The Pre-PA Advisor Series
Welcome to the PA Advisors Series - a special series of posts where PA school applicants like yourself ask the tough questions and admissions directors from top-ranking PA schools provide the answers.
Posts in the series
- Applying to PA School with a Low PA
- Prerequisite Requirements for PA School
- Patient Contact Hours and Healthcare Experience (you are here)
- The GRE and PA School
Today We Will Discuss: Patient Contact Hours and Healthcare Experience Requirements for PA School
Here are some of the questions answered in this post:
- Does work as a medical scribe count towards healthcare experience hours?
- How many healthcare experience hours are considered competitive in today's PA school applicant pool?
- Does taking care of a family member count as healthcare experience? Does working as an interpreter count towards patient care experience?
- Do patient care experience hours ever expire?
- Do applicants applying straight out of undergrad have a disadvantage to students who have worked for a few years after graduating?
- Are healthcare experience hours counted only up to the time of application, or are they projected forward until matriculation?
- If I have fewer HCE hours than the average accepted applicant, do I still have a shot at acceptance?
- What are the best forms of HCE for PA programs?
- Would someone who is an RN be chosen before someone who is a CNA?
- Do my HCE hours in high school count?
- Do volunteer hours worked internationally count towards HCE?
- Could my 7 years of working/volunteering at Planned Parenthood be seen in a negative light?
Keywords: You can click on any of the following keywords to be taken directly to that topic. I have highlighted important points and included a summary of key recommendations at the end of this post.
Medical technologist, research experience, taking care of a family member, scribe, behavioral health, paramedics, medical interpreter, physical therapy aid, special needs assistant, expiration date, certified athletic trainer, medical laboratory scientist, shadowing, gap year, shadowing, athletic-training, global health work, pharmacy technician, medical device company, Planned Parenthood.
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have been a medical technologist in a hospital for two years will this count as clinical experience?
Admissions response: If you had hands-on patient contact then yes we consider it as clinical experience. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Currently, I have volunteer medical experience as well as research experience. I am curious if one type of healthcare experience outweighs another (For example, MA vs. ED scribe)? Additionally, will I be at a disadvantage if I will be accumulating these hours over the next year as I plan to apply for 2018?
Admissions response: Clinical experiences that involve hands-on patient care can be more beneficial than a hands-off experience. Remember you can only put acquired hours on the application, do not list planned hours. We like to see these experiences spread out - as in not all done in a month or two - so if you spend the next year working on this that is okay. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Hi, how many hours of PA work experience is needed before applying to the school and before applying to CASPA? And what specific type of work experience?
Admissions response: We do not require clinical experience, although significant clinical experience is a benefit to the application. We do want to see a minimum of 100 shadowing hours though. You should list all of your work experience, if we don't know about it we can't evaluate it. Even if it is not medically related it can show leadership, maturity, time management, and motivation. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do applicants receive a higher consideration if they have more than the required minimum clinical experience?
Admissions response: Clinical experience (hands-on) is not required. If you have significant hands-on clinical (1000+ hours) that is a benefit. We do want to see at least 100 shadowing hours. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Can taking care of a family member who is a stroke victim be considered hands-on experience even if you don't work for a company or receive documented pay, or could it be considered volunteer?
Admissions response: Taking care of a family member is not really clinical experience. You can mention it and talk about the clinical care you provided, but it's not really what we are looking for. (Although you should take care of your family ) - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I've been offered a variety of patient care positions and was curious if one would look better on my application over the others. The positions include scribe, medical assistant, and specimen collector. I would love the feedback, thanks!
Admissions response: Any time you get more direct patient care that is a benefit. So medical assistant or specimen collector would give you direct patient care, while medical scribe is more observational. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Does your program consider a full-time medical scribe position for a senior physician sufficient enough for those requirements?
Admissions response: Medical Scribe is one of those gray areas in that it provides exposure but is not really hands-on clinical. It's a mixture of shadowing and clinical. So yes list it but do not rely on it alone. Be specific about your job responsibilities and it would also be a good idea to have some additional true shadowing of other practitioners. - A.T. Still University
Admissions response: Scribe does count for us. It does not count for some schools. I would try to get at least some more traditional patient care to round it out. - Duke University
Admissions response: All scribe hours will count for us. But make sure to describe the job responsibilities fully, as the direct patient care will make that position stronger - Duke University
Admissions response: Yes, medical scribe does count towards HCE. - Yale University
Admissions response: Yes scribe hours satisfy our requirement - Penn State University
Admissions response: As a medical scribe, we are looking for direct hands-on patient care experience. Although we do not consider medical scribe generally for HCE. - Case Western Reserve
Admissions response: If you were a scribe with meaningful patient interaction then please describe that on the application in detail for Admissions Committee consideration. - Case Western Reserve
Admissions response: Medical scribe will fulfill our HCE requirement IF, you have direct patient contact. You cannot just be sitting in the room typing for the medical provider. You need to be active in the room with the patient, asking them questions and interacting with the patients. We would not count it as HCE experience if you were just passively sitting in the room charting info obtained by the medical provider.
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have about 3,500 hours as a medical scribe, and a bit less ~ 500 hours as a hospice volunteer- which I understand is sometimes perceived as more "direct" contact. Do the Yale Admissions see the medical scribe HCE as less advantageous in any way, or is it looked at favorably due to involvement in medical decision making, etc.?
Admissions response: The admissions committee takes a holistic approach to reviewing all applications, including patient care hours. I can tell you that volunteer hours are important. 500 hours as a hospice volunteer is terrific! Good for you. - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Would work in behavioral health count towards patient care hours?
Admissions response: It depends on the situation. List it on the application and be very specific about the job responsibilities. If you administered medications, checked vitals, or things of that nature we would probably consider it clinical. If it was more observational or supportive, we would most likely not consider it clinical. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I worked at a sleep-away summer camp with the title being "Health Center Coordinator," and the job consisted of assisting an RN with caring for sick campers at all hours of the day, aiding campers in taking medications, etc.
Admissions response: This would be considered a lower level patient care experience. The admissions committee would rather see a slightly more advanced level of patient care experience. - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Are Paramedics highly valued in regards to work experience?
Admissions response: Paramedics would be considered good work experience, just like EMT, CNA, Phlebotomist, Med Asst. - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do you consider interpreting in the ER as healthcare experience
Admissions response: We do accept interpreter work - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Because healthcare hours are not required, will a background in healthcare be considered along with my academic transcripts?
Admissions response: It can certainly inform your discernment and help round out your CV and personal statement. But it doesn't give you a "boost" beyond that. - Butler University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Does working as a CNA count as HCE hours?
Admissions response: Working as a CNA is great patient care experience - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: How does working as a physical therapy (PT) aid look on a transcript? And what is the best thing I can do to better my chances of getting into PA school?
Admissions response: PT aide is fine patient care experience. Just make sure you address why you want to be a PA in your essay. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am working as an EEG tech and an EKG tech. I also work at a doctor's office doing EEGs there and VNGs. Would these jobs be considered good clinical experience?
Admissions response: Yes these would be considered good clinical experiences - A.T. Still University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I've worked as a special needs assistant for five years, where I would work directly with children with cerebral palsy, autism, and Down's syndrome and help build communication, cognitive and behavioral skills. Is that considered as HCE?
Admissions response: This is great patient care experience! - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Is there an expiration date on patient care hours?
Admissions response: We do not have an expiration on patient care. However, having some more recent is good, or else a clear explanation of why you have not been working in patient care. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Would work as a certified athletic trainer count as PCE?
Admissions response: An athletic trainer does count - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Would experience in medical records/health information management count toward the 1000 hour requirement?
Admissions response: Medical records/health information management experience does not count unless you had hands-on patient contact. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Would work as a medical laboratory scientist with phlebotomy experience count towards HCE?
Admissions response: The medical lab scientist might be a stretch in terms of experience, you would need to demonstrate in your description how that position had direct patient contact. - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I graduated undergrad in 2008. I joined the Army as a Combat Medic. I worked with MDs and PAs at different duty stations providing care for soldiers and their families. Does my experience count as care hours? If it does, how should I document the hours for multiple healthcare providers?
Admissions response: Combat medics were our founding fathers! Excellent work. You are on the honor system for counting hours. we ask you to report beginning and end dates and # hours per week - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do the 1,000 hours of patient care experience include shadowing/observation hours?
Admissions response: Shadowing is important but does not count towards the 1000 hours. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I worked in a research lab conducting clinical studies. Would the responsibilities be the deciding factor on whether it would be considered PCE or HCE?
Admissions response: Research depends on whether or not you had direct patient care. Taking vitals, getting consents, drawing blood, that sort of thing - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Will I be at a disadvantage applying as a college senior even if I obtain at least 1000 hours of direct patient contact?
Admissions response: College seniors are mostly at a disadvantage in regards to clinical hours. 1000 is our minimum, and we definitely have people get in with that. But more is better. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do you recommend applicants take a gap year before applying? I have been an EMT for three years now, but am nervous applying with less than 3,000 care hours.
Admissions response: A gap year certainly does not hurt. However, if you meet all the requirements, you can go ahead and apply. We do not frown at reapplicants. - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Would you say a student straight out of undergrad with only hours accumulated during summer break to meet the requirement of 1,000 PCE have a disadvantage to students who have worked for a few years after graduating?
Admissions response: Frequently yes. Mostly just because they don't have as many patient care experience hours as they would need to truly be competitive. But we definitely accept some straight out of undergrad students each year! - Duke University
PRE-PA QUESTION: My job title would be sitter/observer at the hospital towards psych patients, worked on all floors of the hospital from ED to the psych ward. The title of my job does not do a good job explaining what I truly do; I help nurses with the bedside work, vitals, assist eating, and washroom guidance. So my question here is when you guys see "sitter" only, will there be a spot where I can actually write what I do so it is not mistaken for not real PCE. I hope this is clear.
Admissions response: I think this good experience, and you can definitely reflect on that in your essay. At Butler, we don't require patient care experience...so I wouldn't sweat that too much as far as whether it'll count. Just focus on summarizing this as best you can.
PRE-PA QUESTION: What kind of experiences do you like your applicants to have?
Admissions response: We do not have set expectations for healthcare experience, shadowing, etc. No requirements to that point. - Butler University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Are healthcare experience hours counted only up to the time of application, or are they projected forward until matriculation?
Admissions response: We count healthcare hours only at the time of application, not projected hours. - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Back in the 80s during my high school summers, I worked as an orthodontic chairside assistant (clipping arch-wires in and out, tying in archwires or "tightening braces," cementing molar bands, taking impressions, preparing teeth for bonding-- that sort of thing). Would this count as "direct patient experience" or "related healthcare experience?"
Admissions response: Yes, this would be patient care experience - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have just over 1,000 hours of healthcare experience as a clinician aide in a family practice setting. Seeing that the average accepted student has 2,264 hours, will this make me very uncompetitive?
Admissions response: The Admissions Committee evaluates a candidate's entire application, so even though you have less than our average incoming student hours please don't let that discourage you from applying. - Yale University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I just recently started a medical scribe job full time in April and will be doing so until I would leave for the program if I got in. Do you suggest waiting until I have so many hours to apply initially? Or just apply and update the school monthly with updated hours?
Admissions response: My suggestion is to wait until you are as competitive as you can be to apply while still balancing program deadlines. - Penn State
PRE-PA QUESTION: I was wondering how significant of a factor the healthcare experience plays on an application. I currently have my CNA certification, but I am having a hard time getting a job at a hospital, and due to a clerical error, my license was delayed by 2.5 months. So I sadly have fewer HCE hours than I expected going into the application. Still, I have a high GPA, GRE scores, and wonderful experience in doing research in a neuroscience lab.
Admissions response: Healthcare experience absolutely plays a part in our holistic review, however, you will see from our class profiles online that candidates are admitted having just met the minimum 500 to those who have been in their field for 10-15 years. - Penn State
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have about 250 hours of direct patient contact hours and will be beginning to work as a nursing assistant in May. I will not have all of the required hours completed before submitting my application. Do you make it a priority to look at additions to the application as well as additional information sent directly to the program?
Admissions response: With thousands of applicants, I recommend limiting updates. While we will add updates to an applicant's file my advice is to submit your CASPA application when you feel you are as competitive as you can be while still minding program deadlines. - Penn Sate
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am a volunteer EMT who works directly with patients and I am working as a nurse's aide. Can both hours be considered PCE or would the volunteer EMT hours be considered as volunteer hours?
Admissions response: Yes, both hours should be listed as patient care. I simply would advise to not duplicate hours in multiple sections such as volunteer EMT
PRE-PA QUESTION: In terms of health care experience before applying, is it better to have volunteer hours or work hours?
Admissions response: With regard to hours, direct patient experience is most preferred but volunteer hours also have value as well. - Penn State
PRE-PA QUESTION: How heavily do you take into account healthcare experience? I have obtained over 4,000 hours of HCE and hope it will pay off in the end!
Admissions response: We definitely look at experience, however, if academics are not strong, it doesn't reflect highly on the applicant. Faculty are more interested in direct patient care experience, as compared to general healthcare experience. - Toro University
PRE-PA QUESTION: Prior to graduating college, I worked at a cardiology office 3 days a week for over 2 years
Admissions response: Cardiology most likely will not count toward direct patient care. Shadowing, unfortunately, does not count either. Some of the clinical experience required can be gained from professions such as EMT, Paramedic, Nurse, CNA, ER Tech, and Physical Therapy Aid. - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have 500 hours done because I am also an EMT, but does it look better to apply with more hours?
Admissions response: Yes, it will. Although 500 is the minimum, we usually get applicants with closer to 1,000. The program is very competitive so If you have the opportunity to acquire more hours then I would say do that prior to submitting - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am a medical scribe for 4 different doctors at a children's hospital. Would my hours there count towards direct patient care? I interview the patient for symptoms etc. and am present with the doctors for all exams?
Admissions response: As a scribe, these hours will not count toward direct patient care. - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have shadowed an ED doctor and gynecology for over 600 hours will that count toward DPC
Admissions response: Sorry but shadowing does not count toward the direct patient hands-on care for the PA program. - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have 2,500 hours as a PT aide from 2008-2010 and 200 recent hours in the last year. Will the older hours count?
Admissions response: Yes, all of your hours worked as a physical therapy aid will count towards patient care experience. - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: Does one on one health counseling as a health coach count as HCE?
Admissions response: We classify direct patient care hours as: Functioning within a health care team, at the level to which you have been trained. This includes direct one-on-one care of patients and development of skills that include communication, trust building, and being comfortable working within a patient's personal space. We accept a wide range of direct patient care experience: radiology technician, respiratory therapist, cardiovascular therapist, paramedic, EMT, CNA, patient care technician/assistant, medical assistant, PT aide, phlebotomist to name a few. Shadowing and Internships as part of school-based training does not qualify as direct care experience. - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am at an undergrad college now for my athletic training degree and I have completed about 1,000 direct patient care hours for the AT program where I worked in the athletic training clinic would all of this count? I have been seeing that some colleges prefer paid hours is that the case with this program?
Admissions response: Your athletic training experience does count but not the hours spent as a student in training. Paid hours vs non-paid is not the determination. Rather its the level of responsibility you are allowed as a volunteer. Some free clinics etc will allow volunteers to be quite involved whereas large hospitals may not. - Carroll University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I worked with patients with a wide range of mental and physical disabilities, kids, and adults. My responsibilities included passing medications, cooking meals/feeding, toileting, assisting with ADL's, transportation, documenting changes in care with other staff, and in some cases assisted with speech or occupational therapy.
Admissions response: Those hours would be considered a more low-quality type. We count direct patient care hours as functioning within a health care team, at the level to which you have been trained. This includes direct one-on-one care of patients and development of skills that include communication, trust building, and being comfortable working within a patient's personal space. We accept a wide range of direct patient care experience: radiology technician, respiratory therapist, cardiovascular therapist, paramedic, EMT, CNA, patient care technician/assistant, medical assistant, PT aide, phlebotomist to name a few. Shadowing and Internships as part of school-based training does not qualify as direct care experience - Marist College
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am currently about to take a course for Clinical Medical Assistant. I worry that it's not as "hands-on" as say an EMT or CNA/RN, but my options are very limited here. Furthermore, I'd likely end up having to do it as a volunteer on base, instead of a paid capacity. Any thoughts on whether this will suffice?
Admissions response: The direct care experience can be gained through volunteerism. The issue can be with how involved in care you are allowed to be as a volunteer. That varies quite a bit. The more involved, the better, right! - Carroll University
Admissions response: One area of competition is direct care. So many candidates have a variety of direct care experiences which offers more information about working within a treatment team and possibly with a variety of patients. - Carroll University
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am currently completing an internship in Germany as a nursing intern. I take vitals, assist in examinations under supervision, help distribute medications, and also help with documentation. Would this fall under the category of patient care experience on the application or would this be classified under healthcare experience?
Admissions response: Since you are an intern, we would consider it health-related experience. - Carroll University
PRE-PA QUESTION: What kind of experience do you look for in applicants?
Admissions response: We definitely look at your patient care experience- that is a requirement- and what you have been doing such as was it as a CRNA or a volunteer? What kind of work did you do? We also look at your work in community service - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Since graduating in 2014, I've been working at hospitals as well as a private practice as an assistant/researcher. I've also been volunteering at various hospitals.
Admissions response: That sounds like great experience - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Does being a student EMT hours count or only certified EMT hours count?
Admissions response: Only certified EMT hours count toward our HCE hours. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: What are the best forms of HCE for the PA program?
Admissions response: We like to see CRNA, MA, mental health counselor, social worker, rad tech, anyone with direct hands-on patient care experience. Please see our website for a longer list. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Can you tell us what HCE is used for as an indicator of success and why CWRU sees it as an important application requirement?
Admissions response: We strongly believe that HCE is a predictor of success because it readies the student for the clinical environment, introduces them to pathophysiology, and prepares them for the rigor of our program and the demands and high standard of our didactic and clinical years. We have our students seeing patients early in our program, and working out in the community with patients right up front so it is important that our students have grounding in the healthcare field before they come. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I wanted to know if the 1,000 patient care hours have to be completed at the time I submit my application?
Admissions response: Yes, the 1000 hours need to be completed at the time of submission. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Hi, is there an expiration on HCE? I have 2,500 hours from 2008-2010
Admissions response: We have a ten year limit on HCE prerequisites so those should be ok. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do you prefer medical experience working at a primary care facility over a specialty clinic?
Admissions response: While we strongly value primary care experiences and in general, we look at the quality of the experience itself regardless of the setting. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I currently work as a registered behavior therapist running applied behavior analysis programs for autistic kids. While this doesn't fall under the traditional definition of clinical care, would this still be considered medical experience by your program?
Admissions response: Absolutely! You are working with autistic children in a therapeutic context, absolutely wonderful. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: As for HCE, do you weigh the different healthcare positions greater than others? I.e., Would someone who is an RN be chosen before someone who is a CNA?
Admissions response: They are scored differently but not THAT differently as to greatly enhance or deter your chances of being considered for an interview. It's merely added to a composite score which has many component parts. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Do you consider military experience? I am a medic with the US Army Reserves and have been so since 2013. I also have EMT-Basic licensure.
Admissions response: Medic in the military?!!! That's fantastic and absolutely counts 100%. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have had a little bit of experience volunteering at a hospital while I was in high school, does this count as well?
Admissions response: High school shadowing and HCE experiences are generally not considered. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I went to Honduras this past December for a medical brigade and will be going to Ghana this December as well. I was wondering if this International experience can be recorded as patient care experience.
Admissions response: If you were working as a medical tech, nurses aide, etc while you were in Honduras then yes, if it was volunteer work, then it would count as volunteer work. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I was wondering how many HCE hours the average accepted applicant to the program has? I have a pretty solid GPA, and I meet the minimum HCE requirements, but I will have around 1500 when I apply so not too much past the requirement. I am wondering if this will negatively affect my chances, thank you!
Admissions response: The HCE hours can be all over the place, though the average is in the mid 3000-hour range. It will not negatively affect your application if you are closer to the 1500 mark. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I am working as a pharmacy technician. Does that count as HCE?
Admissions response: Absolutely, we have a number of pharm techs in our incoming class. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: During my first year of college, I went to India over the summer and was working with a doctor in a rural community over there. Does this count towards healthcare experience hours?
Admissions response: That absolutely works for community service hours, but not for HCE. HCE must be done in the States. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I have volunteer hours with a child life specialist where I interacted with patients on a weekly basis
We do not consider Child Life Volunteer as HCE. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: My background is in biomedical engineering. I currently work for a medical device company and check patient's pacemakers and defibrillations both in a clinic and hospital setting. I talk directly to the patients and ask them how they feel and ask them questions to troubleshoot any problems with their pacemaker or defibrillation. Will this count towards HCE?
Admissions response: Yes, working as a medical device technician would count towards HCE. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Can I project my HCE by the time of matriculation when I submit my application?
Admissions response: No, you cannot project your HCE. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I work for a scribe company, and scribe for different doctors every time. They wouldn't be able to attest to my hours completed, but my Timesheet HR person would. Who should I write down as a contact?
Admissions response: You should list the timesheet HR person as the contact. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I work in the gastroenterology department at UMASS, taking patient histories and collecting data and blood samples from the patients for the research.
Admissions response: From what you describe, it sounds like direct patient care and that would meet the definition of direct patient care experience. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Is shadowing or working in nursing homes considered as HCE?
Admissions response: Shadowing does not fulfill our HCE requirement. Working in a nursing home as a CNA does meet our HCE requirement. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: I worked in reproductive health for two years. Should I get exposure to other specialties or primary care before I submit my application this summer? Would my experience in reproductive health care be too narrow?
Admissions response: We are not necessarily focused on what exposure you have had as much as whether you have broad interests. If you only want to do reproductive health care that would be fine as long as you are able to connect with other parts of providing care to patients. - Case Western Reserve
PRE-PA QUESTION: Could my seven years of working/volunteering at Planned Parenthood be seen in a negative light? I loved the work and the people, but I'm a bit skittish in light of the political climate. Would Planned Parenthood be out of line with any of the fundamental values at CWRU?
Admissions response: Planned Parenthood is very much in line with the values that CWRU focuses on. - Case Western Reserve
Key Point and Highlights:
- Taking care of a family member is not clinical experience. You can mention it and talk about the clinical care you provided, but it's not really what we are looking for (although you should take care of your family).
- If you are accumulating hours and don't meet minimum requirements at the time of application, it may be in your best interest to wait until you are competitive to apply.
- Healthcare experience matters but is only part of the equation; if academics are not strong, it doesn't reflect highly on you as an applicant.
- Always try to exceed the minimum. For example, if 500 HCE hours is the minimum, schools will get a lot of applicants with closer to 1,000 hours of HCE. You don't have to have 5,000 hours to apply, but make it your goal exceed the minimum.
- Shadowing usually does not count as direct patient care experience.
- Remember, the gold standard is direct, hands-on patent care experience... always.
- Make sure your prerequisites haven't expired: Some schools have a ten year limit on prerequisites, including patient care hours.
- Be current! High school shadowing and HCE experiences are generally not considered.
- Take note of where your HCE is coming from. Some schools like Case Western Reserve only accept hours from work done in the United States.
- Medical scribe is a big gray zone, best to always check with a school to make sure this will fulfill their HCE requirements.
- Start early, and hit the ground running, be willing to lend a helping hand wherever you can. There is no excuse for not having enough health care experience other than a lack of trying. Trust me; this is what the ADCOMS are thinking, so take this to heart.
The PA Advisor Series
The GRE and PA School: The Pre-PA Advisor Series
The Pre-PA Advisor Series Welcome to the PA Advisors Series – a special series of posts where PA school applicants like yourself ask the tough questions and admissions directors from top-ranking PA schools provide the answers. This post is also included as part five of our five-part series “The 5 steps to PA school.” Today We […]
The Pre-PA Advisor Series: Patient Contact Hours and Healthcare Experience
The Pre-PA Advisor Series Welcome to the PA Advisors Series – a special series of posts where PA school applicants like yourself ask the tough questions and admissions directors from top-ranking PA schools provide the answers. Today We Will Discuss: Patient Contact Hours and Healthcare Experience Requirements for PA School Here are some of the questions […]
PA School Prerequisites: Admissions Directors Answer Your Burning Questions
As you probably know by now, if you want to get into PA school, you must complete the necessary prerequisite coursework. I have discussed this in detail in a previous post Prerequisite Coursework: How to Design the Perfect Pre-PA School Curriculum. Today, we are going a step further by giving you answers to some of the […]
Applying to PA School with a Low GPA: Admissions Directors Answer Your Questions
How to Get Into PA School With a Low GPA PA school administrators from ten top-ranking PA programs answer your questions on how to get into PA school with a low GPA. A low GPA is probably the hardest area to improve. This makes sense – it was years in the making, and can’t be […]
View all posts in this series
You may also like -
Download Your FREE 300 PA School Interview Questions and Answers Workbook
Sign up below to receive your free 65 page 300 PA school interview questions and answers workbook.
Brian V. Fernandez says
My name is Brian and I’ve been working as a medical assistant in the past month. The only problem is that I am actually not a certified MA, I was able to get the job just using my phlebotomy certification. Will the hours working as an MA but not certified as one count towards Patient care hours? I am still doing all the hands on experience and work that a certified MA would do, it’s just that I am not certified. Please can someone clarify, I really like the job but I want my hours to count towards PCE to get into PA school.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Brian, these hours will definitely count as PCE/HCE hours! Certification, in this case, is a non-issue from the PA school’s standpoint. Some organizations only hire certified MAs, while others don’t have a preference, so it is on the organizational side that this may matter and will not affect the quality of your hours and experience.
I hope that helps!
Does foreigner stands a chance in becoming a PA in USA? I have a degree in Biomedical Science back in my local university with very poor GPA. I then transitioned into fintech field for 3 years. I found out about PA recently and want to achieve my initial goal and passion when I chose Biomed for my degree. I am looking into post bacc in US. Anyone has experience as foreigner or advice for foreigner on how can I start my journey as soon as possible as I am already in the late 20’s or if this is even possible for us?Thanks in advance!
My name is Jennifer.
Your website or a website that your company hosts is violating the copyright-protected images owned by me personally.
Check out this official document with the URLs to my images you utilized at http://www.thepalife.com and my previous publication to find the proof of my copyrights.
Download it now and check this out for yourself:
I really believe you’ve intentionally violated my rights under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101 et seq. and can be liable for statutory damages of up to $130,000 as set-forth in Sec. 504 (c) (2) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”) therein.
This message is official notice. I demand the removal of the infringing materials mentioned above. Please be aware as a service provider, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act demands you, to remove or terminate access to the copyrighted materials upon receipt of this particular notification letter. If you do not cease the use of the above mentioned copyrighted content a law suit can be started against you.
I do have a strong faith belief that utilization of the copyrighted materials mentioned above as presumably infringing is not permitted by the copyright owner, its legal agent, or the laws.
I swear, under consequence of perjury, that the information in the letter is accurate and that I am the legal copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly violated.
Bianca Inzunza says
Would working as a Behavior Technician working directly with kids who have autism through ABA therapy be considered as direct patient care hours?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hello, Bianca, this is a great question. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer as every PA program defines what they consider to be healthcare experience versus patient care experience differently. So you will want to make sure you look at each program you’re interested in and if this is unclear on their website I would make sure to reach out to someone in the administrative office directly.
Firstly, thank you for this site. It is so helpful!
I am wondering if you could shed some light on my situation.
I am interested in going to PA school in the next few years. I did pre-med in undergrad eight years ago, then did a master’s in Communication. I also worked as a chair-side orthodontic assistant part-time for 2.5 years in college.
More recently I’ve gotten a couple holistically-minded certificates in nutrition (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Certified GAPS Practitioner). Would working for myself (through my own LLC), both directly with clients and doing preparation work creating nutritional and lifestyle plans, count as relevant patient care experience? Would working at a Doctor’s or Chiropractor’s office or even a Weight Loss clinic give more credibility to my hours?
Or would it be preferable for me to get my CNA/MA and work in a more traditional assisting capacity at a clinic for my health care experience?
Thank you for your insight!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Elle, if The PA Life was a PA school I would accept you this moment! Sounds like you have a world of experience and the prerequisites to boot! The best advice I can give you is to reach out to several PA programs directly and ask these questions. My opinion means little to the PA school ADCOM’s of the PA schools where you are applying. They all have different requirements and recommendations when it comes to HCE/PCE. A wonderful place to ask questions among many different PA programs is during one of the PAEA Virtual fairs. They hold these semi-annually. The next one will be held this July and it’s FREE: https://www.careereco.com/Fair/EventDetails?fairId=397ea722-c960-47fb-a8d9-ab1a015dcd8c
I love to drop in and ask questions as well and am registered for this one. If you are reading this comment at a later date you can find all upcoming PAEA virtual fairs on careereco.com by search graduate school fairs and typing “physician assistant” into the search query.
I hope this helps some. I think you are a shoo-in for PA school. I would also recommend (if you haven’t already) to create a CASPA account now and start filling it out. It will give you a good sense of what is left to be done. There is no penalty for creating an account early! https://caspa.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
I am currently working as a Physical Therapist Aide. Would this count as PCE?
I volunteer at a mental health institution in which my role is to interact with members seeking help for their mental health by doing activities with them. I am wondering if this would count as direct patient contact?
Additionally, I am wondering if most schools would rather see paid clinical hours rather than volunteer hours.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Avery, there is no single answer here as every school has their own requirements when it comes to PCE and HCE so it’s best to research some of the schools you are interested in applying to and consider contacting them directly. Their web portals can be difficult to navigate and are not always clear on their requirements. You want to make sure you are getting the best and most up-to-date information.
What about volunteering as a crisis counselor at a text line, or even being a crisis counselor in person?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
These may be considered health care experience hours but you would have to confirm this with the PA program to be certain.
Destiny Taylor says
Is it fine for PCE and HCE hours to overlap?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Yes Destiny, in my opinion, patient care and healthcare experience hours are the same thing although “hand on” patient care and healthcare experience may be more specific and is higher up on the food chain.
Do hours as a Cardiac Monitor tech count? I have about 400 hours so far as a Monitor Tech and also around 100 hours as a ER volunteer.