Happy Friday, y’all! Every year PAs around the world are celebrated during National PA Week which happens from October 6th-12th. As we are wrapping up #PAWeek 2019, I wanted to share a few bits about my career as a PA, why I chose this career and what I love about it. To any of you who are thinking about going to PA school or are just more curious about the profession, I have some resources at the bottom of this post!
What is a PA?
A PA (or physician assistant) is a healthcare provider who evaluates, diagnoses and treats patients in a clinical setting. The education is a masters degree that is completed after 4 years of undergrad. Once you graduate from your program, you take a national board exam (the PANCE) to receive your certification. This is what the “C” in PA-C stands for and you have to be certified to maintain your license and job. PAs can see their own patients, write prescriptions, assist in surgery and ultimately provide a vital role in patient care.
Why did I choose this career?
Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be in healthcare (I originally wanted to be a doctor). My mom, uncle and grandfather were all doctors back in Russia so I guess it runs in the family! I always had an interest in the human body and the sciences so I decided to go the pre-med route in college. Also, my dad always told me to choose a career that would support my desired lifestyle (don’t dads have the best advice, lol)?! I also desired a career that would allow me to help others and better the community. Now that I have been a PA for almost 4 years, I couldn’t be happier with my career choice. According to the US News & World Report, PAs takes the spot for #3 best job in America and #1 job in healthcare!
What is PA school like?
The typical PA program is any from 2-3 years, mine was 28 months long. I won’t lie, it’s difficult and intense but the great thing is that everything you’re learning is useful and relevant to your career. Do I really use the anthropology and calculus that I took in undergrad? Absolutely not! In my program, we were generally in class from 9-4pm Monday-Friday. It’s like a full time job and most schools recommend not to work while you’re in school (you’ll be taking plenty of loans). We had classroom times, cadaver lab, skills labs where we learned how to suture and do other procedures, and OSCEs (where you have a simulated patient encounter) and are graded on it. Even though I studied more than I ever had in my life, I still managed to have a great time in school. I had two amazing roommates and we made sure to explore our city and have a pretty decent social life so it can be done!
Where do PAs work?
Nowadays, you can pretty much find PAs in all areas of healthcare. You will frequently find them in primary care, urgent care/ER, pediatrics, dermatology, and orthopedics. You can also find them in many surgical specialties like plastic surgery, neurosurgery, cardiac… the list goes on! You can choose to work in a private clinic or hospital setting. I currently work in urgent care where no two days are the same! I treat lacerations, fractures, colds/respiratory infections, UTIs, skin infections, STDs and much more. You can check out this post where I go into more detail about life as an urgent care PA.
Why PA over MD/DO?
I first learned about the PA profession when I was in high school and saw a PA. I asked her about her career and did more research and ultimately decided that was the path for me. I liked that I wouldn’t have to go to school as long (6 years vs. 8 plus residency for doctors) but could still see and treat my own patients and prescribe medications. Every PA has to have a supervising physician, but can still practice with autonomy. I work as a solo provider in my clinic but like that my MD is available via phone call or text if I ever have a question or need reassurance about something. Generally, PAs are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance and I also love the fact that we are generally trained. That means we don’t board in a certain specialty but take a general board exam and can easily switch specialties throughout our careers if we choose!
If you are interested in learning more about the physician assistant profession, I highly recommend you check out the AAPA website or NCCPA site for some general information. You can also reference my ‘All Things PA’ tab here on the blog for a closer look at my time and experiences in PA school. As always, I’m happy to answer any PA-related questions and I want to give a big shoutout to all my fellow PAs out there! It’s not always easy and there are stressful days but ultimately I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Happy PA week!!