Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask a PA-C

Savanna from The PA Platform is here with us to answer the questions you've always wanted to ask a PA-C! Savanna is currently practicing full-time in dermatology, while also running The PA Platform, her blog site that provides information about the PA profession and helps hopeful Pre-PA students achieve their goals! Check out her page after reading our interview!

1. How did you hear about the PA profession/What got you interested in the PA profession? My dad is the person who actually introduced me to the PA profession. It was during my senior year of high school, and he visited a clinic for an issue he was having with his shoulder. It was the first time he had seen a PA, and when I got home that day, he had a folder of research about the PA profession for me. (I know where I get my desire to research everything from.) I always had an interest in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take.

After I went through my dad’s research, and did some of my own, I felt like it would be a good fit for me. The biggest turnoff for medical school was the length, as well as the competitiveness. I fell in love with the idea that after 2 years of intense schooling, I could be taking care of patients. Shadowing definitely confirmed my interest, and I was able to visualize myself in the role of a PA and learn more about how PA’s are able to interact with physicians and patients. If you want to learn more about my journey to becoming a PA, check out my blog post on my site, The PA Platform.

2. What type of direct patient care experience did you acquire and would you suggest this route to pre-pa students? The main type of experience I obtained was as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). During my sophomore year of college, I took a class every Saturday for 3 months and sacrificed my spring break to do clinical hours. I wish this was something I planned earlier, but I was able to get certified and work full-time during the summer in a rehabilitation hospital. It was a great experience for me because I learned firsthand how difficult patient care can be, and how important every member of the healthcare team is. That’s a lesson I still take into consideration as a practicing PA when working with my co-workers because I have a better understanding of their roles.

I would recommend CNA as a way to acquire patient care hours that are of high quality. Unlike what I did, try to plan ahead to become certified. There are many courses that are 3-4 weeks long, and can be completed over a summer or break. I also did hospice volunteering, but that was only 1-2 hours per week.

3. What specialty are you in right now, how long have you been in it, what do you like about it? I am currently practicing in dermatology, and I’ve been in that role since I graduated PA school from Augusta University in August of 2014. It was the first position I took, and one I hope I’ll never have to leave! I shadowed in dermatology when I was in undergrad at the University of Georgia, and that’s where I fell in love with the specialty. Initially, I thought I was only going to see naked old people, but there’s SO many interesting things in dermatology, and I’ve come to love my routine skin checks.

I love that I get to see patients of all ages, and there are normal conditions like acne and warts, but also crazy, confusing rashes. Skin does some really weird things! I also like that I am able to do procedures, like biopsies and excisions, in addition to cosmetic procedures. I actually see and do a huge variety of tasks on any given day, and I work in an amazing office with the best supervising physicians I could ever ask for. I consider this my dream job!

4. Any advice to those graduating and entering into the PA practice? Things you wish you would have considered? That’s a tough question! My biggest piece of advice would be to be honest about what you want to do. While I was on clinical rotations, I had the misconception that I should tell all of my preceptors I wanted to be in their field so I could potentially get job offers. That was the absolute wrong way to go about getting a job. If you know there’s a field you want to be in, go ahead and let your preceptors know, so when they hear of openings they will know you are interested, and can recommend you. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for my surgery preceptor. He is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and loves every patient he meets. He made a phone call that got me my current job, and I will forever be grateful for that!

Another piece of advice that was given to me is to always be job searching, even when you’re satisfied. I think the main thing is to be aware of what jobs are available and what you are worth. While I’m extremely happy where I’m at, having this knowledge definitely helps when it comes to my contract and knowing the needs in my area.

One more thing to think about when choosing a field is how flexible you want your schedule to be. In my position, I have a set schedule of about 35 patients a day, and usually I’m booked at least a month in advance. That means that I can’t just decide to take a day off whenever I want, and I have to plan vacations months ahead of time. This wasn’t something I thought about before going into practice, so if you know you need a flexible schedule, consider Urgent Care or emergency medicine where you are easily able to switch shifts and take off when necessary.

Thank you all for reading and thank you to Savanna from The PA Platform! Follow her on Instagram @thepaplatform. Comment below or contact me to suggest more questions you would love to ask a PA-C and I will ask them in my next interview!

 

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Shadowing Hours and How to Get Them

Hi everyone, today I want to talk about the process of finding physician assistants to shadow for your requirement of applying to PA school. 

Once I decided that I was interested in the Physician Assistant career, I found a PA to shadow in the area. At the time I was still in undergraduate school at the University of Missouri in Columbia and a found a resource online that started my series of connections which was pashadowonline.com. You create a username and password and you now have access to choose your region and look at Physician Assistant's schedules if they have volunteered their time by allowing students to sign up to shadow. This is such a great site and I'm thankful for it and for those PA's who use it! I was able to find a few PA's in my area and chose to email them about finding a time to shadow. One ended up responding to me after a bit of time and I was able to have my first shadowing experience in an ICU where the PA was the only PA, Physician, etc. working overnight. After making a relationship with this PA he was able to contact a few of his PA friends and coworkers and connect me with them to shadow and the rest is history! 

I completed over 100 hours of strictly Physician Assistant shadowing before my application was sent in areas of Surgery, ICU, EM, Internal Medicine, Dermatology, Orthopaedics, Family Medicine, and Neuro. The majority of the hours were accomplished due to connections and not simply applying to hospitals and thankfully so because it takes eons, a lot of paperwork, and screening compared to reaching out to a PA personally. 

Steps:

1. Check out pashadowonline.com and sign up.

2. Reach out to your connections, there is bound to be at least one Physician Assistant that you could get contact information from. Even ask your own family Physician/OBGYN/Dermatologist, etc.

3. Call all clinics, hospitals, private practices that are known to have Physician Assistants. This process will be much longer due to such strict HIPPA requirements now but it is worth the time it takes if unsuccessful with the prior steps.

I encourage every pre-pa student to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to clinics, private practices, hospitals, family members, family friends, coworkers, friends of friends, etc. to find opportunities to shadow. It is 100% worth the time, it opens your eyes to what you'll really be doing as a PA, and it looks great on your application. Shadowing was the easiest and most intriguing part of the application process for me. It made me so excited to see how much PAs do on a day to day basis and in such different specialties.

If anyone needs tips on where and how to find Physician Assistants to shadow, please reach out, I'd be happy to help. And if we're in the same region, I may even have some names for you!

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