Hello, everyone, and welcome back to this five-part CASPA navigation series taking you step-by-step through completing your CASPA application from start to finish.
My name is Kanwal Ali, and I'm a physician assistant student accepted into the University of Pittsburgh Hybrid PA program for the 2023 academic year.
In this video, we will be navigating one of the heftier sections of the CASPA application: the supporting information section. So, let's dive right in.
Below is a transcript of this video edited for clarity.
CASPA Video Tutorial Section 3: Supporting Information
[00:00:15] The first section is the evaluations section. This is where you will be requesting your recommendation letters from anyone who can vouch for you, such as your clinical work supervisors, MDs, DOs, PAs, NPs, RNs, professors, and on and on.
[00:00:33] There is a minimum of three letters needed and a maximum of five. The evaluators or people who you request a letter from are responsible for submitting the recommendation letter themselves. Letters should be written on official letterhead and signed by the letter writer as well. Once your request has been completed, meaning the individual has submitted a letter for you, you cannot change or delete the request. You can only delete or edit the request in certain statuses, such as the requested status or the accepted status of your evaluation. So keep this in mind when choosing who can successfully vouch for you and write positively about you.
[00:01:18] To create an evaluation request, you're just going to click right here, and it will prompt you to fill out all this information. You will need the evaluator's full name and email address and provide a due date. This due date is when you want the letter to be submitted and completed by them. Once you scroll down, you will also waive your right to access the evaluation and give permission to have your evaluators contacted by CASPA or the program.
[00:01:49] Once that's done, you can head back and add up to five requests.
[00:01:56] The next section is the experiences section. This part took me the longest out of all of them because you really want to perfect your job experiences and job responsibilities and put them under the correct category. I highly recommend visiting the CASPA help center since they provide explanations of what, for example, healthcare experience is versus what patient care experience is.
[00:02:21] It is different for each program. For example, working as a CNA or medical assistant is actually not considered patient care experience with CASPA's own definition. While I disagree, I chose to research what my specific programs went by when I was applying. There are programs that do see CNA or medical assistant work as direct patient care experience and some programs that do not. So it's very important to make sure you put your work experience under the correct categories since these hours can be counted differently for each program respective to the categories. I'm actually going to go over a few of my own experiences from the different categories for you to have an example of.
[00:03:07] Let's go over the first one, which is shadowing. You'll put in all the basic information, but I do want to showcase the description. I documented that my time spent shadowing a neurology PA consisted of observing the consultations of both new and follow-up patients and routine care in the office. I observed firsthand interactions between the PA and patients in a clinical setting, observing how to take a thorough patient history. Review of systems, going over test results, and following up on medications, all while still coordinating with the physician. I was able to learn about neurological tests and pathology that were common in this specialty, such as carotid dopplers, EEGs, balance tests, meningiomas, TIAs, tinnitus, and types of seizures.
[00:03:57] You want to make sure that you write what you are doing at your time, either when you were shadowing, working, or volunteering. Let's save and continue.
Patient Care Experience
[00:04:08] The next one is patient care experience. I worked as a phlebotomist. You will write your title right here.
[00:04:17] My job duties working at Jana healthcare consisted of performing routine venipuncture on both new and follow-up patients, performing finger sticks for diabetic patients, conducting EKGs to monitor those suspected of any heart complications, and administering COVID-19 nasal swab tests. My duties expanded to training and overlooking new lab staff, along with prepping patient rooms for cosmetic/aesthetic procedures as well.
[00:04:43] I have become familiar with diagnosis and billing codes used and help additional providers that sit at our clinics, such as podiatry, pain management, and nutrition. So again, you do not want to have a generic description. You really want to incorporate your job responsibilities and what you did.
[00:05:04] Let's look at a different section: healthcare experience versus patient care. During my time at NYU Langone, Brooklyn branch as an emergency department volunteer as well as a care volunteer on different floors of the hospital, I spent time with patients one on one to provide care and support to ill patients, such as providing food and warm blankets. When designated to specific patients on a floor, I would spend an hour or two sitting with a patient as a companion to listen to their thoughts and feelings. When patients were triaged in the ED, I would transport them to their designated rooms or areas within parts of the hospital. I also trained new volunteers.
[00:05:46] So that's something more healthcare-related versus patient care related. Now I will discuss my volunteer work with Red Cross.
[00:05:59] I took part in monthly fire alarm installation shifts, visiting residents in all five boroughs who needed fire detectors and educating them on the importance of fire safety. We now do online shifts to promote this event. I also led workshops and campaign events to spread information about this organization to the public and how we are available to aid people in all sorts of disasters. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to take part in the healthcare heroes initiative, going to different hospitals and distributing bags of supplies and food to those working on the front lines.
[00:06:36] That's something for volunteer work that you can describe.
[00:06:41] Let's do maybe one last one.
[00:06:48] I was an intern at south beach, I was a fieldwork intern in the outpatient center with patients suffering from severe schizophrenia for my psychopathology seminar class. I led weekly community morning meetings and co-led therapeutic activity sessions with clients at the facility such as anger management, bingo, poem writing sessions, or social skills training. This was done to help patients engage in healthy social skills and develop coping behaviors during their visit to the facility.
[00:07:19] So again, it is very important to describe what you had done with your experiences and not just a generic description of the job.
[00:07:29] This is just some of what you would be writing. You would need the dates, category, and locations for each experience.
[00:07:39] The achievement section is pretty easygoing. You'll input your professional or academic achievements, any publications you may have, scholarships, etc. At the time, I only opted to put these two. Next, you have your licenses and certifications to input. There are programs out there that require, for example, a BLS certification, and hence you can see mine right here. Always research your program to make sure you will obtain the correct certification. For me, while I did have to get BLS certified, it could only be through the AHA, which is the American Heart Association.
[00:08:18] So be cognizant of these kinds of details for each program.
[00:08:25] In the next section, you have your essay. I had written mine on a Google doc and with the help of The Personal Statement Collaborative from The PA Life. I was very confident in my essay. And you just basically copy-paste and review the paragraph spacing and make sure it's within 5,000 characters and just continue.
[00:08:44] The last section is memberships. When I was applying, I really don't remember having any memberships I was part of. Only recently, after being accepted to my school, I joined the AAPA as a student member. So, if you have that while you're applying to CASPA, you would just input that information right here.
[00:09:04] Congratulations, you have completed the third section of your CASPA application - the supporting information section.
Join us next week when we will share the next video in this CASPA application tutorial series - program materials.