Welcome to the Ultimate Physician Assistant Shopping Guide
Are you looking for the perfect gift for that special PA, PA student, or soon to be physician assistant in your life? Or maybe you are just doing some vanity shopping? Look no further below are my favorite, time tested, and PA approved products.
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You can use these buttons below to shop additional books, gear and apps I have personally selected to be the very best of the best.
A stethoscope is the perfect gift for all seasons. There are a lot of budget options (this is my personal favorite budget stethoscope) but considering this is the one tool you use daily it is worth purchasing a quality product with good acoustics. I have used a variety of Littmann stethoscopes over the years and these are without a doubt my personal favorites which balance comfort and quality.
Littmann Classic III Stethoscope
The Littmann Classic III Stethoscope is a timeless classic which balances price, form, and function. Quality acoustics and a two-sided chest piece with tunable diaphragms on both the adult and pediatric sides. The single-piece tunable diaphragm is easy to attach, and easier to clean because its surface is smooth without crevices. The pediatric side converts to a traditional open bell by replacing the single-piece diaphragm with a non-chill rim.
Littmann Cardiology IV Stethoscope
The Littmann Cardiology IV is my personal favorite and considered by many to be the "gold standard" among stethoscopes. Most PA schools will say the same. Having used almost every stethoscope on the market I find the Littmann Cardiology III to be the only stethoscope that allows for easy auscultation of even the most difficult to hear heart sounds, this is especially important in a loud clinic environment. It is a bit heavy when compared to the Littmann Classic III but worth it for the increased acoustic performance. If you can afford the extra cost this is the stethoscope I recommend, it will last a lifetime.
Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor
Gone are the days of the old "pump and pray" sphygmometer. This Withings wireless automatic blood pressure monitor is extremely accurate, syncs wirelessly with the Withings health mate app, provides detailed results and recommended values displayed in the app, provides dual connectivity (Bluetooth + wired) is compatible with iOS and android and did I mention it also takes your blood pressure! At $79 this a no-brainer.
Withings Digital Thermometer
When I was a kid my mom used to pull out the old glass lead-based thermometers. Boy have times changed. This Withings digital thermometer has 16 infrared sensors that take more than 4,000 measurements to find the hottest point and deliver the most accurate result in just 2 seconds! There's no need to touch the skin and avoids any contact with saliva, earwax, or other body fluids-making it the most sanitary way to take a temperature. And to top it off this thermometer syncs automatically with your smartphone & app giving an interpretation based on age, fever history & symptoms. Plus you have the added ability to take notes, add photos, and set reminders!
Withings Heart Health and Body Composition Scale
I bought an earlier version of this scale two years ago and absolutely love it. This updated cardio heart health version is even more spectacular. It provides full body composition analysis with high-accuracy weight, BMI, body fat, muscle, bone mass, and water measurements. The new heart health management system accesses heart rate and pulse wave velocity, a medically-accepted metric of arterial stiffness, for a complete picture of cardiovascular health. This syncs wirelessly with your Android or iOS device providing real-time graphical data and it links with Apple Health!
Eufy Body Fat Wifi Smart Scale with Bluetooth
I bought this scale two years ago to replace a more expensive wifi body composition scale and absolutely love it. For $29 the Eufy Smart Scale provides full body composition analysis with weight, BMI, body fat, muscle, bone mass, and water measurements. This syncs wirelessly with your Android or iOS device providing real-time graphical data on a very good app. If you are looking to save money and have a great WiFi scale this is the way to go
Digital Otoscope Connected Health Ear Camera
You will likely need to (or already have) purchased a standard otoscope as part of your PA arsenal. But this digital ENT camera is worth adding to your list. PC, MAC, and mobile compatible, you have the ability to view, capture and stream pictures and video of your ears, nose, and throat. You can share and save photos and video and the included software allows for video streaming in real-time. Much like a thermometer, The Teslong Digital Otoscope is ideal for assessing health and illness at home and occasionally cleaning out some nasty earwax. Save pictures of your family's insides while they are healthy so you have a baseline picture to compare against when earaches and sore throats occur. This is great for monitoring ear tubes, ruptured TM's, healing after AOM or in the classroom.
Give the Gift of Spanish
There is no greater gift you can give to yourself or that special PA in your life than the gift of Spanish and nothing beats the Michel Thomas Spanish Language Learning Method. I have tried every single Spanish learning program imaginable from high school and college Spanish to Rosetta Stone and popular apps such as Duolingo. I listened to the Michel Thomas method on my way to work for several months along with the free podcast "Coffee Break Spanish Podcast" and after 12 months of practice, I was able to pass my works Spanish fluency test. This has opened up more doors and job opportunities for me than I can put into words. The only downside is that this is still only available on CD but I'm sure you can find a way to make it work.
As a busy PA or a PA student on the go, it is easy to misplace items. This is a simple fix. Attach this quarter size device to your keys, your stethoscope, your purse, wallet, phone, bike, iPad, child or partner and you will save yourself hours of hunting and cursing your way to your keys. With an easily replaceable battery that lasts for up to a year on a single charge, you can play a loud sound to identify your keys or search using the iOS or Android app via GPS. Two-way separation alerts help if you leave your device behind, your phone will ring to notify you! This works in reverse as well! I love the Tile Mate more than I can put into words and this is one of the presents I am buying this year for my entire family.
YETI Rambler Vacuum Insulated Mug or Tumbler
I used to love my Starbucks 20 ounce tumbler until the top developed a nasty aftertaste and I couldn't find a replacement lid. A friend recommended this Yeti insulated mug and I have never looked back. This little mug really does keep my coffee hot for 2 hours, it's nice looking and it's spill-proof.
It's true, these Yeti 20 oz tumblers are just about everywhere. And there is a good reason why. Although they are not spill proof, they keep your beverages warm for hours, they are durable and best of all the caps are replaceable, easy to find, and never seem to stink like most other mugs I have tried. This is a must have in every PAs arsenal.
S'well Stainless Steel Travel Mug and Thermos
The S'well Travel Mug is the ultimate go-anywhere mug/thermos that's great for long clinic days or long commutes. Keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12. The best part is the commuter lid add-on, which allows this to double as a coffee mug/tumbler. It's super easy to clean and the replaceable lids make this a winner!
Incase City Backpack
Boy does finding the right backpack make a big difference, and this is the right backpack. This Incase Backpack from the "city collection" gets the job done. It provides 360 degreed, padded, faux fur lined laptop compartments for my 16-inch MacBook and a good top compartment for wallet, keys, etc. This will make any PAs life a whole lot easier.
Weekly and Monthly Planner
This easy to use planner has a simple layout with a schedule and to-do list for every day. It's the perfect combination of form and function. Great for students to track exams, mark important dates, and set goals for each day. It has a fantastic tabular design with weekly overviews and monthly planning. This is the planner they will actually use!
LapGear Media Bed Tray with Phone Holder
Looking for a bed companion for late nite studying sessions that doesn't wear unisex cologne or disturb your flow? Look no further! This bed tray is great for your couch or your bed, it has nice carrying handles, folding legs, and a media slot so that you can organize all your devices for optimal viewing angles. It's a PA student's best companion!
Blue Light Filtering Glasses
Whether you’re a student studying all hours of the night, or a practicing PA, we all spend too many hours behind screens. Protect your eyes with these blue light blocking specs which are practical and stylish! Consider buying two pairs and keep one at home, and one at work. This is a stylish and practical pair that I have myself.
Klogs Footwear Women's Boca and Men's Bistro Clog
Cost: $19 - $68
The Klogs are a great shoe that can resist the trials and tribulations of a 9-hour surgery or 12 hour clinic day. They come in both a women's (Boca) and men's (Bistro) version and they feel great and have a very nice slip-resistant bottom. They clean off easily if you happen to get any bodily fluids on them, and you don’t have to break the bank to purchase a pair.
Medthusiast T-Shirts and Gear
Created by physician assistant Andrea Benedict, Medthusiast has a spectacular collection of medicine themed T-Shirts, mugs, and stickers guaranteed to turn the heads of any geeky medical zealot (which is just about anyone who is in or who has attended PA school). My personal favorites include "The best way to a woman's heart is between the fifth and sixth ribs," and the politically correct "Vaccines cause adults" tee shirts.
Give an Osmosis Prime or Picmonic Subscription
Ever since I created the Smarty PANCE Board Review website, I have had a love affair with Picmonic and Osmosis. These two tools take all the pain out of memorizing complex subjects and drive home important topics in a way that helps you memorize the need to know PEARLS AND understand the material. Both of these sites offer seasonal discounts along with good deals on multi-year terms. This is the gift that keeps on giving!
Medical Grade Computing Power
Lets face it, whether you are in PA school or a practicing professional having the right device on your desktop, lap, or in your pocket can make all the diference. These devices are my top pics.
Microsoft and Android Devices
These two machines are "medicine grade" and more than capable of handling anything you throw their way. When it comes to Mac vs. PC for medicine I always go back and forth. Because of this, I own and operate on both platforms. The advantage of a Surface Pro + Android phone combo is that you can get a lot accomplished on just two machines. They also offer a more affordable long term option, more storage, better compatibility with many devices and ample room for upgrades.
Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Laptop
If you are just not into Apple (or even if you are), and you need more than a Google Chromebook, the Surface Pro and Surface Pro Laptop are wonderful machines and great for PA school. The Surface Pro comes with a solid state drive but is also expandable with a MicroSDXC card reader. It runs full Windows which means if it runs on your PC it also runs on the Surface Pro. It's touch screen and pen enabled. One Note on Windows is much better than its Mac counterpart, and will change the way you take notes. Also, these notes sync effortlessly with OneDrive and are available anywhere you have an internet connection. It's basically on par with the power provided by the Mac Book. Microsoft Support treats this thing like their baby. Your pen doesn't work? They'll ship one out. Your surface broke? They'll swap it at the store (if it's a manufacturer defect). You ground down your pen nibs? They'll ship a package of new ones out free. Oh, and I forgot to mention it gets 10.5 hours of battery life! If you prefer more of a conventional laptop the $999 Surface pro laptop is
Google Pixel Phone 128GB+
Comes with a revamped Google Assistant, one of the best smartphone cameras ever, is running full Android with a fast processor and unlimited free photo storage from Google . . . I have said enough! If you have Chromecast, Google Mini, and other devices (such as their spectacular Wifi routers at home) then it makes running everything from one unified app a breeze.
Apple offers a lot of bang (for a lot of bucks), but what you get is an ecosystem intimately integrated with the broadest array of medical apps available on any platform. The combination of the iPhone + iPad + MacBook + Apple Watch can have a long half-life. It brings all your technology together on a single platform, and you can run all your favorite apps, such as my beloved Essential Anatomy 5 and Notability across all devices.
Apple MacBook Pro or MacBook Air
The MacBook Pro is not easy on the wallet but the 16-inch model has excellent (and invaluable screen real estate). With the new M1X chip the device lasts for hours and runs. It is thin and lightweight and has a lot of firepower. If you want so save some money and don't need all the bells and whistles (and larger screen size) offered in the pro version the MacBook Air (updated in 2020) with the new blazing fast M1 chip is probably the best option.
iPhone 128 GB+
The latests iPhone is always a winner but, if you are in need of an iPhone upgrade, want to save some money and have plenty of processing power to handle all of your day-to-day tasks I recommend skipping the latest iPhone model and purchasing last year's iPhone instead with upgraded storage. Because medical apps, podcasts, books, photos, and videos tend to take a lot of internal storage you can upgrade to a higher capacity model with a bigger screen for a lot less money. While it is nice to have all the new bells and whistles of the new model, storage is a limiting factor so make this a priority. You can purchase certified refurbished and save even more money!
Apple iPad Pro
For students and professional alike an iPad is must have
Apple Smart Keyboard Folio
I have purchased MANY iPad cases over the years (Belkin, Logitech, and other third parties) and they have all lost keys, cracked, or broken within 12 months. If you own an iPad and are trying to be at least somewhat productive a keyboard is a must. For this reason, I recommend biting the bullet and purchasing the Apple Smart Keyboard from the start. It’s a full-size keyboard that’s fully portable, and it connects to the new iPad and iPad Air with the Smart Connector. Just attach the Smart Keyboard and start typing. And when you’re done, it folds to create a slim, lightweight cover. You can save some money by purchasing this through Amazon vs. the Apple store.
Whether you are trying to wake yourself up from a deep slumber while on call, quickly screening phone calls and texts while on rounds, taking down notes, sending messages, or pulling up your patient schedule on Haiku for Epic, the Apple watch rounds out the Apple ecosystem. The health tracking apps, EKG, and O2 sensors are priceless and magnificent for fending off all that PA school stress.
The Best Audio Components
Active noise cancellation to drown out pesky classmates or coworkers makes the AirPods Pro worth the extra moola. They also sport a new "transparency mode" for hearing and connecting with the world around you for those times you can't afford to check out completely. Three sizes of soft, tapered silicone tips for a customizable fit plus sweat and water-resistant make this Apple headset the perfect gift for any PA or PA student.
Plantronics Voyager Legend Wireless Bluetooth Headset
As a PA student or practicing PA you are probably going to be spending some time in the car. If you are not in the car hopefully you can jump on your bike or find time for a jog or workout at the gym. There are many Bluetooth headsets and devices on the market. I love my Voyager headset, it has excellent noise-canceling which allows me to carry on conversations even in my old loud car or while on a bike ride. It also doubles as a Bluetooth audio headset which means you can put an end to downtime by listening to podcasts or audiobooks safely in one ear. If you want to keep in contact with your loved ones, make better use of your downtime and not spend a fortune you can't beat the Voyager Legend Headset.
Beats Wired On-Ear Headphones
Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones
Studying requires focus, and nothing beats a good pair of Bluetooth headphones. For a combination of great quality at a reasonable price, I recommend skipping the popular "Beats" and picking up a pair of these Sony Bluetooth headphones. Powerful, clear sound with lots of extra-base, long battery life, and a very comfortable fit. These earphones also have a built-in mic so you can enjoy hands-free calls at the touch of a button. Couple this with a subscription to focus@will or brain.fm and be prepared to get a lot of work done!
Many PA programs require wired headphones, and for a good reason. They are battery-free, offering unlimited hassle-free playback. These headphones by Beats combines good form and function at a reasonable price. Just check and make sure your device still has a headphone jack before you buy.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones
Hands down these are by far the best and most running and biking friendly headphones I have ever used. They are designed so that you can hear oncoming traffic, you can have phone conversations, it has long battery life, good sound and they are extremely durable. For the price, they can't be beaten. They are often on sale at Costco so if you have a membership this is probably your best price.
Premium Android and iPhone Apps
This is a must-have app! Not only is it wonderful during the didactic phase of your studies, but this app is also an extremely useful tool in the clinic that my patients (and my kids) absolutely love. It has a beautiful and intuitive interface that my 5-year-old can use, it allows you to isolate individual systems, muscles, organs, etc. etc. I have learned more about anatomy from this app than the thousands of dollars spent on higher education. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful, well-designed and “essential” anatomy app on the market.
There are only two paid apps that I recommend and the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is one of them. There are lots of free pharmacopeia apps out there (Epocrates being one of them), but Tarascon continues to be my favorite. Loaded with some amazing time-saving tools (especially the pediatric dosing charts), blazing fast load times and zero advertisements the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is well worth the one-time annual investment. I can't imagine practicing without it.
If like me, you are not lucky enough to have access to UpToDate through your medical institution then an annual subscription to UpToDate is like leftover Apple Pie the day after Christmas. It just gets better and better every time you open it. Although this may not provide exactly the same wow as some of the choices above, it is a practical choice for the intelligent medical practitioner.
Lab Coats and Scrubs (Premium)
Medelita Men's and Women's Lab Coat
With a classic, comfortable and tailored fit, sporting stain releasing, moisture-wicking, bacteriostatic fabric that repels fluids along with 2 patch pockets large enough to hold a tablet, and 2 interior pockets the Medelita lab coat is a pleasure to put on. Founded by a PA- and considered by many to be the best lab coat on the market this will be serious upgrade that will make you smile as you set off to work in the morning.
Medelita Men's and Women's Scrubs
Books Worth Giving
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
Mountains Beyond Mountains
This compelling and inspiring book, shows how one person can work wonders. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize—winning author Tracy Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it. In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
When Breath Becomes Air
This is the story of the perception and management of life and death (both separately and together) of a 36-year-old doctor nearing the completion of his neurosurgery training when he is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It is not only poignant, touching, and painful -- it is also full of love, insight, courage, and humility. I can't express enough my admiration for this book, for Paul Kalanithi himself. It's a must-read for any aspiring health care provider.
The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School
The name says it all. This classic text Getting into Physician Assistant School by Andre Rodican gives the in's and out's of the PA school application process along with sound advice on every step of the journey. This is the same book I used (although it was version one at the time) when I applied to PA school years ago. This is a wonderful resource for any aspiring PA.
How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement
What good would a review post be without at least one shameless plug for my own book! In 2015 we set out to interview PA school administrators from across the country to get their take on what makes a winning personal statement. We have condensed that information along with our experience editing 1000's of essays through our PA school essay collaborative into this quick and easy to read book. It is available on Amazon and is a free download through Kindle Unlimited.
Board Review and Rotation Exam Prep
Give the gift of Smarty PANCE to a friend, classmate, colleague, or the next generation of incoming PAs! Your purchase will generate a unique redemption code along with a customizable digital gift card good for a free one-year Smarty PANCE Membership. Redemption codes never expire, and the 12-month membership period will not go into effect until your gift is redeemed.