I often loaded slide show presentations and books onto my phone and would sit on the bench at the park or in the mall. I would review lectures or topics while my wife and son played.

There were some events, such as my son’s first birthday or Halloween night,  where I made it a point to put the books away for the evening (not the whole day though). I got to enjoy seeing my son dressed up as a dragon and learn how to try to say “trick-or-treat”.  But even then, my wife made all the arrangements and preparations without me.

The second year was clinical rotations and the workload finally lightened up; this is in contrast of course to the first year.  I was able to spend more time with the family, but I found I was actually lost about what to do around the house to help.  Ever since we moved into our place I had my nose buried in the computer studying.

My wife laughs because for the longest time, I didn’t even know where we kept the toilet paper.

My school was a 2 ½ year program, so studying for the PANCE didn’t officially start for me in the second year.  The second year, we enjoyed going to the beach on weekends and doing events around the city.  It was the best year of PA school.

Then the third year started… it was all classroom time again.  It was also time to start focusing on the PANCE.  Once again, my nose was buried in the computer and there was time away from the family.  The same routine started again.  The final semester was much shorter than the other semesters for my program so it wasn’t as bad to go through.

My son was a little older and had learned how to speak a few words and sentences by this time.  He was also more insistent on spending  more time with me.

That was the toughest part, having to tell my son “no, I can’t spend time with you.  I have to study”  while trying to get out the door. 

A 2-year-old doesn’t understand this and they will ask repeatedly to play and I found it a little heart breaking.  One of my son's first semi full sentences was, “You have to study?”  I imagine it will be the same when I have to finish up notes at home from work… “You have to work?”

A recurring theme in PA school, is that of my wife taking on the responsibilities of most everything while I went to school. This includes raising our son pretty much on her own.

We were fortunate that our son was young when I started PA school. He is two years older now and I am looking for my first job, he needs my attention and I’m happy to not have to say no all the time.

My advice to anyone with kids or planning on having kids while in school…

  1. Before you start school, discuss the lifestyle with your partner.  I don’t know anyone who would say that PA school was easy.  You will both be going through this trial together and with a family, it is a team effort.
  2. If you can, live near extended family.  We lived near my wife’s sister, and I think this helped.
  3. Once you’re in school, do not study at home.  You will need time to focus on you studying without distractions.  If you stay at home, your family will need your attention or you will want to give it to them.  Either way, remove that distraction.
  4. Be sure to give your family some of your time.  Either for dinner, at the end of the day, and/or on the weekend.  This requires some flexibility and will depend on your testing schedule.  Most of your hard-core studying will be dependent on what tests you have that week.

For the bigger occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, school events), take a chunk of the day off if you can afford to.

During the semester breaks, make that time count.  I knew some fellow students that actually took mini vacations or "staycations".  We couldn’t afford that on our budget, but if you can afford it, do it.

Finally, show your better half your appreciation for supporting you

Buy flowers and/or cards every once in a while.  I went through one semester where I left my wife little notes for her to find in the mornings when she woke up.   At the end of each semester or rotation, I would buy her flowers.  I tried to let her know that I still noticed her and thought of her and my son.

William-Seibt-PA-School-RecollectionThis was a guest post by William Seibt, William joined the Air Force in 1992 and left active duty in 1998. He attended Arizona State University in 2000 where he received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and where he met his wife.  His son was born in 2012, they moved to Miami in 2013 for PA school, and graduated in December of 2015.

Married with Children in PA School: How This Mom Makes it Work

Married with Children in PA School - How This Mom Makes it WorkMy name is Nikki, and I am a mother of two boys, 2 and 6 years old.

I am also a PA student.

For me, it was a long and difficult journey to get into PA school. I applied three consecutive years before finally getting accepted to a PA school in San Antonio, which is about a 3-hour drive from where I live.

Although I was excited to finally be accepted, it was a difficult decision for me and my family because it meant I had to move out to San Antonio while my family stayed behind.

I knew it would be hard, but I could not lose this opportunity. I was one of the 45 students accepted out of 1,800 applicants and I needed to figure out how to make it work.

I Couldn't do it Alone

My husband and my mom are very supportive and I would not be able to do it without them.

My mom decided to move in with us and help us to take care of the kids. The most difficult part for me at the beginning was to help my mom and my husband to get along. They are both great but it is hard for them to work well together because they both have very strong personalities. However, it seems to be getting better so I can’t complain now.

I go home to see my children over the weekends and try to communicate on Skype almost every day. It has been six months since I started PA school and it has gone by really fast since I am so busy.

My 6-year-old was getting into trouble in school and a couple of times I had to drive back and forth from San Antonio to be able to attend his class and the meetings with his teachers.

I used to overreact to his “bad behavior” but it only made things worse. I don't like to feel like I have no control in raising my children, so sometimes I get too emotional. I appreciate it when my husband or my mom do exactly what I ask them to do regarding the kids because it makes me feel like I can contribute to their life the way I think is the best for them.

I know it sounds silly and not very reasonable but I want to feel like I am still a big part of making decisions for my kids.

Finding Time to Study

I really need my weekends to study so when I come home to see my family I try to spend one full day and night with them and then go back to studying.

I do miss my family and some weekends I cannot come to see them, especially when we have finals or too many tests at once. On these occasions, we found a bus that my mom can take and bring the kids with her. I love it when this happens because I get to see them and will not waste 6 hours driving back and forth when I can spend this time studying.

The PA program in San Antonio is far more advanced than I expected. I have never studied so hard in my life even though I have two degrees. We already had some people that had to leave the program because they did not make it through the first semester. I know I have to be diligent and manage my schedule the best I can.

I don't think I have a typical situation since I do not really live with my family at the moment but I am sure there are people who are in my shoes or will be.

PA schools are very competitive and it is becoming harder and harder to get in. Unfortunately, you will not always be accepted at the PA school of your choice (or maybe fortunately because I love my school now).

I think the benefit of my situation is that I can actually study at home anytime and not feel anxious to go home and see my kids every day since they are not here.

I do miss them and love them very much but I keep reminding myself of my goals and sacrifices. I explain to my 6-year-old son that I study now so I can help people to be healthier and so we can afford to travel.

He is excited about this and sometimes says he wants to go to my school instead of his.

Advice to PA School Parents

If I were to give advice to future PA school students with children I would say stay focused on your main goal and know why you are doing this.

I do have my moments when I cry and get emotional but I talk to my kids, my husband, and my mom and they make me feel better. I remind myself that time goes by fast and I am pursuing my dream that will not only benefit me but my family and many other families in the future.

I would encourage you to connect with people in your class and make good friends. It has helped me to stay positive through difficult times. You have to develop inner strength that will carry you through any personal problems and still allow you to focus on studying. Otherwise, it will not be possible to make it.

We have a great tradition in our school. The class that was before us assigned each one of the new students a “Big person”. They just matched one person with another one according to some similarities. My “Big” has two children and they live with her. She was really helpful and supportive throughout my first semester. She made me feel more "normal” on several occasions when I did not know what to do.

She gave me advice on how to cope with problems and how to best address my needs along with those of my family throughout PA school.

I have two more years to go and I know they will go fast. I am enjoying my journey but I can’t wait to go back to my family and be there with them and for them.

All I can say is to get your support system together, make sure you have reliable people who can help you throughout the whole program and you can definitely make it through.

Best of luck pursuing your dreams!

This is a guest post by current PA student extraordinaire Nikki Clark

Nikki has been a licensed acupuncturist for 9 years. When a PA saved her son’s life it triggered her to choose a path of becoming a PA. She is pursuing her dreams to become a PA and to be able to educate people on prevention and treatment of illnesses and diseases. She has two sons and a supportive family that inspires her to be a better person and to stay strong and positive.

Also, in case you were curious, I asked Nikki about her mom, her husband's feelings about her moving to San Antonio to attend PA school and why they chose to live separately during her time as a student. Here is her answer:

I am originally from Ukraine and then lived in Houston since 2006.  My mom was living in Ukraine and had to make a big move for me. I really admire my mom. I do not think I could have been where I am today without her love and support. My husband's job keeps him in Houston so moving for him was out of the question.

My husband was supportive but truly very sad about me moving away. However, since it is only a 3 hour drive it does not seem too bad. I think the worst part for him is dealing with my mom and  trying to have his life arranged completely differently. But he has been with me throughout the whole process and is still there for me. We try to make date nights whenever we can and communicate over the phone every day. He sends me pictures of the kids and comes here whenever he can.

*If you or anyone you know is interested in submitting a guest post to the blog just drop me a line at - if your article is accepted you will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or a free 1 year subscription to the PANCE and PANRE Academy (your choice). Stay tuned our next PA parenting article will be from a father of two!

Gastroenterology 1: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 31

Gastroenterology 1 The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Topic Specific Review Episode 31Welcome to episode 31 of the FREE Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast.

Join me as I continue to cover topic specific PANCE and PANRE review from the Academy course content following the NCCPA™ content blueprint.

This week we will be covering 10 topic specific Gastroenterology board review questions.

Gastroenterology and Nutrition accounts for 10% of your PANCE/PANRE board exam.  

Below you will find an interactive exam to complement the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this free audio component to the examination portion of this site. The full Gastroenterology/Nutrition review includes over 149 GI/Nutrition specific questions and is available to all members of the PANCE and PANRE Academy.

  • You can download and listen to past FREE episodes here, on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
  • You can listen to the latest episode, take an interactive quiz and download your results below.

Listen Carefully Then Take The Quiz

If you can't see the audio player click here to listen to the full episode.

Gastroenterology PANCE and PANRE Podcast Quiz


Congratulations - you have completed The Audio PANCE and PANRE Gastroenterology. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.


Looking for all the podcast episodes?

This FREE series is limited to every other episode, you can download and enjoy the complete audio series by joining The PANCE and PANRE Exam Academy.

I will be releasing new episodes every few weeks. The Academy is discounted, so sign up now.

Resources and Show Notes:

This Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio for Android

  1. iTunes: The Audio PANCE AND PANRE Podcast iTunes
  2. Stitcher Radio: The Audio PANCE and PANRE Podcast Stitcher



5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)

5 Tips to Getting Started on Your PA School Personal Essay and Why You Should Start Now!

Hey, procrastinators!

You know who you are — squeaking under deadlines by a nanosecond, feeling compelled to vacuum, or worse (when truly in the grips of avoidance), deciding to clean the toilet rather than tackle that pesky research paper.

Believe me, as a recovering procrastinator, I can relate.

When I was in college a gajillion years ago, my friends gave me a t-shirt that read, “I was going to join the Procrastinator’s Club, but never got around to it.”

Maybe putting things off works for you most of the time (there is some reward from the relief that comes from beating that deadline), but it won’t serve you well when it comes to writing your personal statement. After all, it’s likely the one thing that will make the difference between getting that all-important interview and losing that opportunity to someone else with similar grades and experience.

When I interviewed a dozen Admissions Directors and faculty from top PA programs across the country for our book, “How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement,” they said the essay needs to make them stop and think, “This is someone I want to know better.”

You see why your personal statement is not something to rush through just to get it done. It requires careful consideration, much thought and many revisions. To help you get going, follow these simple tips.

1. Put your butt in the chair in front of the computer at a specific time every single day.

This is a favorite trick of writers, especially when we’re suffering from writer’s block. As I’ve discovered, you won’t get anything written if you’re cleaning the toilet. It doesn’t have to be for long, 15 minutes will work. On most days, you’ll be surprised to find an hour has passed.

2. Let your imagination run wild.

When you’re struggling with what to write it is not the time to actually write. Instead, think about life experiences that brought you to this point and type them up. They don’t have to be in formal sentences or in any order. Just as long as you can go back and remember what the heck you meant when you wrote, “neighbor kid, six-years old, worst day ever.” Most won’t (and shouldn’t) end up in your essay. But you’ll be surprised at the richness of your memories.

3. Decide what’s relevant to your personal statement.

When I’m writing an article, the biggest temptation is to include an amazing anecdote that’s just slightly off topic. When I try to make it fit (and even now I am still guilty of trying), the writing is strained. Ultimately, I’m forced to delete it. Writers call that “killing your darlings,” and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Sure, it’s touching that you bandaged your puppy’s leg when you were nine, or saved a baby bird by bottle-feeding it, but those aren’t the things Admissions folks want to know. Copy them into a different document — someday you may want to use them for another purpose, in an interview perhaps, when you are an award winning PA.

4. Write a paragraph.

Now, this comes with a caveat — some people prefer to outline, but those generally aren’t procrastinators, who don’t have the time to outline. (Told you I am a recovering procrastinator). So I say, work with your personality instead of against it. Take one of your experiences and put it in paragraph form. Don’t worry about the little things — character and space count, grammar, spelling or transitions, just put your musings into a three or four sentence paragraph.

5. Write your transition sentences.

You’ll need to get your essay from point A to point Z. Again, this isn’t the time to worry about the details. This is just to help you start to tie those random experiences together. Cohesion is one of the biggest gaps I see when editing personal statements. Make it easy on yourself in the long run by getting a jump on tying it all together.

When you do all this a couple of months before your application is due, you’ve bought yourself time to write a polished essay (and have it professionally edited if necessary) that makes the Admissions folks think, “Hmmm, this is someone I’d like to know better.”

- Sue

Sue Edmondson SquareThis was a guest post by Sue Edmondson.

Sue is an award winning freelance writer who has written in Northern Nevada and Northern California since 1999.  She has donated countless hours editing 100's of PA school essays through our free and paid personal essay collaborative.

Her articles have appeared in publications such as Family Pulse, Rlife, Enjoy, Edible Reno-Tahoe and she spent five years as a reporter for the Mountain Echo newspaper. She dabbles in fiction and was awarded first place for short fiction by the Reno News and Review. She’s also sold several short children’s stories. Her other career is as an attorney. You can read her full bio below.

Looking for some more inspiration?

31-Physician-Assistant-School-Essay-and Personal Statement-Examples-and-SamplesTake a look at these 31 sample PA school personal statements shared through members of our community. Use it as a guide to see what works and possibly what doesn't as you sit down to write your 5,000 character CASPA essay.

A Question for Physician Assistants: Why Are You In It?

Why Are You In It? The Physician Assistant Life

Are you looking to make money as a physician assistant or are you looking to make the world a better place with what you do?

It’s an honest question and the two options are very different.

The latter involves being interested in giving value to someone other than yourself. The former involves doing anything and everything to add zeros to your bank account.

Neither option is inherently wrong. The problem is that most PAs begin with a desire to help people and, over time, once fully indoctrinated into the "system" they (we) become fundamentally changed.

If you’re simply looking to make money, the strategy basically comes down to generating as much revenue as you can, while avoiding an unfavorable outcome. Or, as we in the medical field have so humbly named "covering your ass."

Sometimes it’s as simple as showing your boss that you can see 6 or 7 patients in an hour.  Sometimes it’s not speaking up in the face of gross healthcare inequalities.  Sometimes it’s taking the higher paying job in order to please others or prove your self-worth.

The organization you work for, and therefore you, do whatever it takes to maximize profitability.

Success is much easier to measure too—you simply look at how many patients you have churned out, and count how much money you make.

Did it cover costs? Does it cover your livelihood and expenses? Were you able to maximize your retirement accounts? Is your boss happy? Awesome - you win and you’re a success.

If you’re looking to make the world better with what you do, it’s a little more difficult.


Just because you want to make things better doesn’t mean the universe will align and show you the way.

Making the world a better place through the work you put out into it starts with you and how you answer the tough questions.

Do you actually like the work you’re doing? Does it align with a greater purpose in your life? Is the message behind what you do bigger than what you do? Are you truly stoked to do it?

People are attracted to excitement, so if you’re genuinely excited about something, others will take notice. Real excitement is contagious, like the flu (but with less sniffling).

Though doing something that makes the world better doesn’t stop with you. It also includes being super valuable and in service of others.

What about your work helps your patients? What about your work makes their life better? What about your work makes them truly stoked? Because when they’re excited, others will take notice of that too.

Measuring "Success" 


Measuring the success of doing work that makes the world better is also a little muddy. There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) involved, each of them based on your own unique purpose and passion.

Sure, patient wait times, satisfaction surveys and money or revenue may be a part of it, but they’re not the only indicators. How much did you enjoy the process, regardless of the bottom line?

How much did your patient benefit from your work, regardless of the volume (as in, maybe you only saw 10 patients today, yet all of them  left healthier, having an experience that positively changed their lives).

In measuring success this way, it’s fairly easy to succeed as well - you get to do work you love that’s lined up with your purpose and valuable to the patients it’s for.

So, did you like doing it and did another person like receiving your care?

Awesome - you win and you’re a success.


We get caught up and stuck in our thoughts when we change gears in our focus, or when we try to measure success for both types of work for the same outcome.

If you’re in it to make the world better and you only look at money, you’re doing your work and process a horrible disservice.

Similarly, if you’re in it to make money and you feel unexcited or uninspired, you’re also doing that work and yourself a horrible disservice too.

If you're in it to make the world better and you look at the patient sitting in front of you, you’re doing yourself, and your patient a great, and honorable service.

Magically, you're likely to find, the success that drove you to this profession in the first place, will follow.

PS: If you’re stuck before you’ve even started, check out my resources page for some help and inspiration. 

Photo Credits:  From our medical mission trip in and around Port Au Prince Haiti. photos by: Courtney Reese

Do Physician Assistants Get Sued? Medical Malpractice, Liability and Lawsuits – A Guide for PAs

Physician Assistant Malpractice and Liability - How Not to Get Sued

Do physician assistants get sued?

Of course they do, but based on seventeen years of data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, nationwide Physician Assistant malpractice demonstrates lower malpractice incidence and average payment amounts compared to MDs and advance practice nurses!

Can I get a whoot whoot for PAs!

Malpractice Incidence

There is one malpractice payment for every 32.5 PAs while there was one for every 2.7 physicians. That is, the composite payment rate for physicians was twelve times that of PAs over the full study period.

Malpractice Amount

PA average and median payments were less than that of physicians and advanced practice nurses (APNs).

  • The average and median APN payments were the highest at $350,540 and $190,898.
  • The average and median physician payments were $301,150 and $150,821
  • The average and median PA payments were $173,128 and $80,003.

The physician adjusted mean payment was 1.74 times higher than PAs but only 0.86 that of APNs. The physician adjusted median payments were 1.89 times that of PAs but only 0.79 that of APNs.

* Why are advance practice nurse malpractice rates higher? Are they reckless practitioners?

It is speculated that advanced practice nurse mean and median payments are higher than that of physicians and PAs because the proportion of APNs who work in the high risk specialties of anesthesia and obstetrics is higher. The proportion of malpractice payments for nurse anesthetists (47%) and nurse midwives (25%) was 72% of total APN payments.

Reasons for Disciplinary Action

The most common reason for disciplinary action by state and federal monitoring bodies was the same for all three provider types. The most common disciplinary action was a licensing action (suspension or termination of license) by licensing authorities and the most common reasons for the licensing action were for unethical conduct and alcohol/substance abuse.

Reasons for Malpractice Claims

The most common reasons for APN malpractice claims were for obstetric and anesthesia errors. This is due to the disproportionate number of APNs who practice in these specialties compared to physicians and PAs. If these are excluded, the top ranking reasons for malpractice payments were the same for PAs and APNs: in order they are errors in diagnosis, treatment, medication and surgery. For physicians they were in order errors in diagnosis, surgery, treatment, obstetrics and medication.

What PAs can do to avoid medical malpractice

Recent research suggests that patient communication, compassion and apologizing for mistakes are major deterrents of malpractice litigation.  So for God's sake be nice to your patients. Take time to listen to and address their concerns.   It's your patient's life, not your license, that should always be the foundation of your decision making . Tweet That!

The following is an excerpt from the book Becoming A Physician Assistant by Jody Tomic PA-C. Download it for free on Kindle Unlimited:

Many lawsuits against mid-level practitioners and their supervising physicians cite the failure of the mid-level to contact the physician.

The mid-level may fail to recognize the significance of a finding on the history and physical examination and not see the need for contact. Comprehensive protocols as well as ongoing education can help minimize this risk.

A Physician Assistant may be apprehensive about disturbing their supervising physician with frequent questions. Both the supervising physician and the PA must cultivate a collaborative relationship so the PA feels comfortable asking any questions necessary to provide excellent patient care and safety.

The PA should always have reliable contact information for the supervising physician.

A preceptor of mine told me about a PA who was monitoring a man hospitalized with the flu. The man complained that he was having trouble breathing, and the PA was afraid to bother her supervising physician at home. It turned out that the man had developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome. GBS often follows a minor illness, such as a lung infection or gastrointestinal infection. Most of the time, signs of the infection have disappeared before the symptoms of GBS begin. It can result in ascending paralysis that may affect the diaphragm, requiring breathing assistance. The patient died, and the PA and physician were sued.

Obviously the physician should encourage communication from his PA because he is liable for their errors. The PA should realize that he or she can also be sued. So, even if the doctor is testy about being called, do it anyway.

If communication with your supervising physician is bad, you should take steps to remedy the situation, including finding a new job. Patients’ lives depend on your communication and teamwork.

Most of the time, doctors cover their PAs under their malpractice insurance. You should definitely have a dialogue to confirm this.

The question also arises whether mid-level practitioners should obtain their own malpractice insurance. When the employer is your only insurer, your best interest may not be your employer's best interest.

With personal malpractice coverage, you have an attorney who represents you, not your employer. Some basic types of malpractice insurance are “Claims Made” and “Occurrence.”

Claims Made insurance covers you for incidents that occur during the term of the insurance, only if they are reported during the coverage period. Occurrence coverage covers you for incidents that occur during the coverage period, regardless of when they are reported. So if a patient sues you one year after the incident occurred and your Claims Made policy has lapsed, you will not be covered. You might want to discuss this with your employer. It’s a good idea to take some continuing education courses on risk management.

Good documentation, excellent communication, and detailed protocols for emergency situations are all important ways to avoid exposure.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable performing a procedure or prescribing a medication, listen to your intuition and get help. If you aren’t sure about anything, ask. The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.


Scholarships, Grants and Loan Repayment Programs for Physician Assistants

How to Bankroll PA School Without Going BrokeIt goes without saying, PA school is expensive.

PA school is also demanding, which means you will have limited time (if any) to work while attending school.

With the average undergraduate education debt prior to PA school at $36,300 and the average anticipated debt load from PA school at $75,000-$124,000, it is important that you have a rock-solid plan for how you are going to pay for your PA school education.

Funding sources vary and federal loan programs will probably form the foundation of your assistance package, many states also offer financial aid funding.

Additionally, there are specialized scholarships, traineeships, and loan programs available. Remember — apply the resources from scholarships and grants before you accept loans. Then, only accept loans that you need.

Work closely with your financial aid department. They will be able to inform you about special loans and scholarships for which you may be eligible.

Federal and State Resources

  • Numerous loans and grants guaranteed by the federal government are available to qualified students. Visit the website for Federal Student Aid sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but in this case, the student does not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.
    • The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a school-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under this program, the school is lender. You must check with your school's financial aid office to see if your school participates in the Federal Perkins Loan Program
    • Federal Stafford Student Loan Program: These loans are offered through your bank, credit union, or other lending institutions. Graduate students may borrow up to $8,500 per year up to a total of $65,000. To qualify for a Stafford loan, you must demonstrate financial need as determined by the CM formula mentioned above. The interest rate varies. These loans are based on need, not creditworthiness. Therefore, no cosigner is necessary.
  • State sources of financial assistance include an agency in each state that guarantees federal student loans. Also, some states offer their own educational assistance programs with loans or grants. Check with your financial aid office to locate the office(s) in your home state.
  • Tax Credits are another option to explore.                                            

Scholarships and Traineeships

  • Americorps is a national network of hundreds of programs throughout the U.S. and is open to U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent residents aged 17 or older. This program helps pay for education in exchange for a year of service.
  • The Indian Health Service (IHS) scholarship program provides financial assistance for American Indian and Alaskan Native (federally recognized only) students enrolled in health professions and allied health professions programs. The IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) was created to support this mission by providing health professionals the financial freedom to fulfill your career goals. The IHS LRP awards up to $20,000 per year for the repayment of your qualified student loans in exchange for an initial two-year service obligation to practice full time at an Indian health program site.
  • The National Health Service Corps Program (NHSC) is a competitive federal program. Students dedicated to practicing primary care in communities of greatest need can compete for educational scholarships. I was a NHSC Scholar and you can read more about that here. They also offer a generous loan repayment program in exchange for 2 years service in a designated healthcare shortage area (see the next section below).
  • The Physician Assistant Foundation offers competitive scholarships for PA students who are currently attending an accredited PA program, are in the professional phase of the program, and are student members of AAPA. Visit the Foundation web pages for a current application or see below.
  • The United States Navy Health Services Collegiate Program is designed to provide financial incentives for college students in designated health care professions while completing baccalaureate degree requirements.
  • The U.S. Army Health Care team, offers a three-year loan repayment program for any PA- C who wants to serve as an Army PA.
  • PAs for Latino Health (PALH), a caucus of the AAPA, offers a $500 scholarship to currently enrolled PA students each year.

Loans, Repayment Programs, and Consolidation Services

  • The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program is available to PAs in primary care or current students who plan to become primary care providers after graduation. You must agree to provide primary care services in a priority health professional shortage area for a minimum of two years.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Physician assistants qualify.
    • IMPORTANT: Loan forgiveness is an option after 10 years of payments, but it may not be an option if you refinance your loan during that period. So make sure you read the fine print!
  • Sallie Mae Tuition Pay Plans provide quality, low-cost, innovative solutions to paying for education. Tuition Pay is an interest-free plan that lets you break down the large lump-sum payments due at the beginning of each semester into easy-to-manage installments.
  • Common Bond: Ever wished your student loans could have a positive effect on society? Common Bond seeks to "reimagine finance based on our belief that business has a responsibility to further social good and promote welfare outside of its immediate customer base." Common Bond is unique in that they bring a 1-for-1 model to education through Social Promise. For every fully funded degree on the CommonBond platform, they fund the education of a student in need for one year through the nonprofit Pencils of Promise. They even fund a trip to Ghana with Pencils of Promise so that borrowers (and employees) can go and meet some of the children who the Social Promise has helped to fund.

Insider's tip: Looking to refinance a loan? Magnify Money is a wonderful website that lets you compare and contrast student loan options.  Just beware that if you have federal loans, refinancing to private loans may result in losing protections like special repayment plans (such as the public loan forgiveness program) that can help you in a time of need. Make sure you can comfortably afford your new payments if you refinance. And take the time to get rates from several providers.

AAPA Constituent Organization Scholarships

  • The Physician Assistant Foundation offers competitive scholarships for PA students who are currently attending an accredited PA program, are in the professional phase of the program, and are student members of AAPA. Visit the Foundation website for a current application.  Here are some of their current offerings. The 38 PA students who were awarded scholarships during the 2014 application cycle are listed here.
    • Bristol-Myers Squibb Endowed Scholarship — four $2,500 awards
    • National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) Endowed Scholarship — six $2,000 awards
    • Procter & Gamble Endowed Scholarship — six $1,000 awards
    • AAPA Rural Health Caucus Scholarship — two $2,000 awards to students from a rural area, who are committed to serving a rural community.
    • Ron Pace Memorial Scholarship — one $1,000 award to Florida-based students who are veterans and in their second year of PA school. Named in memory of Ron Pace, a Florida Academy of Physician Assistants past president and AAPA Outstanding PA of the Year Award recipient, who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.
  • Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology offers a $2,500 award for PA students. The award consists of two parts: $500 to help with travel to AAPA's Annual Conference to receive the award and $2,000 (unrestricted). Apply by March 1st.
  • California Academy of Physician Assistants offers three annual student scholarships for student members. Apply online by December 31.
  • Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Physician Assistant Caucus offers $1,000 grants for two PA students to attend AAPA's Annual Conference to help foster involvement and awareness of the caucus within the AAPA. Apply by January 15.
  • Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants has six annual student leadership scholarships and three scholarships for students who choose to enter the writing competition. Apply online by June 30.
  • Physician Assistant Academy of Vermont offers a scholarship of $1,000 and free attendance at the annual PAAV Winter CME conference for PA students who are residents of Vermont. Apply by June 30.
  • Physician Assistants in Orthopedic Surgery offers one or two $500 scholarships from the Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship Fund, established to encourage young PA students to enter the field of orthopedics. Apply by August 15.
  • The Society of Army Physician Assistants honors the memory of Captain Sean P. Grimes, through the Captain Sean P. Grimes Physician Assistant Educational Scholarship Award. Apply by February 1st.
  • The AAPA Veterans Caucus Scholarship seeks to recognize the achievements of an outstanding veteran of one of the seven branches of the Uniformed Services who is currently enrolled in a PA program.

Note: Grants are similar to scholarships, and availability is based on resources and financial need. When you submit your FAFSA form, you will be considered for Pell Grants.

Also, check your place of employment, organizations and place of worship for any grants for which you may be eligible.

Scholarships and Grants Awarded by the AAPA

They are all due January 15, 2015.

  • Student Academy Outstanding Student Society
    • Description: This award recognizes three student societies for their outstanding service to the profession.
    • How to apply: Download the Student Academy Outstanding Student Society Award application
    • Award/Prize: $500 for each of the three top placing programs
    • Additional details: All of these student societies documented their work in the following categories: public education and advocacy of the profession, public service and outreach, promotion of the diversity and professional involvement. Seventy-five percent membership is required to participate in this award.
  • Student Academy Travel Grant Awards
    • Description: A $500 grant for AOR student society representatives and Student Academy selected HOD student delegates or alternates to minimize travel expenses to the annual conference.
    • Eligibility Criteria: HOD students must be one of the selected students; all applicants should be members of AAPA
    • How to apply: Download the Student Academy Travel Grant application
  • Student Academy PA Student Mentor Award
    • Description: This award recognizes a PA who has demonstrated exemplary service to PA students and has furthered the leadership, educational, and professional development of PA students.
    • Eligibility Criteria: none specified
    • How to apply or nominate someone: Download the Student Academy PA Student Mentor Award application
  • Student Academy PAragon Student Award
    • Description: This award honors a PA student who has demonstrated exemplary service as a PA student.
    • Eligibility Criteria: Need at least 5 applicants; student should be a member of AAPA
    • How to apply or nominate someone: Download the Student Academy PAragon Student Award application

If you have any questions about these scholarships and grants, you can contact the Student Academy Staff at the following email address:

Unites States Military Service and Loan Repayment Programs

  • National Guard Healthcare Bonuses and Loans
    • Physician Assistants and Social Workers:
      • $20,000 per year for a three-year contract
      • $15,000 per year for a two-year contract
      • $10,000 per year for a one-year contract
  • National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
    • Must have 1 or more qualifying and disbursed Title IV federal loans
    • State and private loans are ineligible for repayment
    • PLUS loans are eligible
    • Loans must be listed on the Department of Education National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) aid summary website
    • Must enlist for a minimum 6 year term of service
    • Must enlist for a critical skills (CS) vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below
    • Information:
      • Payments will not exceed $50,000 with annual repayments not to exceed the maximum amount established by law
      • Must enlist into a qualifying position in an MTOE or Medical TDA unit only
      • Must score a minimum of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT)
  • Navy Clinical Care Provider
    • To qualify for Active Duty employment consideration as a Physician Assistant in the Navy Medical Service Corps, you must meet these basic requirements:
      • Be a U.S. citizen currently practicing in the U.S.
      • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
        Completion of a physician assistant education program approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA)
      • Certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
      • Be willing to serve a minimum of three years of Active Duty
      • Be between the ages of 18 and 41
      • Be in good physical condition and pass a full medical examination
      • General qualifications may vary depending upon whether you intend to serve Active Duty or Reserve Duty, and whether you are currently serving, have served before or have never served before.

Who Gets the Most Financial Aid?

You might think that the families who receive the most financial aid would be the families with the most need. In fact, this is not necessarily true. The people who receive the most aid are the people who best understand the aid process.

Can I afford Not To Go To PA School?

Can I afford to go to PA school? The question you should be asking is: can I afford not to go to PA school? If your goal is to become a PA, then the answer to this question is easy. The worst thing you can do is shy away from applying because you think you won’t be able to afford it, and then live the rest of your life wondering, What if?

When I applied to the Rutgers Physician Assistant Program and spoke with students at the open house, they explained that if I were to be accepted the program would do its best to ensure I got through financially. They were right.

I may have borrowed a little more than I intended, but the money was available and after an initial setback I ended up with a highly coveted NHSC Scholarship.

As you will soon find out, there are plenty of opportunities for loans, grants, scholarships, etc. It does, however, take a little work on your part. But since you have set your goals and you’re focused, you are prepared for anything.


Bonus: The Today Show recently had a very good program about loan refinancing and avoiding debt. Take a look at the video here and review their 7 ways to stop loans from ruining your life.

Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”

The Physician Assistant Personal Statemeent Workshop Essay 8 - To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement

In this latest installment of the personal statement workshop, we continue to pull essays submitted from the comments section through our free essay submission process and provide you, and our users, with a more detailed analysis of their essays.

This submission is by Katie, whose life experiences combined with a traumatic injury at the age of 13, are what inspired her to want to become a physician assistant.

We will present you with her original essay and our suggestions.

As always, use this as a guide to see where you can improve your own writing, and respect the work of others. It should go without saying this is not your essay, so don’t plagiarize.

Personal Statement Workshop: "To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement."

By: Katie

100px-Essay.svg“To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement. I frequented doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for a variety of injuries and ailments. I remember staying home sick from elementary school, curling up on the sofa to watch marathons of “Medical Mysteries” and “Trauma: Life in the ER”. My squeamish parents were somewhat disgusted by my gruesome choice of entertainment and were puzzled by my infatuation with medicine. Even so, my interest and enthusiasm for medical care persisted.

In 2006, after I was involved in a serious golf cart accident, I knew for certain that I would pursue a career in healthcare. I suffered extensive injuries after being ejected from the vehicle, run over, and dragged along the pavement. I remember the rushed atmosphere and commotion of the emergency room as I lay there feeling shocked by the gravity of the situation. Then, Michelle walked in, a smiling brunette clad in a crisp white coat. I assumed she was a physician as she explained the imaging procedures and tests I would soon undergo. She addressed me not as a naïve thirteen-year-old but simply as a concerned patient. She answered all my questions and stayed engaged in our conversation even as she performed an intra-articular injection to determine if my knee joint had been compromised. I was in awe at the combination of her technical proficiency and calm disposition. Not until years later, after attending a physician assistant symposium in college, did I realize Michelle was a physician assistant.

After my accident, my passion for medicine persisted. In high school, I enrolled in Honors Anatomy and Physiology and was fascinated by the field trips to watch an open-heart surgery and visit a cadaver lab. My teachers noted my enthusiasm for the subject and nominated me to attend a medical leadership conference at Georgetown University. When selecting a college major, I chose Nutritional Sciences because of the strong focus on biological science; it also provided a unique perspective on clinical work and emphasized the critical thinking skills necessary in practice. I worked assiduously because I knew exemplary academics were necessary when applying to graduate programs. However, despite struggling with a personal crisis during my sophomore year, I was determined not to let one semester mar the academic record I had worked so hard to achieve. I made significant changes in my life and learned how to maximize my academic potential while managing stress in a healthy way. This experience was a critical point of self-exploration, and I am confident it was an important step in preparing me for the rigors of PA school.

Once I was comfortable managing the challenges of a science-heavy course load, I began to focus on gaining more experience working in healthcare. Although my interest to learn the intricacies of medicine was undeniable, I was still unsure about which career would be the best fit for me. I spoke with doctors, nurses, and PAs to determine the differences between these types of practitioners. While trying to make a decision, I repeatedly thought of Michelle, my earliest inspiration. I saw clearly that compared to other healthcare professionals, PAs have a unique opportunity to build a rapport with their patients by getting to know them on a personal level, which is what I value most.

However, it was not until I became a certified nursing assistant at an assisted living facility that I truly understood how much I valued being a part of someone’s healing process. Initially, I saw the job as an opportunity to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, but I realized quickly the magnitude of this experience was much greater than I anticipated. It is remarkable to watch the aging process unfold and see the devastating progression of diseases. It is my responsibility to not only provide care to the residents, but also to be vigilant about changes in their condition, to be compassionate about the struggles they endure in light of their impending mortality, and to listen to them when nobody else will. These moments make me realize what an honor it is to be a healthcare provider.

Although my academic journey has always been aimed towards a career in medicine, my unique life experiences are what inspired me to become a physician assistant. The PA profession encompasses my passion for scientific knowledge and my desire to build relationships with patients. Pursuing such a fulfilling and exciting career leaves me with a profound sense of purpose and the definitive notion I will be a successful physician assistant.

Suggestions and Revisions

By: Sue Edmondson

Note: These are very brief suggestions and revisions offered through our free submissions process in the comments section. For a full-featured edit of your personal statement, please see our paid service offerings


Hi Katie,

I like the image of you as a kid watching medical shows on TV, but for purposes of this essay, you’re taking up valuable space that could be used to talk about your healthcare experiences in more detail. When I interviewed Admissions Directors and faculty from across the country, every person said they weren’t interested in hearing childhood experiences. I’d delete the entire first paragraph of your essay.

Your second paragraph is good (skip the brunette in your description of Michelle — it’s a wasted word).

The third paragraph needs editing — it reads well, but it has extra verbiage that has little significance. Remember, the people reading your essay are literally reading more than a thousand so save words where you can. And the word passion is so overused, it’s meaningless. I rarely recommend using it.

This is what I’d do in an edit:

“My interest in medicine persisted. When selecting a college major, I chose Nutritional Sciences because of the strong focus on biological science; it also provided a unique perspective on clinical work and emphasized the critical thinking skills necessary in practice. Despite struggling with a personal crisis during my sophomore year, I was determined not to let one semester mar the academic record I had worked so hard to achieve. I made significant changes and learned how to manage stress in a healthy way. This experience was a critical point of self-exploration, and I am confident it was an important step in preparing me for the rigors of PA school.”

Use the extra space to elaborate a bit more on why you’re choosing to be a PA as opposed to any other health care professional.

Best of luck.

Sue Edmondson Physician Assistant Essay CollaboratveSue Edmondson - editor - the physician assistant personal statement collaborative.

Is your mom or dad really giving you honest feedback on your personal statement?

Parents are full of great advice, but when it comes to your personal statement family and friends don't always make the best editorial team.

mom giving adviceWe offer a bit of free guidance to anyone who takes the time to submit their essay in the comments section of the blog. But your essay needs more than the sympathetic feedback provided by a friendly relative.

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  1. Personal guidance from our team of professional (unbiased) writers, with inside knowledge of the PA school personal statement. (We have personally interviewed 12 of the top PA school admissions directors from across the country.)
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We are currently accepting essays in all iterations. We have flexible pricing and can do everything from a single one-time edit to a full-service review that will take you from beginning to a finished product.  Hurry, as we can only accept a few essays each month.

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A Surgeon Speaks: 7 Reasons Why You Should Choose PA Over MD

A Fellowship Trained Surgeon Shares 7 Reasons You Should Choose PA over MD

I am a fellowship-trained surgeon.

Besides the financial aspect, the following 7 points will make your decision of PA vs. MD easy:

1.  It takes on an average at least 15 years (after high school) of head in the sand (books) to complete fellowship and reach the $200,000 debt figure that you are quoting.

2.  A 40-50 hour work week is a dream for most MDs. Most of my colleagues work 60 hrs and some up to 80 hours a week.

3.  Not counting the hours after you go home and come back for ’emergencies’.

4.  Family life is a ‘possibility’ for PAs. Look around and see how many MDs have kids before 30. You will be surprised by the small number.

5.  Most of my PA friends work two jobs (totaling 60-80hrs/week), so their salaries go up accordingly. Ever heard of an MD working two jobs. I guess 120-160 hrs/week is kinda difficult. Huh..

6.  PAs work just as well and earn just as much respect by their patients and colleagues.

7.  The only trajectory this trend is going is upwards. Mid-level providers’ need and utilization has been increasing exponentially.

I am totally happy with what I am doing. But if I were to advise an aspiring student for MD vs. PA, I would totally refer him/her to this post. I think the round 1 showdown is won by PAs, not MDs.

- Dr. S

Dr. S is a fellowship trained surgeon who was kind enough to weigh in on the PA vs. MD debate in the comments section of this blog.

What do you think? Is Dr. S spot on or dead wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.  You probably know where I stand on this debate. 🙂

Who Gets Into PA School? Here’s What You Need to Know

What Does it Take to Get Into PA School? Here's What You Need to KnowLeslie Mean is a 27 year old single white female who presents to the PA school admissions committee on her first attempt to get into PA school.

She has a 3.5 overall GPA and a 3.4 science GPA. She is holding a bachelors of science degree in biochemistry, had an SAT score in the 1000-1100 range and above average GRE scores.

She has 2 years of hands-on clinical experience working as a CNA and a long history of volunteer work which exemplifies her desire to help her fellow man.

She is kind and considerate and has reference letters which demonstrate her maturity and strong interpersonal skills.

She was accepted into PA school on her first attempt.

Who is Leslie and Why did she get into PA School?

When asking the question: What do I need to do to get into PA school? You would be smart to talk to Leslie.

Leslie is a hypothetical PA school applicant who went on to become a PA school student, a perfectly average PA school student.

She also embodies what PA school's all across the country are looking for at this very moment.

How do I know this?

Because the most recent data from the PAEA semi annual report, representing responses from over 85% of PA programs detailing characteristics of applicants and students enrolled in PA school, show that they are filling their seats with Leslie.

As much as I like to talk about not being average and differentiating yourself from the pack it is good to know what average is. Average provides a baseline by which you can measure your own progress, set goals and develop an application timeline.

Does this mean you have to be just like Leslie to get into PA school?

Absolutely not, first of all, factors such as race, age, ethnicity, etc. are of no importance and you certainly don't have to be female to get into PA school  (I myself am living proof).

But, it is safe to assume that most schools are looking to keep their graduation and certifying exam pass rates high. They have an incentive to take less risks and because of this, anything below average is considered a risk.

Thus, take a good look at Leslie and focus on factors that you can control to differentiate yourself, like your academic standing, your experience, your volunteer activities, your references and your essay.

If you set the bar at Leslie, and end up being a Mother Theresa, I am pretty sure you will be accepted into PA School, although I have no data on religious preference and PA school acceptance rates. 🙂

So what does an average PA school applicant who is admitted to PA school (i.e student) look like?

Let's take a look:

→ The average PA school students age is 27 years old

The average age of first-year students ranged between 25 and 28 for all categories.

Average age of Physician Assistant School Applicant

→ The average PA school student is female

The gender distribution of first-year students has started to stabilize after nearly a 20-year trend of a gradually increasing proportion of females:

  • Female: 72.4%
  • Male: 27.6% (mean)

First Year Enrollment in PA School by Gender

→ The Average PA school applicant has a bachelor’s degree

The majority of PA school applicants hold a baccalaureate degree.

  • No academic degree: 8.1%
  • Certificate: 0.2%
  • Associates Degree: 2.6%
  • Baccalaureate Degree: 70.5%
  • Master’s Degree: 6.6%
  • Doctoral Degree: 0.9%

→ Most students had four years of hands-on clinical experience prior to applying*

PA school applicants come to the table with a variety of medical experience, especially if they are strong applicants. On average, four years of prior experience in one of the following areas is common:

  • Nursing
    • Registered Nurse (RN)
    • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
    • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Allied Health
    • Physical Therapist
    • Occupational Therapist
    • Registered Radiologic Technologist
    • Athletic Trainer
  • Emergency Services
    • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
    • Paramedic
    • Emergency Room Technician
  • Miscellaneous
    • Phlebotomist (that was me!)
    • Medical Researcher
    • Medical Volunteer


Average healthcare experience years and hours of PA School Student or Applicant

* 2015-2016 update: Some recent data suggests HCE hours are significantly declining with a new average of 1.88 years of health care experience among matriculating (accepted) students.

→ SAT/GRE scores of those accepted tend to be in the above-average range

SAT scores are in the 1000-1100 range.

→ The average PA school student has between a 3.36 and 3.47 overall GPA and an undergraduate science GPA between 3.36 and 3.47

  • The average undergraduate overall GPA for PA school applicants who WERE ACCEPTED into PA school was 3.49, undergraduate science GPA was 3.36 and non science GPA was 3.56.
  • The average GPA for students who WERE NOT ACCEPTED into PA school was 3.16

Interesting factoid: As the age of applicants increases, GPA tends to be lower.

Average GPA for PA School Student Undergraduate and Science

→ Most PA school students are White

Skin color has nothing to do with acceptance rates, but it is interesting (and maybe a bit sad) to know that the vast majority of first year students were White (86.5%) followed by Asian (11.1%) and Black or African American 4.1%.

First Year Student PA School By Race and Ethnicity

→ What are your chances of being accepted into PA school?

  1. If you apply to one PA program - you have a 25% chance of getting in
  2. If you apply to 12 programs (or more) - you have a 49% chance of getting acceptance

Interesting factoid: There is no additional benefit for applying to 12 programs or more!

→ Pucker up baby, most PA students are single!

Most students are single (67.7%), though just over a quarter were married (26.4%). A little over two percent were divorced and over one percent were in a domestic partnership/civil union. Most students (85.1%) have no legal dependents. For the nearly 15% of students that reported having legal dependents other than themselves, the average number of dependents was 2.02, with a range of 1 to 7 dependents. Over 30% of respondents said they were considered a dependent of their parents.

→ Most PA students are from "The Burbs"

Half of students reported spending most of their time in a suburban setting. One quarter of respondents reported spending most of their time in a rural environment, followed by 15% in an inner-city setting.

Where do PA School Students Come From

→ PA school students don't smoke pot and are not drug dealers or part of the Italian Mafia

Over three-quarters (82.8%) of programs reported that students were required to have a background check upon matriculation to the program, while 78.7% of responding programs now mandate drug testing.

Some Important Points

It's not Rocket Science: It is important that a candidate demonstrates reasonable aptitude in the hard sciences such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry and biology. It is more likely that the committee may overlook a grade of C in U.S History or Spanish I. They will be less tolerant of a marginal grade in the sciences.

Show compassion: Your GPA is stellar and you've amassed an impressive amount of medical work experience in the little spare time you have while keeping your grades pristine, but you still get that dreaded rejection letter. Why? You didn't do enough volunteer work. Volunteering exemplifies your desire to help your fellow man—the attribute identified by schools as one of the most integral to becoming a successful PA. "Students who have had experience in working with underserved populations, rural or diverse populations, performing volunteer service or disaster relief, or other experiences that illustrate a drive and compassion for others often stand out to the admissions committee,"

Quote Run of a Ladder Thomas Henry HuxleyIt's an easy race to the bottom, so set your sights at the top: Many people will be set aback when they read that only 25% of applicants will be accepted into PA school on any given year, but this should actually be good news. Being in the top 25% in any field is not nearly as hard as it sounds, simply because the majority of the competition is in the bottom 75% and has bottom 75% qualifications. For example, you have read this entire post so you now know what the average PA school applicant who has had some success looks like. You understand what a top 75 percent applicant looks like. Your goal now is to be better than the average 75% and exceed the top 25%.  If you aim high, you will be competing with a much smaller minority, and your odds of getting an acceptance letter will increase dramatically. It also helps if you apply to 12 programs.  😉

Tables and data were sourced from:

The 28'th and 29'th PAEA Annual Report


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