The Physician Assistant Life

Healthcare Experience Required for PA School: The Ultimate Guide

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  - Anne Frank

Today we are going to tackle step 2 of my 5 steps to PA school series by taking a very detailed look at healthcare experience requirements for PA school.

Included, in this discussion is a side-by-side comparison of healthcare experience requirements of all PA programs in the United States.

PA is different from most other health professions in that to be competitive as an applicant it often requires a very large number of hours of paid health care experience.

But the question remains: How many hours of healthcare related experience do you need to give yourself a competitive advantage along with a broad range of application options in the shortest amount of time?

What do you think?

Healthcare Experience Requirements for PA School

Below is a table comparing the hours of healthcare experience required and type of healthcare experience requested by all 204 Physician Assistant Programs in the United States.

Take a minute (or thirty) to browse through the table and I will meet you again at the bottom for a heated discussion! (as well as the answer to the survey question above)

Table: Healthcare Experience Requirements by Physician Assistant Program (204 programs)

Physician Assistant Program State Healthcare Experience Requirement
Adventist University of Health Sciences Florida 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Albany Medical College New York 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Alderson-Broaddus University West Virginia Not required
Anne Arundel Community College Maryland Preferred/recommended
Arcadia University Pennsylvania 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Arizona School of Health Sciences Arizona Preferred/recommended
Augsburg College Minnesota Preferred/recommended
Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Preferred/recommended
Barry University Florida, Virgin Islands Preferred/recommended
Bay Path College Massachusetts 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient careVolunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Baylor College of Medicine Texas Not required
Bethel University Tennessee Preferred/recommended
Bethel University Minnesota 250 hours

Acceptable Experience: Not specified

Boston University Massachusetts Not required
Bryant University Rhode Island 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Butler University Indiana Not required
Campbell University North Carolina 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Carroll University Wisconsin 150 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

CCNY Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education New York Not required
Central Michigan University Michigan 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Chapman University California 1,000 hours

health care related work experience, paid or voluntary.

Chatham University Pennsylvania Preferred/recommended
Christian Brothers University Tennessee See Program Website
Clarkson University New York 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Concordia University Wisconsin 124 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Cornell University New York No minimum

200 hour recommended.Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

CUNY York College New York 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Cuyahoga Community College/Cleveland State University Ohio Preferred/recommended
D'youville College New York 80 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Daemen College New York 120 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Des Moines University Iowa 750 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Desales University Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Drexel University Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Duke University Medical Center North Carolina 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Duquesne University Pennsylvania Not required
East Carolina University North Carolina See Program Website
Eastern Michigan University Michigan 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Eastern Virginia Medical School Virginia Preferred/recommended
Elon University North Carolina 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Emory University Georgia 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Franklin Pierce University New Hampshire See Program Website
Gannon University Pennsylvania 30 hours

Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Gardner Webb University North Carolina Preferred/recommended
George Washington University District of Columbia 1,000 hours
Georgia Regents University Georgia See Program Website
Grand Valley State University Michigan 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Harding University Arkansas 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (FIU) Florida See Program Website
Heritage University Washington 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

High Point University North Carolina 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Hofstra University New York 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Howard University District of Columbia 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Idaho State University Idaho Not required
Indiana State University Indiana Preferred/recommended
Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Indiana 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Interservice Texas  see program website
James Madison University Virginia 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Jefferson College of Health Sciences Virginia 500 hours

Acceptable experience not specified

Johnson & Wales University Rhode Island 250 hours

Direct patient care in the United States and in an allopathic or osteopathic medical setting.

Keiser University Florida see program website
Kettering College Ohio Preferred/recommended
King's College Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Lake Erie College Ohio 250 hours

At least 50 of the 250 hours must be from direct shadowing of a licensed physician assistant. Here is the form for PA shadowing. Although this form does not need to be used exclusively, all prospective students will need to retain documentation. Documentation must be available for verification.

Le Moyne College New York 750 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Lenoir-Rhyne University North Carolina Not required
Lincoln Memorial Tennessee Preferred/recommended
Lock Haven University Pennsylvania see program website
Loma Linda University California 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Long Island University New York 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Louisiana State University - New Orleans Louisiana 80 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Louisiana State University - Shreveport Louisiana 80 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Lynchburg College Virginia 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Marietta College Ohio Preferred/recommended
Marist College New York 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Marquette University Wisconsin 200 hours

Acceptable experience not specified.

Marshall B. Ketchum University California Preferred/recommended
Mary Baldwin College Virginia  see program website
Marywood University Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

MCPHS University (Boston) Massachusetts Preferred/recommended
MCPHS University (Manchester/Worcester) New Hampshire Preferred/recommended
MCPHS University (Manchester/Worcester) Massachusetts Preferred/recommended
Medical University of South Carolina South Carolina Preferred/recommended
Mercer University Georgia 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Mercy College New York Preferred/recommended
Mercyhurst University Pennsylvania 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Methodist University North Carolina 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

MGH Institute of Health Professions Massachusetts  see program website
Miami-Dade College Florida see program website
Midwestern University (Downers Grove) Illinois Preferred/recommended
Midwestern University (Glendale) Arizona Preferred/recommended
Misericordia University Pennsylvania Preferred/recommended
Mississippi College Mississippi 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Missouri State University Missouri 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Monmouth University New Jersey 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

New York Institute of Technology New York 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Northeastern University Massachusetts 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Northern Arizona University Arizona 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Northwestern University Illinois see program website
Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale Florida Preferred/recommended
Nova Southeastern University, Jacksonville Florida Preferred/recommended
Nova Southeastern University, Orlando Florida Preferred/recommended
Nova Southeastern University, Southwest Florida Florida Preferred/recommended
Ohio Dominican University Ohio 250 hours

Acceptable experience not specified

Oregon Health & Science University Oregon 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Our Lady of the Lake College Florida 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Pace University New York 200 hours

Acceptable Experience Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Pacific University Oregon 1,000 hours
Penn State University Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Pennsylvania College of Technology Pennsylvania see program website
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Pennsylvania see program website
Phladelphia University Pennsylvania 200 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Quinnipiac University Connecticut see program website
Red Rocks Community College Colorado 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Rochester Institute of Technology New York Preferred/recommended
Rocky Mountain College Montana 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions Utah 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Rosalind Franklin Univ of Medicine Illinois Preferred/recommended
Rush University Illinois see program website
Rutgers University New Jersey Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant
Saint Catherine University Minnesota Preferred/recommended
Saint Francis University Pennsylvania Preferred/recommended
Saint Louis University Missouri 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Salus University Pennsylvania 300 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Samuel Merritt College California see program website
San Joaquin Valley College California  see program website
Seton Hall University New Jersey 100 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Seton Hill University Pennsylvania 300 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Shenandoah University Virginia Preferred/recommended
South College Tennessee see program website
South University Georgia Preferred/recommended
South University, Tampa Florida see program website
Southern Illinois University Illinois Preferred/recommended
Springfield College Massachusetts  see program website
St. Ambrose University Iowa 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

St. John's University New York Preferred/recommended
Stanford University California 3,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Stony Brook University New York 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Sullivan University Kentucky 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

SUNY Downstate Medical Center New York A minimum of 225 hours of health-related experience
SUNY Upstate Medical Center New York 1,000 hours

health care related volunteer or employment experience-direct patient care preferred.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Texas 40 hours

Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Thomas Jefferson University Pennsylvania Preferred/recommended
Touro College (Bay Shore) New York see program website
Touro College (Manhattan) New York see program website
Touro University - California California 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

Touro University Las Vegas Nevada Preferred/recommended

Paid experience with hands-on patient care Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Towson University CCBC - Essex Maryland 800 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Trevecca Nazarene University Tennessee Preferred/recommended
Tufts University School of Medicine Massachusetts 1,000 hours

Acceptable Experience Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Union College Nebraska 480 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of Alabama at Birmingham Alabama Preferred/recommended
University of Arkansas Arkansas 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

University of Bridgeport Connecticut 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of California-Davis California 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of Charleston West Virginia Preferred/recommended
University of Colorado Colorado see program website
University of Dayton Ohio 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant.

University of Detroit/Mercy Michigan 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of Findlay Ohio Preferred/recommended
University of Florida Florida Preferred/recommended
University of Iowa Iowa 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of Kentucky Kentucky 1,050 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore Maryland see program website
University of Missouri - Kansas City Missouri Preferred/recommended
University of Mount Union Ohio see program website
University of Nebraska Nebraska Preferred/recommended
University of New England Maine 250 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of New Mexico New Mexico 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of North Carolina North Carolina  see program website
University of North Dakota North Dakota 5,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of North Texas HS Center Ft Worth Texas Not required
University Of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Oklahoma Preferred/recommended
University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Oklahoma Preferred/recommended
University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care

University of South Alabama Alabama Not required
University of South Dakota South Dakota Preferred/recommended
University of Southern California California Preferred/recommended
University of St. Francis New Mexico see program website
University of St. Francis (Fort Wayne) Indiana 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of Tennessee Health Science Center Tennessee 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of Texas - HS Center at San Antonio Texas Preferred/recommended
University of Texas - Medical Branch at Galveston Texas Not required
University of Texas - Pan American Texas 50 hours

Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of the Cumberlands Kentucky 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of the Sciences of Philadelphia Pennsylvania 400 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of Toledo Ohio Preferred/recommended
University of Utah Utah 2,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

University of Washington Washington 2,000 hours acceptable but 4000 hours recommended

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Wisconsin see program website
University of Wisconsin - Madison Wisconsin see program website
Wagner College New York  see program website
Wake Forest University North Carolina 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care.  Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care.  Shadowing a physician or physician assistant

Wayne State University Michigan 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

West Liberty University West Virginia Preferred/recommended
Western Michigan University Michigan 1,000 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Western University of Health Sciences California see program website
Wichita State University Kansas see program website
Wingate University North Carolina 500 hours

Paid experience with hands-on patient care

Yale University School of Medicine Connecticut Competitive applicants are recommended (but not required) to have a minimum of six months full-time healthcare employment, or 1,000 total hours of hands-on patient care experience and/or community service in a healthcare setting. (see website)

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PA Program Experience Requirements by the Numbers

If you crunch the numbers, the table above reveals some very interesting facts:

What do you mean by healthcare "hours"?

Just in case you are wondering: 2,000 hours is the standard definition of one year of full-time work.

Simply put, there are 52 weeks in a year, assuming 2 weeks of vacation and a standard 40 hours of work per week: 50 x 40 = 2,000.

Thus, a school requiring 1,000 hours would mean you could work part time for one year and meet the healthcare experience requirements.

On the others side of the coin, a school such as Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center which used to require (updated in 2016) 40 hours of health care experience means you could have worked one day and then quit 🙂

By now you may be saying "This is great news Stephen, only 11% of schools require more than 1,000 hours of healthcare experience, I can take it easy!"

Not so fast!

If you have read my post "Who Gets Into PA School? Here’s What You Need to Know" you may have noticed that according to the The 28'th PAEA Annual Report on Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the United States, on average, among matriculating students four years (roughly 8,000 hours) of prior experience is most common.

That being said, it is important to note that only 3,560 of these hours are composed of direct patient contact experience.

You can see the full breakdown below:

How much healthcare expereince do you need to apply to Physician Assistant School

Although, not reported in the 28th annual report, data from the 27th annual report reveals a more detailed breakdown of these numbers.

I think it is interesting that 10% of accepted applicants had roughly 1,000 hours (140 of those being patient contact hours and 15 hours of shadowing), 25% had 2,000 total hours (446 of those being patient contact hours and 30 hours shadowing). You can see the details of the 27th annual PAEA report in the table below.

27th annual report patient contact hours

Just in case you are lazy curious I have included a list with links to the 72 programs which do not require healthcare experience (HCE) hours to apply.

PA programs in which no prior healthcare experience is required: 3 schools

Currently, there are 3 PA schools that do not require healthcare experience upon application.

PA programs with healthcare experience NOT REQUIRED but RECOMMENDED/PERFERRED: 84 schools

Currently there are 84 PA schools that have no healthcare experience minimums but to be competitive it is preferred/recommended.

Click Here to See the List

What constitutes healthcare experience (HCE)

As you can see from the table above, the acceptable experiential preparation requirements varies from school to school.

Most schools report accepting:

  1. Paid experience with hands-on patient care
  2. Volunteer experience with hands-on patient care
  3. Shadowing a physician or physician assistant as acceptable HCE.

Many schools don't accept shadowing or volunteer hours as acceptable HCE so, as always, you must check the school website and contact the PA program directly if you have any questions whatsoever.

In the PAEA graphs and tables above you may have noticed that HCE was broken down into 6 general categories. This is because CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) has 6 experience categories for reporting work and volunteer activities and the PAEA report is based on CASPA applicants.

Again, some PA programs will not accept HCE outside of the patient care experience category, although many do.

CASPA Reporting Work and Volunteer Experiences Categories

For a wonderfully detailed look at how to report work and/or volunteer experience in each of these categories I recommend you check out Paul Gonzales' amazingly thorough explanation on his blog "Trust me, I'm a PA Student".

The six CASPA reporting categories are as follows:

 1. Patient Care Experience 

This is the most important section. List experiences in which you are directly responsible for a patient’s care; for example: prescribing medication, performing procedures, directing a course of treatment, working on patients as an active EMT, etc.

2. Other Health Care Experience

You are working in the health or a health-related field but are not directly responsible for a patient’s care; for example, filling prescriptions, performing clerical work, delivering patient food, cleaning patient rooms, working as a “Candy Striper” or hospital volunteer, etc.

3. Health Care Shadowing

Time spent officially following and observing a health care professional at work.

4. Research

Research projects done in addition to classroom work; research should NOT appear as credit on a school transcript.

5. Community Service

Volunteer work done outside of the health care field; for example, working for Habitat for Humanity, tutoring children, participating in or working for a fundraiser walk or blood drive, etc.

6. Other Work Experience

Paid work done outside of the health care field; for example: a retail or restaurant job.

From The Horses Mouth

Lets look at what some of the PA schools themselves are recommending for  HCE:

Upstate Medical University's Definition

Documentation of 1000 hours will be required prior to matriculation.

Preferred experiences: Military corpsmen or medic, nursing (ex. certified nurse assistant, nurses aide, RN, home health care aide), EMT's employed full time (active hours only for EMT volunteers), paramedic, medical technologist, massage therapist, radiation therapist, respiratory therapist, phlebotomist, X-Ray technologist, medical imaging, clinical counselor, medical assistant, chiropractor, PT or PT aide, athletic trainer, New Visions, volunteer experience with direct patient care.

Acceptable: Shadowing a health care professional (200 hours maximum), Pharmaceutical Sales with patient contact, health related research (will be reviewed on an individual basis), pharmacy technician (100 hours maximum).

(see program website)

Yale Physician Assistant Program Definition

Competitive applicants are recommended (but not required) to have a minimum of six months full-time healthcare employment, or 1,000 total hours of hands-on patient care experience and/or community service in a healthcare setting.  Preference is given to applicants having experience that requires a period of training and results in direct (hands-on) patient care.

  • Examples include: EMT, Paramedic, Registered Nurse, Medical Assistant, CNA, ER Tech, Physical Therapy Aide
  • Hours associated with the completion of academic degrees, certifications, or training will not count

Evidence of community service (i.e., healthcare for under-served populations, medical mission trips) is highly valued.

(see program website)

Northeastern Physician Assistant Program Definition

Evidence of significant direct hands-on patient care experience is required in order for applicants to have a basic understanding of and comfort with patient care as well as a minimum level of clinical maturity. Strongest preference will be given to applicants who have approximately 2000 hours of hands-on patient care experience prior to applying to the program. Applicants with less than 2000 hours may also be given consideration depending upon the strength of their entire application.

  • hands-on patient care involves working one-on-one with patients anddoingproceduresthatrequire touching patients yourself including, but not limited to:
    • taking vital signs
    • drawing blood
    • doing EKGs
    • changing bandages and dressings
    • casting and splinting
    • removing sutures and staples
    • bathing and toileting
  • partial list of hands-on patient care positions includes, but is not limited to (for a more comprehensive list of both acceptable and unacceptable positions, click here):
    • certified nursing assistant
    • medical/clinical assistant
    • ER tech
    • EMT doing more than patient transfer
    • physical therapy assistant
    • paramedic
    • nurse
    • physical therapist
    • respiratory therapist
    • medical corpsman

northeastern-hands-on-patient-care-experience

(see program website)

 Full-time paid employment done after completing your bachelor’s degree is always most competitive! 

Health Care Experience that is NOT ACCEPTABLE for PA School

Just as it is important to know what to report as HCE, it is equally important to know what not to report.

Below is an example from the Duke University. The following types of experience are NOT accepted toward the 1,000 hours of patient care experience as required by Duke.

  • PA or physician observer or shadow
  • non-clinical research assistant positions
  • student clinical experience (student nurse, student EMT, student athletic trainer, or other health care student)
  • student "intern" experiences, candy striper or junior volunteer positions
  • CPR or ACLS instructor
  • wilderness medicine instructor
  • patient transporter
  • pharmaceutical representative
  • ski patroller
  • life guard
  • aerobics instructor
  • unit clerk, insurance clerk
  • medical secretary or other clerical positions.

Here is a list from South Carolina School of Medicine PA Program

Unacceptable forms of clinical experience include:

  • Veterinarian Assistant
  • Receptionist for Physician's Office
  • Administrator or Business Manager for Physician’s Office
  • Massage Therapist
  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Aesthetician
  • Dental Hygienist/Assisting
  • Inpatient Patient Transport/Orderly
  • Health Fitness Specialist
click here to see a list of what they consider acceptable experience

Does PA Shadowing Count Towards Healthcare Experience?

Applicants are encouraged to "shadow" a PA to become knowledgeable of the role of the physician assistant; More often than not this experience does not count as patient care experience, so as I always say, make sure to contact your PA program prior to submitting your application.

2,000 Hours

In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell identifies 10,000 hours (5 years of full time work) as the amount of time it takes to become an expert in any given field.

You don't need to be a healthcare "expert" come application time but having a good number of HCE hours has big advantages.

When it comes to your PA school application and HCE it is important to focus on direct, hands-on patient care experience.

Although only 4% of school require 2,000 hours or more, for the majority of PA school applicants, 2,000 hours (1 year) of direct, hands-on patient care experience is a good general rule of thumb.

  1. 2,000 hours of patient care experience places you close to the mean of 3,560 hours and above the median of 1,428 hours.
  2. It will make you much more competitive as an applicant and give you more options come application time.
  3. It will give you confidence in your decision to pursue PA as a career choice.
  4. You will have the necessary medical experience to sit comfortably in any interview situation.
  5. You will have the fuel for a killer personal statement.

My Healthcare Experience

When I applied to PA school back in 2004 I had roughly 5,000 hours of direct patient contact experience as well as quite a bit of work and volunteer experience both inside and outside the realm of healthcare. I accumulated this through work as a phlebotomist both as a student in the campus health clinic and then later after graduation while working in an outpatient mobile health setting.

Many schools at the time (specifically MEDEX and OHSU where I was hoping for acceptance) considered even this to be insufficient. I could have been patient and accrued more patient care experience and let more time pass but instead, I chose to throw a larger net and apply to schools that did not require so many hours. At the time many of these school were on the East Coast.

People write me all the time frustrated that their schools of choice won't give them the time of day. It is important to keep your options open, the wider the net you cast the greater your chances of catching a fish.

There are many ways to garner the patient care experience you need and the sooner you start the easier it will be to fulfill these requirements in a timely matter.

You should aim to have enough hours to be competitive, look at the median of accepted applicants, this is a good goal to have.

And most importantly it should not be seen as a burden to entry, it should be seen as an opportunity to get your hands wet in a field you love in preparation for a life of fulfilling work practicing what you love as a PA

Note:

This post is part two of my continuing series: The 5 Steps of PA School. To receive immediate updates when new posts are published sign up for the blog email.

Resources used for this blog post:

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