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Advice to Future PA Students

I try to share stories each week from YoPros across all industries, but I recognize one industry that is lacking on our site, and that is medicine. To give those of you who are interested in the medical field more content, I bring you today's story with one of my best friends from home, in Baltimore, Maryland. Frances is in school for her PA degree and her take on the process, particularly during the pandemic, is great for anyone interested in this field. I know you will enjoy reading it as much as I did!


When I decided to apply to Physician Assistant programs, I never imagined the reality of what I was signing up for; working as a front-line provider in a pandemic in NYC. Becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) was an easy choice for me to make. I have always been interested in preventative healthcare, and as a PA I will have the opportunity to assess and treat patients to make a difference in their quality of life. I am an active person, so I enjoy working with my hands and on my feet, and becoming a PA means that I will be able to collaborate with physicians in a team practice. While I will autonomously be able to order diagnostic studies, perform physical exams, and prescribe medications, I will always have a team of other healthcare professionals to support me. PAs are able to work in any specialty of medicine – from cardiothoracic surgery to dermatology – but are unique in that we have the versatility to change specialties throughout our careers.

While another draw for me to become a PA was the work-life balance that comes with the career, this is not the case during the 26 months of PA school. The first 14 months of the didactic year are often described in PA school memes as “drinking water from a fire hose”. We learn every system in human anatomy, how to perform physical exams, pathology, diagnostic tests, and pharmacology to prescribe medications. It was a lot – but it had to be! We have a huge responsibility to our patients and health care teams, so we had to be as prepared as possible. As a graduate student, I see friends my age making advances in their careers with salary, promotions, and paid time off. It is hard to always recognize that I am making improvements in my career when I am up late studying for an exam the next day and not making any money, but luckily, the clinical year of PA school has helped shift the reason for the hard work into perspective.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the difference between being a healthcare student and working a desk job has been especially prevalent. While many of my friends have moved out of NYC to work from home, my clinical year started in the middle of the pandemic.

Healthcare took a major shift this past year, and it was all hands on deck. During the clinical year, we have 5-week rotations in all different medical specialties in New York City hospitals, which has been a wild ride. My emergency medicine rotation was at a level 1 trauma center in the South Bronx, where I spent night shifts intubating stab-wound victims. In the Upper East Side, I helped deliver babies via vaginal births and life-saving C-sections. In the operating room, I scrubbed in and assisted in surgeries ranging from mastectomies to total knee replacements. All of this was done wearing full PPE with an N-95 mask and goggles.

This year was not easy for anyone, but as a healthcare student, I was probably given more opportunities to contribute to the care of patients than I would have any other year. When I see that I am able to make a difference in the quality of life for my patients, I know that I made the right choice in my career, even if it takes a few years of blood, sweat, and tears during these turbulent times to accomplish.

Connect with the Author here: Frances Wells

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