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Anesthesiologist Assistant AA-C vs Physician Assistant PA-C

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tbone0217

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I have been accepted to a PA program and an AA program. I was not expecting to have the privilege of a choice, so now I am stuck trying to figure out which path to take. I guess I just want to see if there are any others who have considered this decision, or if any PAs have considered making the switch.

Pros of AA: higher salary, lots of autonomy/decision making, lifestyle? (7-3, m-f)

Pros of PA: Flexibility! More options for location, specialty, hours. More jobs? Longer relationships with patients (in some specialties), ability to gain autonomy and pay with experience.

Obviously my indecision would make me lean towards PA since it doesnt lock you into one specific specialty. However, I can't help but wonder if I will regret passing on the AA opportunity.

Any thoughts would be great
 
D

deleted6669

another option to make it more complicated...do both...do pa then after a few yrs you could do the pa to aa bridge at emory if you want to do more anesthesia ....
I never really considered aa because I think it would get boring after about 2 weeks....as a pa you can work in any field, switch as often as you want, pretty much make what you want and work the hrs you want if you are willing to move to where high paying jobs are....I know folks who have done both and work in both fields. a pa/aa can cover the o.r., er, icu, pain clinic, etc and write their own ticket with regards to salary. a good friend of mine got a job doing this 40 hrs/week with no call 8 yrs ago starting at 180k...granted that's san francisco so a higher cost of living as well but nothing to sneer at...
 

AegriSomnia

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I was in this same predicament. I chose the AA route because I felt I would have more time (and money) to enjoy free time. Also, there are AA jobs that aren't 9-5; you can do 12, 16, or even 24 hour shifts (or so I've heard.) As for the being bored aspect that emedpa brought up it's all what you like to do. I enjoyed my experiences with anesthesia and I don't have a problem with being locked into that. If you are that indecisive about it maybe being a PA would be better for you, but remember that in most cases you would have to work a significant amount of overtime just to make the base salary of an AA. Good luck with you decision. It's a difficult one.
 

Endee

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10 IF you want to work in a state where AA's can work THEN goto 20 ELSE goto 40
20 IF you are interested in and enjoy the practice of anesthesia THEN goto 30 ELSE goto 40
30 attend AA school
40 attend PA school
 

wiiturtledove

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another option to make it more complicated...do both...do pa then after a few yrs you could do the pa to aa bridge at emory if you want to do more anesthesia ....
I never really considered aa because I think it would get boring after about 2 weeks....as a pa you can work in any field, switch as often as you want, pretty much make what you want and work the hrs you want if you are willing to move to where high paying jobs are....I know folks who have done both and work in both fields. a pa/aa can cover the o.r., er, icu, pain clinic, etc and write their own ticket with regards to salary. a good friend of mine got a job doing this 40 hrs/week with no call 8 yrs ago starting at 180k...granted that's san francisco so a higher cost of living as well but nothing to sneer at...


Good to know. I like the flexibility of switching. I get bored easily after 2 years and usually want more challenges. $180K 8 years ago?????? Thats pretty dang good. It's pretty dang good even now. Seems rather hectic though....must've been running around crazy covering.
 

BruceBanner

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Unless you are dead-set on anesthesia (and how would you know given that you've never practiced it), I say go to PA school. This is a big decision and you need to be pragmatic about it, not speculative.

I was also really into the AA thing, and I ended up choosing PA school. I reasoned the following:

-I had a better chance of getting into PA school (more schools, more options)
-As a PA I will have specialty flexibility and general medical training that AAs do not
-As a PA I can reasonably expect to make between $80-90k out of school, depending on locale, specialty, etc.
-As a PA I still have the option of doing the bridge program later, which isnt very long (~1.5 yrs)
-There is a chance, knowing my personality, that I could get bored out of my mind with anesthesia after a few years. If I was an AA, I'd have no choice but to suck it up or go back to school.

Tough decision, but I don't think you'll regret going PA. Don't let the dollar signs sway you too much. If you want to do AA down the road, your path is shortened, and it's not like PAs are under-paid.
 
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AegriSomnia

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The AA to PA bridge is 24 months not 18. That is the length of many PA programs; so you could just as easily do AA and then PA (which is what I aim to do.) As for not being able to tell that you would want to do anesthesia there is an observation/shadow requirement for all AA programs. That way you will have some idea if you would like anesthesia before even applying. You should shadow PAs if you want to pursue that path as well. I know some people that are very happy being PAs and some that aren't.
 

jwk

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The AA to PA bridge is 24 months not 18. That is the length of many PA programs; so you could just as easily do AA and then PA (which is what I aim to do.) As for not being able to tell that you would want to do anesthesia there is an observation/shadow requirement for all AA programs. That way you will have some idea if you would like anesthesia before even applying. You should shadow PAs if you want to pursue that path as well. I know some people that are very happy being PAs and some that aren't.

The bridge program is five semesters, so about 20 months (start in January, end the following August).
 

jwk

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I have been accepted to a PA program and an AA program. I was not expecting to have the privilege of a choice, so now I am stuck trying to figure out which path to take. I guess I just want to see if there are any others who have considered this decision, or if any PAs have considered making the switch.

Pros of AA: higher salary, lots of autonomy/decision making, lifestyle? (7-3, m-f)

Any thoughts would be great

Hmmmmmm, where did you get the 7-3 M-F idea?

OR's in many places, particularly the larger centers, run 24/7. My department never has less than 3 anesthetists in-house, and another 2-3 available to be called in. And that's AFTER we finish the elective OR schedules somewhere between 7-9pm. We start the day with 55+ anesthetists, and 25 of them will be working past 3pm to cover the later cases.

You'll find that 7-3 M-F positions are often a sought-after arrangement, and depending on the practice, not always available to a new grad. If that's your idea of the usual anesthesia practice, you may be in for a disappointment.
 
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AegriSomnia

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Ooops! I forgot that Emory's program is 24 months minus the semester for PA to AA track. My bad.
 

BruceBanner

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Ooops! I forgot that Emory's program is 24 months minus the semester for PA to AA track. My bad.

I think that's a pretty sweet deal for a PA...if one doesn't mind taking out more loans :scared:
 

HookEmBP

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Saving one semester's worth of work doesn't seem THAT sweet. Just sayin'...
 

AegriSomnia

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It's about the same no matter which way you go (AA to PA or PA to AA.)
 
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lov2xlr8

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Can't argue with the fact that PA's turned AA's are going to have all that extra IM, etc... experience. I can see the PA knowledge benefiting someone going into AA more so than AA knowledge into PA.
 

AegriSomnia

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Really? An AA is, for all intensive purposes, a specialized PA. They learn most of the same things as a PA. Both will translate nicely into the other. Why would being a PA be more helpful in going into anesthesia than already having a firm grasp of physiology and critical care medicine (that is the basis of AA education) going in the PA realm?
 
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deleted6669

Really? An AA is, for all intensive purposes, a specialized PA. They learn most of the same things as a PA. Both will translate nicely into the other. Why would being a PA be more helpful in going into anesthesia than already having a firm grasp of physiology and critical care medicine (that is the basis of AA education) going in the PA realm?

Actually pa's learn very little anesthesia and aa's learn very little outside of anesthesia and critical care medicine so there is not that much overlap. there is probably more overlap with a resp. therapist and an aa than an aa and a pa.
last time I checked aa's don't do clinic rotations in peds, obgyn, IM, EM, FP, etc
I'm a big fan of aa's but don't think an aa could step up and do primary care without more training just like a pa could not do the job of an aa.
 

Endee

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Actually pa's learn very little anesthesia and aa's learn very little outside of anesthesia and critical care medicine so there is not that much overlap. there is probably more overlap with a resp. therapist and an aa than an aa and a pa.
last time I checked aa's don't do clinic rotations in peds, obgyn, IM, EM, FP, etc
I'm a big fan of aa's but don't think an aa could step up and do primary care without more training just like a pa could not do the job of an aa.

I agree, but as I think Aegri was saying, if someone wants to do both, either one would be a fine foundation for doing the second one, as opposed to it being better to do PA then AA rather than AA then PA as suggested earlier.

This PA/AA hybrid idea sounds interesting and I wonder if, in the future, we'll see schools offer them both concurrently in one program. The Incredible Midlevel Hulk! Rawr!
 

AegriSomnia

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Hopefully there is a AA to PA program in 2 years, because I'm doing the PA thing after AA. And yes, endee, that is what I meant.
 

Narnian

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They are coming up with more and more programs to address the shortage of clinicians, so maybe we will see a program like that. I know of a Pharm-D / PA hybrid program, so its possible. I think an AA / PA hybrid would be a good program to address the shortage in critical care providers as the baby boomers continue to age. The intensivist that I work with has a background in internal medicine and I think he is one of the best Docs I have ever worked with.

Are you going to go into Critical Care when your done with PA school
Sick mans dream (AegriSomnia)?:D
 

AegriSomnia

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Your GPA is really good, but your MCAT is a little low. However, with a high GPA like that I think that it would offset your lower MCAT score. You should have a good shot at getting into UMKC though you should apply to a couple of programs if you want to maximize you chances of getting in. From what I have heard UMKC only has about 12 seats every year. Good luck, I think you have a very good shot.
 

Endee

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Your GPA is really good, but your MCAT is a little low. However, with a high GPA like that I think that it would offset your lower MCAT score. You should have a good shot at getting into UMKC though you should apply to a couple of programs if you want to maximize you chances of getting in. From what I have heard UMKC only has about 12 seats every year. Good luck, I think you have a very good shot.

The first two years had 4 students each and next year will have 8 students.

UMKC is the smallest of all programs. Apply to every program for your best chances.
 

jacketwrestler

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Hopefully there is a AA to PA program in 2 years, because I'm doing the PA thing after AA. And yes, endee, that is what I meant.

I don't think this will ever happen. There's no reason why an AA would want to go back to school and obtain more debt and still earn the same income. Only instance I can imagine something like this happening is if an AA wanted to work in a non-licensed state as a PA doing anesthesia. But otherwise, the $$$$ doesn't make sense. Professional school is not cheap.


To the OP, there's a reason why there are no AA to PA programs, but there are PA to AA bridge programs. Just something to think about.
 

jwk

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Can PAs who are also AAs bill for gas in non-AA approved states (e.g., CA) by saying they're PAs who practices anesthesia? If so, that would be nice. AAs are an awesome group but the lack of state acceptance is a definite detriment to some applicants.

I don't think this will ever happen. There's no reason why an AA would want to go back to school and obtain more debt and still earn the same income. Only instance I can imagine something like this happening is if an AA wanted to work in a non-licensed state as a PA doing anesthesia. But otherwise, the $$$$ doesn't make sense. Professional school is not cheap.

To the OP, there's a reason why there are no AA to PA programs, but there are PA to AA bridge programs. Just something to think about.

To answer the first question - there are a few dual certified AA/PA's out there working in non-AA states. If they have the AA certification, they can certainly bill for services as an AA, even if in a non-AA state.

For the 2nd question - you answered most of it yourself - flexibility in location, which for some people is a very big deal. The money could also be a consideration - I get the impression AA's in general are making more than a lot of PA's, although there is certainly wide variability in compensation levels and practice models.

I don't know any that have gone the AA to PA direction, but it's certainly possible. And depending on the school, while there may not be a bridge program per se, it's possible to get credit for classes taken in the other program. For example - the Emory AA students take a few classes with the PA students. Those classes would count for either program, and would not have to be repeated. That's essentially what their PA to AA bridge program is - credit for master's level classes that pretty much duplicate what the AA students are doing.
 

jloder3

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What I don't understand is why do you want to be a PA or an AA? If you are honestly considering going to one program and then going to the other in the future then why don't you just continue working to get into a MD/DO program?

If you are planning on 4-5 years of school with all those loans then you should make it worth your time to have the autonomy and flexibility you want. You can open a practice and do whatever you want to do and work the hours you choose and the money will be better than either of those careers.

I turned down MD school and went to PA school because I didn't desire to be in charge and I have a family that I wanted to spend more time with so 4-8 years of school wasn't my first choice. Being a PA gives me the flexibility to make a decent salary in any field and although not the average PA makes over 100k, there are multiple jobs and specialities a PA can work to make that kind of money if they choose to do so.

If you like Anesthesiology and you don't want to go to more school then do AA, but if you want flexibility and more opportunities and still have potential to exceed what an AA would make in some speciality clinics then do PA. If you are considering both then go to MD/DO and be your own boss and choose what you want to do
 

jwk

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What I don't understand is why do you want to be a PA or an AA? If you are honestly considering going to one program and then going to the other in the future then why don't you just continue working to get into a MD/DO program?

If you are planning on 4-5 years of school with all those loans then you should make it worth your time to have the autonomy and flexibility you want. You can open a practice and do whatever you want to do and work the hours you choose and the money will be better than either of those careers.

I turned down MD school and went to PA school because I didn't desire to be in charge and I have a family that I wanted to spend more time with so 4-8 years of school wasn't my first choice. Being a PA gives me the flexibility to make a decent salary in any field and although not the average PA makes over 100k, there are multiple jobs and specialities a PA can work to make that kind of money if they choose to do so.

If you like Anesthesiology and you don't want to go to more school then do AA, but if you want flexibility and more opportunities and still have potential to exceed what an AA would make in some speciality clinics then do PA. If you are considering both then go to MD/DO and be your own boss and choose what you want to do

You do realize you bumped up a three year old thread and that the OP likely made their decision long ago, right?

And although YOU may not personally think it makes sense, there are those who have done both programs, although not usually one right after the other. And any way you look at it, med school plus residency is 8 years or more, where the PA/AA route can be done in 4.
 
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