There are two types of us:
I was one of the lucky ones who had the privilege of being part of the scholarship program. I received a monthly stipend while in PA school to help pay for books, medical supplies, housing, food, etc. and then as part of my agreement I was "required" to work in an underserved community for two years.
For me, this was a win-win as I wanted to work in this type of community anyway. The fact that they were going to pay me to do this was just icing on the cake!
[clickToTweet tweet="The NHSC more than just a 'way to pay for PA school.' It is a gratifying and rewarding experience!" quote="The National Health Service Corps is far more than just a 'way to pay for PA school.' It is a gratifying and rewarding experience!"]
The Site Match
I was matched with my National Health Service Corps (NHSC) site in 2004.
I won't lie, the search for a practice site was a bit nerve wracking. At the time of my graduation, I was lucky. The NHSC scores qualifying practice sites with a ranking based on medical need.
In 2004, the need was so great everywhere that they eliminated the requirement that scholars work only in areas with the highest need scores. So my options were a bit more open, and this may be one reason I am not performing rectal exams at a high-security prison in Nebraska.
I will try to talk about my application, interview, and placement process in upcoming posts.
I applied for the NHSC scholarship twice
As a student at UMDNJ (now Rutgers), we had a three-year program. I applied my first year and unfortunately did not make it to the interview process. The next year I did and was accepted. This is further proof that the statement: "If at first, you don't succeed, try, try again" should be a law.
Being part of the NHSC for me was a dream come true.
Even before I was in PA school, I had known of the NHSC, and I wanted desperately to be part of an organization whose primary goal was to lessen the gap between those who had great care and those who had great need of care.
Ten years later I still practice at my original NHSC site in rural California. In many ways, it is my dream job: I have wonderful coworkers, tons of autonomy and my amazing patients.
Four years after my initial placement we moved away from Greenfield, CA where the clinic is based and in order to stay at my current position I have had to commute. With a bit of creative scheduling and a new passion for audiobooks, I have solved the commute "problem, 5" and even after five years on the road, I have learned to value this time in the car.
I finished paying my last college loan 6 years after graduation from PA school. This is something I am proud of. I was saddled with undergraduate debt to the tune of about 20K and some as well from my first year in PA school prior to receiving the NHSC scholarship.
The NHSC, the stipend and the fact they paid my tuition has freed me from the clutches of a student debt. Because of this, I am able to pursue my dreams of providing high-quality health care in an underserved community.
I fear as more students graduate from their respective physician assistant programs saddled with large amounts of student debt they will be unable to practice the medicine they want, and instead seek jobs in specialty practice that pay more money, but may not be where their passions truly lie.
If you are on the fence about the NHSC I would suggest you get off the fence and get with the program 🙂
Interested in other types of loans and PA school repayment options?
It goes without saying, PA school is expensive. PA school is also demanding, which means you will have limited time (if any) to work while attending school. With the average undergraduate education debt prior to PA school at $36,300 and the average anticipated debt load from PA school at $75,000-$124,000, it is important that you.