Have you always known that you wanted a career in the healthcare field, but you struggle deciding which path is the right one for you? Well you are not alone! So many people, myself included, researched and shadowed various different medical professions before settling on the career of our dreams. One amazing resource is MEDtakeovers. MEDtakeovers is operated by a physician assistant working in pediatric critical care. (More information about the creator of MEDtakeovers (Andrea Benedict, PA-C) can be found on her Instagram: lifeasapa). Andrea allows different medical professionals to take over her Snapchat account and give insight and answer questions about what their profession does on a daily basis, as well as divulge tips to being a competitive applicant for that particular program.

MEDtakeovers can be found on Snapchat at medtakeovers. There are different medical professionals or students currently enrolled in graduate programs hosting these takeovers approximately 3 days per week. You can also catch up on previous MEDtakeovers by going to her website You do have to sign up for a subscription, but its very affordable. She offers 2 options: $3.99/month or $19.99/year. I found this extremely helpful, because there were previous takeovers done by physician assistants in many different specialties. As a future PA, I love the fact that you can change specialities at any point in your career, so it is very helpful to be able to get first hand advice on the different specialities and the autonomy allowed in each.

She also hosts an account called @premedtakeovers which is found on Snapchat and Instagram. This account is current undergraduate students pursuing pre-health studies towards a particular goal and they share their experiences with other students contemplating entering into these fields. The premedtakeovers are very useful for students who are early in their studies and are still trying to make a decision as to what field they would like to pursue. The medical professionals that host the medtakeovers, often do not remember a lot of the nitty gritty application information, whereas the students that do the premedtakeovers have this information fresh in their mind and can be very insightful.

I highly suggest following both @medtakeovers and @premedtakeovers on both Instagram and Snapchat. Also, social media can be a great way to network with other professionals in the field you want to pursue so look some up! I will make a list of my favorite PAs, MDs, and DOs on social media and compile a list for you in my next blog post!

Navigating CASPA

For those of you applying to physician assistant school this cycle, you are probably familiar with what CASPA, (or the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) is. This is the centralized site through which you send your primary application to all of the PA schools of your choice. CASPA opens on April 27, 2017 for the 2017-2018 PA school cycle, which means you only have a little over one month left to prepare your application materials to be entered into CASPA. This blog is to help you know how to coherently collect your information to put into CASPA, and also to help you familiarize yourself with the layout of the application service, as it is now closed and new members are not permitted to sign up until the release date at the end of April.

There are 4 main topics in CASPA: 1) personal information, 2) academic history, 3) supporting information, and 4) program materials. I will break each section down, step by step so you will know ahead of time all the information you will need to make your sure application is finished completely the first time!

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As a side note, it is absolutely CRUCIAL to getting your CASPA submitted as soon as possible! Once your application is submitted, it goes through a verification process which can take up to several weeks. You want to be sure that your application is submitted early so it can be verified early, because your application will not be forwarded to your programs until it has been verified. Submitting your CASPA early is so important when applying to programs with rolling admissions, which many of them do. You can be the most competitive and competent applicant, but if you do not submit until August, the school of your dreams could already be full, so APPLY EARLY!

Okay, so the first section is the personal information, which is very straightforward. This section just requires your name, contact info, DOB, etc. It also asks a few questions regarding citizenship, ethnicity, and questions revolving the socioeconomic background in which you were raised. This section is all very self explanatory and there really is no significant prep work to this section.

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The academic history section is one that you will spend a significant amount of time on, and it is also the section that can make your application be rejected in the verification stage. In this section you must enter all the schools you attended and the dates you attended these institutions. You will also have to manually enter EVERY SINGLE course code, title, subject, credit number, and grade received. Yes, you heard me. For every single course. It takes at the very minimum 120 credits to receive a bachelors degree so this part can be very tedious and annoying, especially considering you have to send them your official transcripts anyway. If any part of this is entered incorrectly and does not match perfectly to your official transcripts, this will delay the verification process of your application, so take your time! This is one of the major reasons why CASPA opens a weeks or so before you can submit. So it opens to begin entered data on April 27th, but it is usually not until the 6th or so of May that you can actually submit your application for verification.

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There are companies that you can pay to enter in all of your coursework data for you, but c’mon if you can’t manage to enter approximately 40-50 classes into an application in order to become a PA, you probably aren’t that committed, so please do not pay someone to enter this information for you!

In the next month before CASPA opens, you should track down a copy of all of your unofficial transcripts to all of the schools you went to. I went to 2 different universities, plus took classes at a few different community colleges so I had multiple transcripts I needed to get. With everything online now, it makes it super convenient, however I definitely did not remember the login information to a school I went to 3 years ago! So do the prep work now; make sure you have all your pertinent login info and print out a copy of all your transcripts. Just to consolidate it all into one sheet, I made an excel spreadsheet with all the CASPA sections and filled it in so all I had to do when CASPA opened was transfer the data!

The final part of the academic history section is the standardized test area where you record the type, date, and score of the tests taken whether it was the GRE or the MCAT (most schools require the GRE, but some allow the MCAT as a substitute).

The next section will also take you some time, so buckle in! This is the supporting information section which means all the patient care hours, community service, awards, scholarships, you name it! Anything you want on your application to impress the judges will go into this section. Now I know you have already been compiling all of your relevant experiences and a log of the hours spent doing the various activities either in an excel spreadsheet or a word doc, right? Haha if you haven’t, don’t worry you still have time. But for you students that are still in your undergrad and have a few years till you apply, make sure you do this now! There is nothing worse than sitting down to do your application and not being able to recall events, hours, and contact information for the people for all of your different activities. So make it easy on yourself and record these things as you go!

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So the first subsection is evaluations, aka letters of recommendation. START THIS NOW. I repeat, START THIS NOW. This can be another section that will hold up your application from being verified. You must have at least 2 of your letters submitted before your application can be placed in line to be verified. You need to give your evaluators plenty of notice and time to complete your letter. You need to reach out to those you would like to have write letters for you and ask them now. Once the application opens, you will be able to send them the link to submit the letter electronically, but at least if you ask them now, they can begin working on your letter and hopefully be finished and just need to upload it when the application opens. Also, as a PSA: remember to thoroughly thank your evaluators. A nice hand written thank you card goes a long way!

Next up is experiences; here you will list and categorize all of the things you have been doing for the past 4 years to stack your resume for PA school. You will list your volunteer opportunities, work experiences not related to health care, patient care experiences, research, and shadow opportunities. You will need the dates, names of individuals (and contact info if you have it), organization names, and a brief synopsis of the activity. I say brief because really this should be short. I have seen some people write use the entire character limit in this section. Think about the admission committees reading thousands of applications and 10-20 experiences per person. Keep it short and simple, the adcoms will thank you.

Next is achievements and certifications. Pretty self explanatory, any awards, scholarships, or certifications you have and have earned. This can be a great place for those with significant healthcare experience to shine! Putting down how you are BLS and CPR certified, or are a registered nurse, certified EMT, certified RT, or so many other things, can really show that you have already accomplished and learned valuable information in the healthcare field that is directly applicable to your future career as a PA.

Next is the part you have all been waiting for… the dreaded personal statement. You can not upload a word document, you must either copy and paste your personal statement into the box, or type directly into the box. I suggest you use a word document that way you can first, begin now! You do not want to wait until April 27th to begin writing this. Also, in word document form, you can easily email and forward along your personal statement to friends and family members to proofread your essay. THIS IS SO CRUCIAL. A good friend of mine did not let anyone read her personal statement when applying to graduate school. After interviewing, and being subsequently rejected, she reached out to the school for feedback on her application and they told her that there were multiple spelling and grammatical errors in her personal statement. She was mortified, as I think we would all be. I had numerous people, all from varying ages and levels of education read, and reread the different versions and edit of my personal statement to make sure I had the best version to submit. You are allotted 5000 characters, not words, but characters for your personal statement.

The next few subsections are again relatively easy: agreeing to a release statement that everything you put down is true, upload a copy of your resume (this is also a great time to clean up and update your resume!!!), and add professional memberships you belong to. I became a member of both the AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistants), as well as my local chapter, ASAPA (Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants). Being a member of these professional organizations shows your level of commitment to the profession. It also has forums and discussions with current practicing PAs so you can stay abreast of the current events in the field. Another great thing about joining your local chapter is that there is a section for pre-PA students to network with current PAs in your area who are willing to allow you to shadow, as well as potential preceptor opportunities for rotations while in school.

The final section is program materials. In this section you will be shown all of the programs you have selected to apply for and the necessary additional work for each. Most programs just make you match your list of courses in your transcript entry to their list of prerequisite coursework. However, some schools use this section to have you answer additional essay questions even before the secondary application. The schools may also use this section to see if you are a reapplicant to their program.

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All of these 4 application sections are under the opening homepage, which is the “my application” tab. You can switch to the “add programs” tab to look for schools based on the state they are in, and add them to your list of recipients. The next tab is the “submit applications” tab and this is where you pay for your application fees. Assuming the price will not increase from last cycle, the cost is $175.00 for the first school, and $50 for every school after that. This can easily, add up so be sure to choose the schools wisely. For some help on choosing schools, be sure to check out my blog post on choosing the right PA school.

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The final tab is “check status” which allows you to track the status of your application. You can check to see how the verification process is going, track your letters of recommendation, and make sure all of your transcripts and standardized test scores are received to ensure there are no outstanding prerequisites for your application.

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If you have any further questions about navigating CASPA or any other PA questions in general, feel free to leave a comment below!








How to Dress for Success

So you’ve just received that much coveted email that states you have been invited to interview for a PA program. The email contains some basic information about the format of the interview day and at the bottom it reads, “dress is business professional.” I don’t know about you, and maybe its because I’m a girl, but I freaked out. What am I supposed to wear? Do I have to wear a pant suit? Do I have to wear heels? All of these questions flooded my mind. It took me back to 8th grade when you’d go out to the mall with your friends and you’d all text each other to coordinate what to wear because you didn’t want to be the over or undressed person in the group. So I’m going to be your girlfriend for the day and let you know exactly what everyone else will be wearing so you can feel comfortable and confident come interview day.

Guys, you’re easy. Business professional dress for men is pretty standard. Collared button up shirt, dress slack, and a suit jacket. Fellas just make sure you invest in a pair of dress socks as well. Nothing screams unprofessional like your white Hanes ankle socks showing when you sit down and your pant legs ride up. Also don’t forget a belt. I don’t know why, but men that wear a suit without a belt just rubs me the wrong way. It screams “my mom wasn’t there to help me get ready this morning.” Also, while we are on the topic of feet, do not, I repeat, do NOT wear Vans. There is nothing about Vans that strike me as business or professional. What a nice pair of dress shoes. You don’t want to look like you’re going to prom in 1999, back when wearing suits and chucks was cool. The only debatable point in my opinion about men’s dress for interviews comes down to the tie. Some men choose to forego a tie, and while I don’t think that will keep you from getting into PA school, it definitely doesn’t hurt to wear one. Just keep it simple, a plain, solid colored tie that blends well with your suit jacket color. A tie just says you are willing to go the extra mile in professionalism and that’s huge. Also its a little way to show some of your personality with a pop of color in a sea of navy and black suits. And for bonus points, match your tie to your dress socks!

So ladies, we’re the ones who get fashion anxiety and we also have a myriad of options when it comes to professional dress. So I’m going to tell you about my attire for my first interview f0r  PA school and how I adjusted my ensemble going forward.

The school I was interviewing at stressed the importance of individuality in your interview attire. Don’t feel like you have to wear a navy or black suit to impress us, they said. Don’t try to be something you’re not, they said. So of course, I listened, and I felt so uncomfortable and on edge the entire day. I wore a charcoal gray and grayish blue geometric pencil dress with a black blazer. It was professional, but also slightly edgy and feminine which is “my style”, as they asked for. Every other girl at the interview however was dressed in a navy or black suit, so of course I stood out. I felt embarrassed and underdressed and that I wasn’t as qualified as the other women there. The rest of the day I was so focused on how I should’ve worn something different, and I wasn’t devoting myself to my interview.

I was not dressed inappropriately by any means, but I was not dressed the same as my peers which made me feel like I was the odd man out. For my next interviews, I determined to blend in and dress just like everyone else.

I still couldn’t wear a pant suit though, that seemed too Hillary Clinton for me, so I opted for a skirt suit instead. Pants are totally fine if that is what you feel more comfortable in. Just be sure that your pants are not ill fitting. You don’t want them to be too tight in the butt or that will look inappropriate. You also want to be sure that they are hemmed so you aren’t dragging a few inches of pant along the floor all day. I wore a navy pencil skirt with a matching navy suit jacket. Finding a suit jacket that flatters a women’s body is almost impossible, and for me it was important to find something that didn’t totally diminish who I was. I ended up with a jacket that wasn’t fitted, but it had a feminine cut to it that looked sharp and feminine at the same time. I opted for a simple off white blouse since my suit jacket was a little edgier. I paired it with a pair of nude, closed toe kitten heels. Heels are not required, many women wore flats but I feel more comfortable in heels. Whether you wear heels or flats, your shoes must be closed toe. Peep toe shoes, while cute and fashion forward, are not particularly business professional and should be avoided. And do not wear heels unless you really are comfortable in them. Almost all schools give you a tour of the school as part of your interview day and you don’t want to be hobbling around in heels that hurt your feet or that make you look like a newborn deer walking for the first time. One important thing to remember that adds a classy touch if you’re going to wear a skirt suit is that you NEED to wear panty hose. I know they are outdated, but panty hose are professional so suck it up. Another thing to be aware of is your nails. Make sure your nails are trimmed and even. If you do decide to paint your nails, keep it simple. Either use a light pink/nude color, or a classic french tip. You will want to keep jewelry to a minimum as well. I suggest only wearing a simple pair of stud earrings, if anything I at all. I opted for a pair of small pearl earrings to complete my look.

Ladies you also want to keep makeup to a tasteful minimum. Interview day is not the day to try out the new red lipstick you just bought from Sephora or to try contouring for the first time. Be authentic to who you are, but if you like to experiment with makeup, then maybe be a little more tame. There’s no need for a smokey eye, but a little eyeshadow and mascara will show that you are put together. This goes for perfume also; you don’t want to overwhelm your interviewer with 30 pumps of your Chanel #5. Just a light dab on your wrists or neck is more than enough.

When I went to my remaining interviews dressed in this manner, I felt a wave of relief. I know this sounds ridiculous but it made me feel like we were on the same playing field now. Like before, they were all superior to me and had a leg up on the competition because they were wearing the “cookie cutter” interview attire. I spent hours and hours preparing for my interview, yet walking in and seeing everyone dressed the same, and me dressed nothing like them, made me forget all my preparations and I was once again that little 8th grader walking around the mall in yoga pants and flip flops when my gal pals were dressed to the nines. There is something about the way we dress that really makes us feel at ease in a situation, or completely bewildered. I hope that this blog post can help some of you pre-PAs, and really anyone venturing out into the professional world, feel that much more confident and prepared when you walk into an interview and that you can command the room, and not let the room command you.








Key Classes To Do Well In

In your preparation for applying to PA school, you have no doubt compiled a list of undergraduate prerequisite courses that you must take in order to apply. Many schools have similar core requirements and just differ slightly in the amount of additional upper division science classes needed as well as behavioral science classes required. As a general, these classes are going to be required by almost every PA school you apply to:

  1. General Chemistry with Lab (4-8 credits)
  2. Organic Chemistry with Lab (4-8 credits)
  3. Anatomy with Lab (4 credits)
  4. Physiology with Lab (4 credits) – or a combination of A&P together for 8 credits
  5. General Biology with Lab (4-8 credits)
  6. Microbiology (3-4 credits)

Most programs will also require at least one of the following:

  1. English
  2. Math
  3. Statistics
  4. Behavioral Science (ex. Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology)

It is also becoming more and more common for programs to require biochemistry as a prerequisite course. Even, if it is not one of the required prerequisites, many schools list biochem as a “recommended” course which basically means you don’t HAVE to have it, but you really should if you want to be competitive at our program.

So obviously it is important to do well in all of your classes, and particularly your prerequisite classes to be a competitive applicant for PA school, but in my experience there are a few classes that PA schools pay extra attention to how you performed in.

The first class you need to do well in his Organic Chemistry, but more specifically Organic Chemistry 2, if the program requires both semesters. O-Chem is without a doubt, one of the most dreaded classes amongst pre-PA and pre-Med students around the country. Its one of those classes that makes you think in a different way then most of us Type-Aers are used to. Schools like to see that you can be adaptive and figure out a way to solve problems that are hard for you, which OChem is for most. They also want to know that you are willing and able to utilize the resources given to you. One question I was asked in an interview was why I did so well in OChem 1, but only mediocre in OChem 2? My response, in my opinion really saved me! (and I ended up being accepted at this school). I responded that in OChem 2, I did not use the additional resources provided to me by professor, nor did I seek tutoring or go to office hours. I knew I was struggling, yet I was too prideful to ask for the help I needed. But, getting my end of semester grade in OChem 2 was severely humbling. The next semester I took Biophysical Chemistry which was hands down the hardest class I had taken in all of college. I learned my lesson with OChem 2 and did not allow myself to get behind, I stayed after class to work through problems with my teacher, and I went to office hours every chance I got. I made it out of Biophys with an A- (yay me!).  Ochem 1 and 2 are courses that are meant to show admissions committees that you can handle rigorous, graduate level course work. That’s why OChem in my opinion is the most important to be successful in, or you better be a real good talker and have a reason to show improvement or a lesson you learned about your study habits through OChem.

Biochemistry is another class that admissions committees want to see you succeed in. Biochem, while not required at all schools, is becoming the “new OChem.” If you can handle biochem, you can handle anything, or at least that’s the idea anyways. Biochemistry is a class that you will take again in PA school so it is crucial to get a good foundation and understanding of Biochem in your undergrad studies to make biochem in PA school that much easier. Taking biochem, even if it is not required at the school you are applying to is still a great idea! So many PA applicants major in nutrition, general health sciences, or some variation of the two. These majors, while still challenging, do not require a significant amount of upper division science coursework. If you majored in something that isn’t considered one of the “hard sciences”, like chemistry, biology, or biochemistry, then you definitely want to bulk your application up with one, if not multiple biochemistry courses to prove that you can take challenging upper division science classes and be successful.

And one final class that is important to do well in is microbiology. This class isn’t necessarily SUPER important to do well in to be able to get in to PA school, but I have been told by students currently in PA school that having a solid understanding of microbiology ad epidemiology will really help you have the foundation needed to build upon for your PA school courses!

Also a little PSA for ya! Many students think its super important to do well in undergrad anatomy and physiology. And while it is important to have a basic understanding of these topics, you will cover these topics again in PA school and in such a different way then your run of the mill undergrad BIO 201 and 202 class did. So don’t stress if you got a B+ in undergrad anatomy, you will be totally fine! You will be retaught everything in a way that is completely applicable to becoming a medical practitioner.

Traveling for PA School Interviews on a Budget

Interview season is one of the most exciting and stressful parts to the application process! You’ve spent months, if not years, preparing yourself and putting together a competitive application and a school has decided they want to know more about you. As exciting as it is when you get that email or phone call inviting you to interview, that excitement can quickly dissipate when you start to look up the cost of flights! The application process is very expensive, adding in travel expenses can add up quickly. In this post, I’ll share with you a few of my travel secrets to traveling on a budget!

Everyone knows that last minute flights can get pretty pricey, and most schools only give between 2-4 weeks notice for an interview, which means last minute flights are your only option. I started my flight search on a search engine (usually Kayak, but that’s just my preference). From there, I get an approximation of what a round trip ticket costs to that particular location. Then, I widened the search parameters to other airports nearby. For example, I had an interview in West Palm Beach, Florida. The West Palm Beach airport is a smaller, regional airport which is fairly expensive to fly into. Whereas, the Fort Lauderdale Airport is a larger, international airport. Fort Lauderdale is only a 45 minute drive away and it was approximately $200 cheaper of a plane ticket than West Palm.


Once I found my desired location, I looked to see where most airlines were stopping and having connections. A common layover between Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale was Dallas, Texas. The average roundtrip ticket from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale was $400. I looked to see the price of a round trip ticket from Phoenix to Dallas (a common layover location) and it was $98. I then looked the price of a round trip ticket from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale and it was $108. So by booking the two flights separately, I was able to save about $200 which is like HALF the cost of booking the same flights, Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale with a layover in Dallas. So by cheating the system a little bit you can save a lot! One thing I would caution you about doing this, is that if you book 2 separate flights like I did, and if one is delayed, and you miss the next one, the airline will NOT be as forgiving with helping you get on another flight. Whereas if you book a flight to your final destination and your connecting flight causes delays, they will do everything in their power to assist you to getting to your final destination. So its a gamble; you can potentially save a lot of money by booking 2 separate flights, but keep in mind you may be out of luck if delays occur.

So you’ve got your flight booked, now where will you stay? Airbnb is a great option when traveling for interviews. Not only will staying at an Airbnb save you money on the room, but it also offers certain amenities that are appealing to a solo traveler. Many Airbnbs have ensuite style kitchens or kitchenettes. The Airbnb I stayed at in Florida had a fridge and oven which was very useful for saving money on meals. I was able to cook all my meals myself, except for one lunch I stopped at a sandwich shop on the beach. The Airbnb I stayed in was near a grocery store so I was able to walk to get groceries and did not have to take a cab or an Uber.


Hotels that are near the school can be very tempting because they are so close and you can just walk there or take a few dollar Uber ride. But, be aware! Hotels that are in close proximity to schools know when interview season is! They bump up their prices making it more expensive for the lowly college student just trying to make it into grad school. I’m not saying that Airbnbs could not do this as well, but I have more noticed the trend in hotels. Also, hotels close to the campus tend to generally be more expensive than hotels a few miles out.

Another advantage to Airbnb is that most have later check out times than hotels, and some even offer the option to check out at any time. Most hotels require check out by 11 AM, or you can pay for delayed check out till around 2pm. I loved this late check out option for a few reasons. One, I didn’t have to bring my luggage with me to my interview. Most interview days last anywhere from 8 AM to 2PM (some earlier, some later). But, more than likely, your hotel checkout time will be during your interview. Some hotels offer to hold your luggage even after check out, but not all. I enjoyed my late check out because it allowed me to unwind and explore the city I would potentially moving to for the next 2 years after my interview. My interview was over around noon; I went back to my Airbnb and grabbed my swimsuit and hit the beach! I lounged around the beach and explored downtown for a few hours before returning to my Airbnb where I was able to shower and wash all the sand off from the beach, and then change into my comfy clothes for my flight.

One aspect of traveling under the age of 25 is the whole rental car debacle. Technically, you can rent a car at 21 but who wants to pay the ridiculous fees associated with that! So I Ubered everywhere, unless it was close enough for me to walk. During your planning, figure out exactly how many miles you are going to be traveling from the airport, around town, and to and from your interview. Determine for yourself, whether it would be smarter to pay the fee and rent a car, or just Uber everywhere. Even with my 45 minute drive to and from the Fort Lauderdale airport into West Palm, it was still less expensive for me to use Uber and Lyft to get around, rather than rent a car. Also, use any coupon code for these driving services you can! I used Lyft for the first time during this trip because they offered a $20 coupon code for first time riders. Send you Uber code to friends in the weeks proceeding your trip so you can get more free rides yourself while you’re traveling. Every dollar counts man!


Hopefully, by utilizing some of these secrets to traveling cheaper, you will be financially able to travel to all the interview invites you receive, and you will not have to pick and choose which to accept!

Do Not Let the Paranoia Get to You, You are Good Enough!

If I could pass on only one piece of information to a student applying to physician assistant school it would be this: Do not let the paranoia get to you, you are good enough. It sounds simple enough, but when you’re in the midst of application season and you aren’t hearing back from as many schools as you thought you would, as quickly as you thought you would, the panic starts to set in.

I spent weeks, if not months, thoughtfully preparing my list of 8 PA schools that I would apply to, long before the CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) even opened for the year. I chose the 8 schools that I would be the most competitive applicant at, and those that both academically and geographically matched my preferences. When the CASPA opened in late April/early May, I selected my 8 schools and pressed the submit button with confidence.

July rolled around and I had heard from some schools on my list, although not all. I began to get nervous that I would not get accepted this cycle (I know 2 months in and I was already thinking of the worst). So what does any paranoid pre-PA student do when they are unsure of themselves? They head to the forums.

The forums are a place where students share their experiences with the application cycle for each of the different PA schools nation wide. The forums can be a great place to get feedback from current and previous students from a school. They are also useful for getting a general timeline of how the admissions process works at each different school. However, the forums are also a place that brings self loathing and despair (haha okay that was a little dramatic, but still). I spent countless hours on the forums seeing how other students had received interview invites and had already been accepted into programs I had not even heard back from yet. It was super discouraging and that’s when the paranoia began to sink in.

I panicked! I chose an additional ELEVEN schools to apply to and forked up the extra $1,500 it cost to send my CASPA and GRE scores to these additional schools. It seemed like the necessary course of action; I felt like I had to apply to these other schools or I had no chance of getting in.

In the eloquent words of our new president, I was “WRONG” (c’mon you know you read that in a Trump voice and got a little giggle out of it).  In retrospect, I wish I had not wasted that extra money and had just stuck to my original school list. Of the 8 schools I originally applied to, I was invited to interview at 5 of them. That’s like 63%! That’s pretty good odds! Of the additional 11 schools I applied to, I was only invited to interview at 2 of them (only 18%). My chances of interviewing, and ultimately being accepted were far greater at the schools I had thoughtfully chosen ahead of time. My last minute rush job, adding random schools just to increase my odds, didn’t help at all. It just made me $1,500 poorer, which really would’ve come in handy when I had to put down a $1,000 deposit at schools to hold my spot.

My intentions were good; I wanted so badly to get into PA school this year. I felt comfortable and confident with the application I put forth, and I felt competitive at the original 8 schools which I applied to. But, as is human nature, I began comparing myself to others and that’s when all the trouble started. This advice doesn’t just apply to the application process, but the interview process as well. I definitely psyched myself out before an interview or two by talking with other interviewees and comparing myself to them. I thought there was no way I was going to get accepted with these kids here; they have more HCE hours and higher GPAs. I’ve also done the opposite, where I thought I had it in the bag by thinking I was better than those around me (which I didn’t by the way, the one school where I thought I was far superior, denied me so life really laughed at me while it beat me with a humility stick).

Don’t compare yourself to randoms on the internet or other applicants you come in contact with. Please, just don’t. Save yourself the aggravation. You are all different and bring something different to the table. Put your best foot forward and admissions committees will see that. As the wise Richard Gilmore once said, “What she tackles, she conquers.” So take a deep breath, you’ve got this!


Scribe Life

Gaining worth while healthcare experiences is one of the most important parts to preparing for PA school. Many schools require hundreds, if not thousands of hours of healthcare experience hours in order to apply to their program. One of the many things that I did to gain healthcare experience is scribing.

Medical scribing is kind of the up and coming thing that many students are doing to get their foot in the door of the healthcare field. I have been scribing for about 9 months now in two different emergency departments and it has been hands down, the best exposure I have had to not only the medical field, but to what I will be doing in my career as a PA.


As a scribe, my main responsibility is composing the medical note for the providers. I go into the patient’s room with the doctor or PA and use the information obtained during the history and physical exam (H&P) to compose a medical note to be billed to the insurance company. It is such a great experience to be able to be in the room and witness how many different providers do their H&P. It also is great experience on  how to create a medical chart and all of the components that need to be present. I have talked to many students currently in PA school and medical school and many have shared with me that they wish they had had prior medical scribing experience. The students who have scribed before starting PA school are far ahead of the curve and already know how to write a HPI (history of present illness) and the other important elements of a medical chart.

As a scribe, I am also able to obtain past medical history of a patient myself. It is so important to have experience talking to patients about their medical histories and to feel confident and comfortable questioning patients. I have always considered myself a fairly out going person who doesn’t struggle talking to people. However, the first time I had to take a patient history I had a mini panic attack! There is something about asking someone personal medical information that just makes you feel slightly uncomfortable. Scribing has helped me to feel more comfortable obtaining this information and more confident. Also, its 2017 so Electronic Medical Records are obsolete in the medical field now and this is an awesome way to learn how to navigate different EMR software such as Cerner and Meditech.

One of my favorite parts about being a medical scribe in an emergency department is the vast amount of things that I am exposed to. You get to see different ailments in the sub-specialties of cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, and so much more. One of the emergency departments I work in is a level 1 trauma center so I am also exposed to various traumas such as motor vehicle accidents and assaults. I have seen more in the past 9 months as a scribe than I have through my various other healthcare experiences over the past 4 years.

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How do I become a scribe you may ask? There are a few different avenues you can pursue. First, would be to find a scribe contracting company, such as Scribe America. These companies train scribes and then place them with different hospitals and doctors offices. They are essentially a scribe management company that handles your training and placement. There are also private medical groups that employ and train their own scribes to work at their own practices or hospitals. This is the avenue that I pursued. I work for Premier Emergency Medical Specialists out of Arizona. They are a private emergency medicine group that staffs the MDs, DOs, PAs, NPs, and medical scribes for 2 Dignity Health Hospitals. I work with the same providers no matter which facility I am working at since all of the providers rotate locations as do the scribes.

I have attached a few links to local Arizona scribe companies for you to take a look at it if you’re interested in pursuing a job as a scribe to gain beneficial healthcare experience!

Lastly, scribing is an awesome way to make connections. Professional success relies heavily on your ability to network! Scribing puts you in contact with physicians and PAs to write you letters of recommendation when it comes time for applications, as well as potential job opportunities after you graduate. In my company, there is one doctor and one PA that were both scribes for the company and then hired on again as providers after graduation!


What is a PA?

So many people have been asking me what a PA is so I have a brief little summation for ya about what a PA is and what they do. PA stands for Physician Assistant, which is a midlevel medical provider, hence the name of this blog, “Midlevel Mindset”. PAs practice medicine as part of a healthcare team along side MDs and DOs. Physician Assistants are able to order tests, interpret results, diagnose, develop treatment plans for their patients, and prescribe medications. PAs are trained in the medical model similar to the way that doctors are trained which makes their training complementary to physicians. PAs are able to practice medicine autonomously, which means that they are able to practice medicine independently.

I have attached a link to a website containing more information about PAs:

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PA School vs Med School

“Why don’t you become a real doctor?” or “you’re too smart to be ‘just’ a PA.” These are just some of the phrases I heard numerously when telling people I wanted to become a physician assistant. Many people did not quite understand my desire nor do they comprehend all of the immense benefits associated with being a physician assistant as opposed to a doctor. In this blog, I have outlined some of the key reasons why I chose to go to PA school over medical school.

So first and foremost, I think the most obvious benefit to PA school versus medical school is the time commitment. PA schools range between 24-32 months, with most programs being just over 2 years. Medical school is 4 years with a required residency of additional 3-8 years. While there are residency programs for physician assistants, they are not required in order to practice. Also, most PA residencies are only a year long program. You are getting finished with school and settled into your career far sooner as a PA than you would as a doctor.

Doctors have to be specialized. They attend a residency program and must be board certified in their particular area of practice. This limits the amount of subspecialties a doctor can practice in his/her career. PAs do not have to be board certified in a subspecialty. PAs have the freedom and capability to switch from one specialty to another as often as they want in their career. This is debatably the most attractive quality of this career to me. I love the idea that I could practice cardiology for a years, then switch to neurology, then maybe try a surgical specialty. I tend to get bogged down by monotony, so this aspect allows PAs to be dynamic and opens them up to endless opportunities.

This fluidity between specialties allows for a slowing down towards retirement. I work in an ER and have talked to multiple ER docs who have expressed that emergency medicine is not something they could still do into their late 50’s and early 60’s. Many subspecialties are more grueling on the body than others. By being allowed to change specialties, as you get older and closer to retirement, you can switch to specialty that is easier for you.

Another reason I chose to go to PA school is because the job market is exploding with jobs! With the ever changing healthcare reform in our country, many hospitals and practices are looking at ways to trim costs. PAs can do nearly all the same things that physicians can, at a third of the price. By paying less out in salaries, but having the same level of productivity, businesses can be more profitable by utilizing physician assistants.

Physician assistants can perform approximately 80% of the functions that doctors can, as long as they are operating under the medical license of a doctor. One of the things that attracts me the most to a career as a PA is that they can practice medicine autonomously, however they also have a supervising physician to rely on in case they need help.

In all reality, the two careers, PAs and physicians are the perfect complement to each other. Physicians have 4 years of medical school plus an additional specialized training in a subspecialty, whereas PAs are trained in the generalist model with an overview in many topics and can then trained in a specific subspeciality by a physician. They can both be more productive by utilizing each other appropriately.

Choosing the Right PA School

Choosing the right PA school is crucial to your success at getting into a program. There are currently 218 programs that are accredited by ARC-PA, as well as dozens applying for accreditation each year. So the question is, which schools should I apply to?

Luckily, there are many sites that provide lists of accredited programs as well as their requirements for admission. You can match up your GPA, health care experience hours, prerequisite course work, etc. with the requirements of the programs. A few of the sites I used when selecting the PA schools I applied to are:


Personally, I preferred using the PAEA online directory as you could also filter out a list of schools by state, because for me, location was an important factor. CASPA also allowed you to filter by state. CASPA stands for Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants. This is the online website used to send one centralized application to all of the schools you choose to apply to. This is another reason I liked using CASPA; you could search and apply to schools on your list all in one site.

Once you find a list of schools from one of the above sites, go to each schools’ website and first double check that you meet the criteria. Some of the schools have not updated their information on these sites listed above, so they may require an additional prerequisite course or more patient care hours. Next, you want to choose a school that you not only meet, but exceed the minimum requirements for admission. Most schools have published stats of their accepted students from past years. The accepted student profile or statistics page will give you a guide for what you should compare yourself to. For example, a school may have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.00, however the average GPA of their accepted students is 3.50. You want to be sure you are only applying to schools that you will be competitive at, so be sure to align yourself with not only the minimums, but the averages as well.

Once you have identified schools in which you are competitive both academically and with your patient care hours, it is important to find a program that you truly fit. It sounds very cliche, but feeling at home in a PA program is vital to your success in the program. If you do not get along well with your classmates and do not like the faculty, you will not be happy in the program. During my application cycles, I interviewed at several different programs. After leaving one interview, I remember thinking to myself that I would never be happy there; the faculty seemed standoffish and cold, and the other students there were not of a similar personality to myself. I knew instantly I would not click there. However, when I was at my interview at Touro University Nevada (the program I will be matriculating to in the Summer 2017), I instantly felt at home. The program director reminded me of my father, the faculty was so welcoming, and I meshed so well with the other students I met there that day.

There are many important factors to consider when choosing a PA school. It is important to remember to stop and truly consider the other social and personal aspects of PA school as well. I was born and raised in the state of Arizona. I would have been miserable in a program in Wisconsin, that is far too cold for me! You want to choose somewhere you realistically could be happy for 2 years and somewhere you will become the midlevel provider you have always wanted to be.

A little PSA for ya…

So you may also be wondering what I meant earlier by accredited programs. ARC-PA is the Accreditation Review Commission. They set strict educational standards on what PA programs must teach as well as requirements regarding the clinical rotations. A PA school must submit their curriculum and clinical sites to ARC-PA for approval in order to start an accredited program.

Why an accredited program you ask? If the program you attend is not accredited by ARC-PA then you are not eligible to sit for the PANCE exam (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam). Without passing the PANCE exam, you will not be able to license and practice as a physician assistant.