What is a PA?
PAs (Physician Assistants) are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.
What do PAs do?
Physical assistants’ specific duties depend on the setting in which they work, their level of experience, their specialty, and state laws. They obtain patient histories, perform physical examinations, diagnose illness and develop treatment strategies, order and interpret lab tests, counsel patients on preventative health, perform various medical procedures, assist in surgical operations, and in most states can write prescriptions.
Degree Requirements for PA School
A bachelor’s degree from one of the accredited colleges and universities is the first requirement to join PA school. You can fulfill this requirement by completing a Physician Assistant program. You do not have to wait to finish your undergraduate study to apply to join PA school.
However, because work experience gives you better odds, you need to a few years to volunteer, shadow a doctor or a PA, and maybe do research to increase your odds. Besides the bachelor’s degree, a PA assistant has to complete a master’s program accredited by ARC-PA, an independent body that licenses PA programs. The master’s program should involve classroom work and hands-on training.
After this, you need to earn your PA certification by taking a PANCE test. You need to take the PANCE test within six years after completing your PA program. Within the six years, you are given six attempts – if you fail to get certified in all six attempts, you have to retake the ARC-PA accredited PA program. You can only start practicing after the certification.
Contact Hours for PA School
Like the GPA and GRE, there are no standard experience requirements for PA school. It is, therefore, challenging to know how much experience you need (in terms of hours) and in what areas. However, this is for sure, you will not get into any PA school without healthcare experience. There are different categories of healthcare experience, such as:
• Experience in Patient Care : This is the most recognized experience category when applying to join PA school. You need experience in developing patient treatment plans, performing procedures, and directing treatment for a patient. To earn the experience, you can work as a phlebotomist, CAN, paramedic, dental hygienist, or physical therapist among others. Accepted students earned an average of 3,020 hours in patient care experience in 2019, according to the PAEA report.
• Healthcare Experience : You only need to work in a healthcare setting for at least 1000 hours, either paid or unpaid. Here, you need experience in cleaning patients, delivering food, administering medication, or taking vitals. Patient’s care hours count when you work hands-on with patients.
• Shadowing: Here, you only need to observe a physician or physician assistant work. In 2019, accepted students shadowed PAs for an average of 143 hours.
• Volunteer Work: The volunteer work you undertake in a health facility does not count. You need to volunteer outside the healthcare system Here, you can tutor students in less privileged societies, fundraise money for charity, engage in city cleanups and so much more. You need at least 500 hours working as a volunteer.
• Non-healthcare employment experience: One of the ways on how to get into PA school is to show that you have experience in different fields. Therefore, you need at least 2000 hours in a field not related to healthcare.
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