Your main goal as a new physician assistant or as someone hoping to become one should not be immediate success or money, but to learn as much as possible.
When people look for a “way in” to a particular field – an internship or first job – they often search for positions which promise the greatest prestige or financial reward.
But there are other, more important rewards to consider
For one, a job that gives you an opportunity to learn can be worth doing, even if it doesn’t pay well.
Other more prestigious, well-paid positions will be available to you later, and the practical knowledge you gain from those early, poorly paid jobs will ultimately pay off for decades to come.
Consider my first job in the medical field
The only position available when I applied at the campus health clinic in 1996 was an hourly position in the basement, far removed from patients, working for minimum wage (which at the time was a whopping $4.25 an hour) as a medical records clerk.
This “entry level” position gave me my foot in the door and after a couple of months of filing records in the evenings I transitioned to a float.
Soon I was “kicking it” with the doctors, PA’s and medical staff. I later met a college senior who was working in the laboratory as a student phlebotomist and technician. She became a close friend who would eventually pass her time-honored position on to me.
It was here, in the lab, that I worked alongside a medical doctor turned lab technician from India who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.
I became close acquaintances with a Physician Assistant who ran the campus orthopedic clinic and let me hang out from time to time.
Later, it was these phlebotomy credentials (not my 4 year degree in Biology mind you) that I used to obtain employment after graduation. It was the amazing campus health center staff that would go on to write the letters of recommendation that were surely a part of my acceptance into PA school.
I never made enough money to buy more than my annual bus pass and pay part of my living expenses. But the knowledge, the resources and the connections I gained were priceless.
Stop Acting Entitled – It’s Time to Rethink The Meaning of Work!
Take a look at this 2011 TED talk by Charlie Hoehn author of The Recession Proof Graduate – How to Land The Job You Want by Doing FREE WORK (FREE download)
Many masters made a similar choice in their early years
Consider boxer Freddie Roach: he chose to take an unpaid position at a boxing center, using his time there to develop the skills necessary to his professional career. Ultimately, his decision paid off; Roach eventually earned far more money than if he’d taken a different, paid job early on.
For example, in his youth, Charles Darwin rejected both a place at medical school and a well-paid job in the church. Instead, he convinced his father to allow him to work as an unpaid naturalist on the HMS Beagle, where he could study exotic plants and animals. The observations he made during that voyage helped him to develop his famous theory of evolution.
Or consider Benjamin Franklin, who – rather than taking over his father’s lucrative candle-making business – chose to work at a printing business. This meant a far longer apprenticeship, and financial uncertainty, but Franklin recognized he could use this position to learn how texts were composed – a skill that would later benefit him greatly.
Your Inner Calling
Have you ever had the feeling that a discipline or field was tailor-made just for you, and that working in that field is your destiny?
Then you need to trust that feeling and do whatever it takes to make your destiny a reality.
Each of us is unique – an original, through and through. Due to the endless possible combinations of DNA in our bodies, we are a one-of phenomenon.
Like snowflakes, no two humans are exactly alike.
So why is it, then, that we don’t all act unique?
Due to incredible social pressure to blend in, we suppress our uniqueness in the vain hope that just doing what everyone else does will keep us out of trouble.
Rather than using your energy to blend in with the crowd, recognise instead that you’re unique, and that you have a specific calling in life which can be found quite simply by listening to – and following – your inner voice.
As I write this now I sound bold and fearless but when I first approached the campus health center in hopes of finding a job and some medical experience I was terrified.
I lacked self-confidence, I was doubting my inner calling.
But what I didn’t doubt was my desire to help other people.
My “calling” or whatever you want to call it, that led me to believe that a career in medicine was even a possibility.
A lot of people spend their time making excuses instead of making solutions!
Some excuses I hear all the time:
- There are no jobs out there to gain experience – Then do what I like to do – offer to work for free. Then see where you are in a month, if you play your cards right this may be the best investment of time you have ever made.
- PA’s don’t want to let me shadow – Call one up and invite them out for coffee. Or if that sounds scary, write a personal hand-written letter and drop it off at their office. Explain to them how much you want to help others, why you dream of being a PA, how you admire them and their position and value their work. Hell (although this might come across as stocking so be careful :-)) you could even schedule to make an appointment then work it in to the conversation. Then ask them if you could buy them a cup of coffee and pick their brain – Maybe this is best for the follow-up appointment!
- I am not smart enough – This is fear taking over. If you struggle (I hate math for example) then do whatever it takes to figure out how to get through it. In 2014 with the dawn of the Khan, Udemy, Coursera, EdX etc. etc. There should be no more excuses!
- I have a family – Granted I didn’t have kids when I attended PA school although I have two now and a wife that works. Having a family doesn’t mean life should stop, it just means you need to get serious about time management, assess your priorities, turn off the TV and make the time.
- I am too old – I attended PA school with a 56-year-old post doctorate student with a previous degree in psychology. I work with a 62-year-old NP who decided he needed a new challenge. I work with a 75-year-old PA who loves her job. Life is about learning, it is never too late.
I can’t, I don’t, but I, I’m not – These are self-limiting words that will hold you back.
Next time you see yourself making excuses stop! Just stop, and reframe your thinking.
Instead of thinking of all the ways you can’t do something start thinking about the ways you can instead.
Change your worldview and the view of the world will change with you!
I am not even sure where this blog post started but I like the way it turned out…
The point is this:
- Your main goal as a new physician assistant or as someone hoping to become one shouldn’t be immediate success or money, but to learn as much as possible.
- Follow the advice of Charlie Hoehn – Rethink your definition of work, stop acting entitled, choose an area you’d like to work in and get some skills then contact “targets and prove your worth!
- Listen to your inner calling.
- Be Unique… i.e. Be yourself.
- And finally stop making excuses! As my dad always says “excuses are like armpits and they all stink”. Change from a limited to a limitless mindset.
That is a lot to absorb in a blog post, but hey, life is short – So get GOING!
Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog post. I wish you the best on your journey, and I hope you have a wonderful day!
- Stephen @thepalife