Read on: But you may also be interested in my newest post Healthcare Experience Required for PA School: The Ultimate Guide
I could probably summarize this entire blog post with the following sentence:
"THE MORE HANDS-ON PATIENT CARE EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE, THE STRONGER YOU WILL BE AS A PA SCHOOL CANDIDATE."
How many healthcare experience hours do you need to make yourself a competitive PA school candidate?
Although this is a topic of some debate, the consensus from both past and present data suggests at least two years, or 2,000 hours of direct hands-on patient care experience, is a good number to aim for.
I received this email yesterday from a pa school applicant Deeba. It is a good question and one I receive in my inbox almost daily.
Here is what Andrew Rodican author of "The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School" has to say about this topic:
Unlike young medical school applicants who are not expected/required to have direct patient contact hours, there’s a totally different philosophy with respect to PA school applicants. The PA profession is not an entry-level profession. Remember, the first PAs were former Navy corpsman who had 3 or 4 years of combat medical experience. Competitive applicants will have 2,500 to 3,000 hours of hands-on direct patient contact. Why would you think that you would be a competitive applicant without medical experience?
Unfortunately, some applicants have no medical experience at all, which certainly hurts their chances of getting accepted. Most committee members will insist on some prior medical experience before they will consider the applicant as a serious candidate.
On average, four years of prior experience in one of the following areas is common:
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Physical Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- X-ray Technician
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Emergency Room Technician
- Athletic Trainer
- Medical Researcher
- Medical Volunteer
Medical Experience Statistics for PA School Applicants
|Worked in health care before applying to PA school||79%|
|Worked less than one year or not at all in a health care field||27%|
|Worked more than nine years in a health care field||10%|
|Worked less than one year or not at all in a health care field with direct patient contact||35%|
|Previously worked as a medical assistant||17%|
|Previously worked as an EMT/Paramedic||9%|
|Worked as a phlebotomist||9%|
|Worked as an emergency room technician||8%|
|Worked in medical reception/records||7%|
|Worked as a nurse||8%|
|Worked as an athletic trainer||6%|
|Reported "other" as health care experience||45%|
Note: Respondents were permitted to indicate multiple health care fields; thus, the sum of all fields exceeds 100%
Applying to PA school is an extremely competitive process. The more points you score with the committee, the better.
Think about your own experience and how you might be able to improve upon it. If you have little or no medical experience, consider doing volunteer work at the local hospital or clinic. The more hands-on medical experience you have, the stronger you will be as a candidate.
As much as I love Andrew Redican's book on the topic of getting into PA school, I think he is using an all too common path. I helped a gentleman with his personal statement last year who before applying to PA school had many years of experience, not in the healthcare field mind you, but as a dance instructor.
The key is that he loved people, it was apparent in his essay and evident in our communications back and forth.
Applicants I council tend to get caught up in trying to fill these "quotas" of what they think is necessary to succeed. Often we use the principles of a common denominator... i.e., if I become a CNA, I can make it as a PA.
The truth is that I would much rather take the dance instructor, with the solid GPA, who shows he cares deeply about people and is willing to work his butt off.
What I am trying to say is don't sell yourself short and set the bar in a comfortable place. Look outside yourself for experiences that will help you grow as a compassionate and caring human being. From here the sky's the limit.