1. Research the PA profession. Find out about the profession’s history and the trends for the future. It is important to have a strong understanding of what a PA is and their role in health care. Through your research you may find that the PA profession is not for you. Do not think of the PA profession as a stepping stone to becoming a Doctor and obtaining an MD degree.
2. After gaining an understanding of the profession, the next step is to shadow those who are currently working as PAs. Shadowing is when one spends time observing a PA within the workplace. Pay close attention to how the PA interacts with the patient, medical staff, and supervising physician. Physician Assistants work in all facets of medicine, you may want to try and shadow multiple PAs who work in different fields in order to gain a greater understanding.
Do not be discouraged if you do not have a PA that you know personally. There are many ways to get in touch and find a PA. Do not be afraid to ask if you can shadow, the worst that can happen is that they say “no.” Ask friends and family if they know a PA, chances are they may, now you have a possible lead to pursue.
3. By now you should have a firm grasp on the PA profession and the typical life of a PA. With this understanding you can now move forward to the next big step. Getting into a Physician Assistant Program. The next research project for you is to look into the various programs through out the country.
Choosing a PA program is vary similar to choosing the college you went for your undergraduate work. There are multiple factors that go into account: School location, prerequisites, tuition, program reputation, and personality.
You want to spend a good deal of time exploring each program’s website.
Be mindful of the prerequisites, every program has different requirements.
You can research every PA program in the country at Physician Assistant Education Association program directory- PAEA.org
4. Compose a list of your top 10 choices. Focus your attention to your list and work hard to make sure you have all the following requirements for each program. If possible attend an open house for the programs you are interested in. Open houses provide insight into the program. You may find that the program was everything you through it was or just the opposite.
Do not let a nice expensive program website persuade you, if possible attend an open house or speak with a current student or recent alumni. Speaking with the program’s director can provide you insight to the curriculum while putting your name on the radar. There is a chance that when they see your application they might recall speaking to you.
5. With your program research narrowed down, focus on what classes or exams you must still take to cover the prerequisites. Solid grades and tests scores can only make you more competitive.
6. When is the best time to apply to the programs? As early as possible. Programs are obtaining record numbers of applications, get yours in early so each program has a chance to spend time reviewing your application.
Applying to programs has been made easier with CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants)
Setup an account and follow the step by step process. CASPA does a good job of paving the way for you. The process is tedious. This is not something that can be completed in one day. Pay close attention to detail, one small mistake can hinder your chances.
7. A minimum of 3 letters of recommendation are needed for the application. One of which should be from a Physician Assistant. A well written letter from a PA who can vouch for your skills and motivation to becoming a PA has greater clout then a vague generic letter from a big shot in another industry.
8. Writing the personal statement. PA programs and CASPA require you to attach a personal statement. It is important to spend a good deal of time and energy to provide the best narrative statement you possibly can. Write it, have as many people as possible read it, then revise, revise, revise. A personal statement free of grammatical errors goes without question.
Admission committee members agree that your personal statement is the most important part of the decision process to grant you a interview.
9. Very carefully review all aspects of your application. Remember to note program deadlines. Make sure your application is complete and ready for submission well ahead of the deadlines for your top program choices.
9. Submit your CASPA application.
10. Congratulations. You have complete a major hurdle in becoming a PA. The waiting begins. It may take months before you hear a response from the programs you applied to. Do not just spent your time waiting habitually checking your mail or email for a reply. Focus your energy on obtaining as many hours of patient care experience as possible. The more experience the greater your chances of getting in.