Guidance for College... for a High school student

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yumeysquaredot

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sorry it for some reason posted that instead of letting me finish. here is the rest:
I am a senior in high school interested in becoming a PA. I hope this is the right spot to put this question.
I was wondering what my options to becoming a PA are. I was thinking of either going to a private college (and graduate debt free) as a nurse, because they said their pre-PA courses weren't the best. The plan with this option was for me to graduate as a RN, work the required hours (2000 or more) with a decent job, at the same time catch up on anything i missed, and then go to PA school.

Option 2) go to community college to get the general stuff out of the way and then go to a public university to study pre-PA courses, and then take their PA graduate program. I could do some direct patient care work on the side, like MA (would that count?) PT aide, EMT (i can't swim.. so maybe that wont work unless I miraculously can learn). I was also considering a medical scribe, but that isn't really hands on care is it?

Another option was for me to get my general classes out of the way (community college or university) and then go to coxcollege to learn how to be a nurse, a radiologist tech or an ultrasound tech. The last two sound really interesting, but i hear jobs are a bit harder to find? Would these two jobs be a good choice? I would love being a nurse, but I think i will love to go into sonography even more. But i only want to do this if it's related, because i dont want to veer off course from my goal.
sorry this is so long...
so basically... what was the best way you got experience?
at the college i want to go to (the debt free one) i have also considered taking their pre-med course, but will that be over kill or not prepare me? But i am also curious if i do take their nursing courses, will it be advanced enough or will i have to retake stuff?
I hope i wasn't offensive to anyone, i am just trying to find some answers. how did you succeed?
thanks~ blessings
 

pamac

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Nursing could cause your path to take longer. Most nursing courses wouldn't be at the kind of level that PA schools would want you to have as prereqs. For example, the chemistry courses required for nursing wouldn't be adequate for PA programs, so you'd have to take the higher level courses. The nursing programs would be fine with you havering upper division chem and bio courses, but why do that and risk getting poor grades when you could just take easier prereqs and become a nurse, or focus on the PA prereqs and become a pa? And realistically, you don't need to go out and get a career, just to apply to pa school. There are plenty of them around that don't care much about you having experience. If you know you want to be a pa, and can't be talked into medical school, then go get a health science degree, become an EMT basic on campus, and volunteer in diverse ways to demonstrate you are a humanitarian.... Some program will pick you up. I tend to look realistically at how motivated someone would be to go to school to be a nurse or RT, or rad tech just to turn around and then go to school and become a PA. That's as much time as it would take to just do medical school. Nursing school was enough of a pain that I wouldn't have been motivated to do it unless I at least likes what I was doing. If you don't want to be that other career and just want to be a PA, just get the best grades you can and you'll be in good shape for PA school. Good grades will give you the most options of anything you can do. I've never seen a motivated pre pa with a gpa >3.6 not get in if they had a background that didn't totally rule them out and weren't socially inept. You also have to apply around to make that kind of assurance ring true. If you apply to 2 schools, even if you have a decent gpa, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Play the numbers game, and you'll be a PA making decent money fairly quickly. But there is a fair amount if debt that might come along with that. Of course, I know other RNs with >$60k debt from nursing school
 

yumeysquaredot

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Thank you for your insight. As much as I respect RNs, I dont think I could truly be happy as a RN. My dad admitted the reason why he was pushing me to become an RN is because language isn't my strong suit. He was basically saying that I am a people person, but I would struggle with technical jargon. While I do admit that I am not the person to be editing anyone's essays, I am sure once I am actually in the program I will be able to speak the language of medicine more fluently. I mean come on, I'm still in high school. But I have always been fascinated with medicine, but I was never interested in being a doctor. And to be honest, when the college told me I should be a nurse first, I got angry. I appreciate nurses, and if push came to shove, I could be a RN. But I could not run around for 12-16 hour shifts with call lights beeping everywhere I go. Or even in a clinic, I would rather have some actual authority over the patient's condition, and help diagnose problems. I suppose as a nurse I would feel behind in that aspect. But I am not interested in being a doctor, for the main reason I want to have a life and flexibility.

I hope i wasn't rude :p I just feel a bit frustrated because everyone has been pressuring me. "Do this, do that" and I am tired of it.
So if i do struggle with language a little bit, will that hold me back as a PA? I think my main problem is that I'm a terrible auditory learner. If you tell me a technical word and asked me to repeat it back, I would have some trouble. But if i was able to write it down, I would most likely get it. Make sense?
 
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deleted6669

You don't have to swim to be an EMT unless you are also a lifeguard. most EMTs work on ambulances or in ERs.
emt or paramedic are both good paths.
in high school you should aim for medschool quite honestly...and I say this as a PA of almost 2 decades....after 5 years as a pa you hit a glass ceiling very quickly in terms of salary, scope of practice, and respect. shoot for the moon and aim for MD/DO programs. you will be glad you did the few extra years of school down the line...I am still considering going back to medschool in my late 40s...
 

yumeysquaredot

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You don't have to swim to be an EMT unless you are also a lifeguard. most EMTs work on ambulances or in ERs.
emt or paramedic are both good paths.
in high school you should aim for medschool quite honestly...and I say this as a PA of almost 2 decades....after 5 years as a pa you hit a glass ceiling very quickly in terms of salary, scope of practice, and respect. shoot for the moon and aim for MD/DO programs. you will be glad you did the few extra years of school down the line...I am still considering going back to medschool in my late 40s...
I respect doctors tremendously, but to be quite honest, I can not afford to go through Med School. I am not even sure how I am gonna be able to afford college. Debt is a big issue for me, and I do not want to have to be a very old woman before my debts are paid off. Also, it doesn't bother me that a doctor would make more than me. Of course he should, he is the doctor, I am the supporter assistant. Most doctors work very long and difficult shifts. I am aware a PA would have to be on call, work odd hours sometimes, but many other professions do the same. But a PA is more prone I guess to working 9-5 and having a more balanced life. I am not going to be a PA so that I can be super rich, though if I manage my finances well, I am sure I can be well off financially. But if after working a few years, and I dont get a raise beyond the 120k range, that doesn't bother me. Money is not everything, and while I do want to be well financially, I do not want to go through the tremendous stress and the extreme responsibilities a doctor has. I know the medical field has stress and responsibilities, dont get me wrong. But i know a doctor who has 10 kids, but he works 6 am-9 or 10 pm. By that time, the kids are in bed asleep. Maybe, depending on my future, I can go back to Med School, if I want to become a doctor. But i really like having a lot of authority, but not being completely in charge, if that makes sense. I love the idea of being able to work with a doctor on a diagnosis. So that's some of the reasons I would rather be a PA than a MD.
But if you want to be a MD, I am sure you can hack it. PA school is hard enough (some say it's harder than Med School because of the intensity of it), but I am sure you would do well in medical school. What's holding you back? Maybe save up a bit here and there for med school, and then take the leap. I just honestly have never seen me as a doctor, but I still want to be able to diagnose patients. I respect your opinion, and I appreciate your comment. Maybe if it's my calling, I can go back to med school.
Thanks for your input :D I am still thinking out and weighing a lot of options. All my friends are like, "i dunno what i wanna do, i guess i will just go with the flow." that doesn't work for me. I am on a plan, and i have even budged how I am gonna pay off my PA school debt lol. Oh well... ~~
 

sarjasy

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I respect doctors tremendously, but to be quite honest, I can not afford to go through Med School. I am not even sure how I am gonna be able to afford college. Debt is a big issue for me, and I do not want to have to be a very old woman before my debts are paid off. Also, it doesn't bother me that a doctor would make more than me. Of course he should, he is the doctor, I am the supporter assistant. Most doctors work very long and difficult shifts. I am aware a PA would have to be on call, work odd hours sometimes, but many other professions do the same. But a PA is more prone I guess to working 9-5 and having a more balanced life. I am not going to be a PA so that I can be super rich, though if I manage my finances well, I am sure I can be well off financially. But if after working a few years, and I dont get a raise beyond the 120k range, that doesn't bother me. Money is not everything, and while I do want to be well financially, I do not want to go through the tremendous stress and the extreme responsibilities a doctor has. I know the medical field has stress and responsibilities, dont get me wrong. But i know a doctor who has 10 kids, but he works 6 am-9 or 10 pm. By that time, the kids are in bed asleep. Maybe, depending on my future, I can go back to Med School, if I want to become a doctor. But i really like having a lot of authority, but not being completely in charge, if that makes sense. I love the idea of being able to work with a doctor on a diagnosis. So that's some of the reasons I would rather be a PA than a MD.
But if you want to be a MD, I am sure you can hack it. PA school is hard enough (some say it's harder than Med School because of the intensity of it), but I am sure you would do well in medical school. What's holding you back? Maybe save up a bit here and there for med school, and then take the leap. I just honestly have never seen me as a doctor, but I still want to be able to diagnose patients. I respect your opinion, and I appreciate your comment. Maybe if it's my calling, I can go back to med school.
Thanks for your input :D I am still thinking out and weighing a lot of options. All my friends are like, "i dunno what i wanna do, i guess i will just go with the flow." that doesn't work for me. I am on a plan, and i have even budged how I am gonna pay off my PA school debt lol. Oh well... ~~

Having not even started college yet, you are likely to change your mind along the way. Here's a few things to consider:

-There's a tremendous amount of technical "jargon" to learn regardless of the path you take from MA, to EMT/P, to RN, to PA/NP, to MD. Take a medical terminology class and see how you do. I have found the language of medicine to be one of the easiest parts because the terms are logical and the meaning of medical terms can often be deduced simply by looking at them once you get the basics down, e.g. appendicitis = appendix + -itis (inflammation), or leukopenia = leukocyte (a white blood cell) + -enia (deficiency). Everyone learns differently. I'm not an audible learner either, I learn best by reading/writing.

-Nursing is not all 12-16 hour shifts answering call lights. There are many different fields with varying levels of "autonomy" and vastly different settings and hours. In the ICU, for example, you are expected to know a ton and be able to make decisions that you would never be expected or allowed to make in many other units, and you usually only have 2 patients. And many of them are unable to use a call light. :) Having said that, it is still often a task-oriented job and you will still run your butt off. But you also always have the option of advancing to NP or PA or med school.

-EMT/P is a great career for those that love medicine and you get to make a lot of decisions on your own. However, the pay can be quite low, the shifts can be very long, and you often work in harsh or dangerous environments.

-Med school is expensive, but there are a many ways to soften that burden and in some cases, it can be close to free. Also, not all docs work 60 to 70-hour weeks and plenty of them have a life. Sort of like what I said about nurses, your specialty and your setting dictate a lot of it (hours, pay, lifestyle, etc.).

-Likewise, there are PA's that work tons of hours, and in some cases it is required of them, not voluntary. But plenty do work "40-hour" weeks, and many have a lot of autonomy.
 

yumeysquaredot

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Having not even started college yet, you are likely to change your mind along the way. Here's a few things to consider:

-There's a tremendous amount of technical "jargon" to learn regardless of the path you take from MA, to EMT/P, to RN, to PA/NP, to MD. Take a medical terminology class and see how you do. I have found the language of medicine to be one of the easiest parts because the terms are logical and the meaning of medical terms can often be deduced simply by looking at them once you get the basics down, e.g. appendicitis = appendix + -itis (inflammation), or leukopenia = leukocyte (a white blood cell) + -enia (deficiency). Everyone learns differently. I'm not an audible learner either, I learn best by reading/writing.

-Nursing is not all 12-16 hour shifts answering call lights. There are many different fields with varying levels of "autonomy" and vastly different settings and hours. In the ICU, for example, you are expected to know a ton and be able to make decisions that you would never be expected or allowed to make in many other units, and you usually only have 2 patients. And many of them are unable to use a call light. :) Having said that, it is still often a task-oriented job and you will still run your butt off. But you also always have the option of advancing to NP or PA or med school.

-EMT/P is a great career for those that love medicine and you get to make a lot of decisions on your own. However, the pay can be quite low, the shifts can be very long, and you often work in harsh or dangerous environments.

-Med school is expensive, but there are a many ways to soften that burden and in some cases, it can be close to free. Also, not all docs work 60 to 70-hour weeks and plenty of them have a life. Sort of like what I said about nurses, your specialty and your setting dictate a lot of it (hours, pay, lifestyle, etc.).

-Likewise, there are PA's that work tons of hours, and in some cases it is required of them, not voluntary. But plenty do work "40-hour" weeks, and many have a lot of autonomy.

I appreciate the input you have given on each profession. I know that every profession has it's own language, including medicine. I am not really afraid of learning new material. I survived Latin, so I am pretty sure I can go through something that I would enjoy (for the most part lol). I am also bilingual (Japanese) so I dont mind learning the language of medicine. I think my dad is just afraid I will keep stumbling over medical terminology in front of patients and look unprofessional. I suppose since he thinks I am not good at grammar or writing essays, I will struggle a lot more than the normal PA student. But i am sure everyone does that right? So what do you do if you forget a term?
I have thought about being an EMT/P, (it is still in consideration) this might sound.. stupid or weird but I am afraid the ambulance would blow up on me, because of all the oxygen tanks. I know that cars can blow up, but I dont carry large amounts of oxygen tanks in my car. Is this fear irrational or is it a reality? I came across this in my research, so for any EMTs I would appreciate input on this issue.
If I do become an RN, I am hoping I can work in either a children's hospital, or a family clinic. but if I do become an RN, and then a PA, is this a good way to go?( I know there is NP, but I like to be able to have flexibility in my specialty.) I am concerned about making a living soon as possible, because my parents are going to retire very soon and I have to help with finances. I suppose in the long run, I am willing to take the slower path to becoming a PA if I can help my parents out. See, they plan to tour Japan for 6m to a year, (and then come back) so obviously I will have house payments during that time to take care of. I figured, whatever job I have during that time, it has to be enough for me to take care and pay for the mortgage. I am hoping to make up any pre-reqs here too. Does this all make sense? I feel like I am making things complicated. My parents said if they can't go travel Japan one last time, it's ok. But I would feel so terrible ruining my parent's dream. My dad isn't healthy, so I worry about his longevity. Imagine, a 22 year old making mortgage payments haha -does this happen? Dont they usually rent apt?
But I have also thought if i went to a community college, worked a lot at the same time and saved for two years, it might be enough for house payments. I am still figuring this out, so idk if it would work.

I am mostly concerned about time/proper experience/finishing pre-reqs at a reasonable time. I do not want to spend my entire 20s in school. I have considered becoming an Medical Assistant as well. I can complete the course in a few months, work a lot of hours (too bad they dont get the greatest pay :(, get the experience I will need while my parents would be in Japan. I really think a radiologist technician would be very interesting, but I have heard numerous people complain it's dead end job. I do know though, I have strong intentions to become a PA. That is where I see myself ultimately end up being. If I do change my mind (let's say I want to be a doctor a few years after PA school) I would accept the challenge, because I want to learn the material.
I'm sorry I keep rambling by the way. I have been thinking about this for a long time, because I like to plan ahead. but i also have to think of all the situations that could happen to.
Thanks for your time and comments :D Please be courteous here :)
 
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deleted6669

most PAs I know work MORE hours than the docs they work with. Keep in mind docs hire PAs to do the work they don't want to do at the times and places they don't want to do it. that means nights/weekends/holidays/early A.M. rounds, etc so the doc can be home with their family. I know very few PAs with m-f 9-5 jobs.most months I work 180-220 hours while the docs in my group are NOT ALLOWED to work more than 144 hrs because they want them to have long term career satisfaction and avoid burn out and most work a lot less than that. the typical doc in our group works 12-14 eight or 9 hour shifts. PA shifts are as long as 12 hours and many of us work 16 hr shifts. also fyi 120k is a very high salary for a PA, like the upper 5%. most PAs do not make that kind of salary even after several years. 90-105 is a more typical range with new grad salaries in some places in the 75-85k range.
PAs are not "supporter assistants". the original(and probably future) name for the profession was physician associate as this more realistically describes our role. 90% of the time I am working there is not even a doc on site. the other 10% of the time we work side by side doing exactly the same thing. physicians in many settings(aside from surgery) do not have greater responsibilities than PAs other than signing off on a few charts here and there. I work in 2 states. one does not even require chart review, the other requires 10% of charts as chosen by me to be reviewed once/mo. the doc has no input into the management of patients in real time. that responsibility, and the responsibility for mistakes is mine.
a new grad would not have a scope of practice like this but they would still see most of their pts fairly autonomously and consult a few times/day on stuff they are not familiar with. as a senior PA I train physician residents in my specialty and have for over 15 years. I have worked in emergency medicine since most current residents were in diapers.
 
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yumeysquaredot

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most PAs I know work MORE hours than the docs they work with. Keep in mind docs hire PAs to do the work they don't want to do at the times and places they don't want to do it. that means nights/weekends/holidays/early A.M. rounds, etc so the doc can be home with their family. I know very few PAs with m-f 9-5 jobs.most months I work 180-220 hours while the docs in my group are NOT ALLOWED to work more than 144 hrs because they want them to have long term career satisfaction and avoid burn out and most work a lot less than that. the typical doc in our group works 12-14 eight or 9 hour shifts. PA shifts are as long as 12 hours and many of us work 16 hr shifts. also fyi 120k is a very high salary for a PA, like the upper 5%. most PAs do not make that kind of salary even after several years. 90-105 is a more typical range with new grad salaries in some places in the 75-85k range.
PAs are not "supporter assistants". the original(and probably future) name for the profession was physician associate as this more realistically describes our role. 90% of the time I am working there is not even a doc on site. the other 10% of the time we work side by side doing exactly the same thing. physicians in many settings(aside from surgery) do not have greater responsibilities than PAs other than signing off on a few charts here and there. I work in 2 states. one does not even require chart review, the other requires 10% of charts as chosen by me to be reviewed once/mo. the doc has no input into the management of patients in real time. that responsibility, and the responsibility for mistakes is mine.
a new grad would not have a scope of practice like this but they would still see most of their pts fairly autonomously and consult a few times/day on stuff they are not familiar with. as a senior PA I train physician residents in my specialty and have for over 15 years. I have worked in emergency medicine since most current residents were in diapers.

Thank you for your input. But I also happen to know a PA who works twice a week, from 8-3 pm. I suppose it's where you are located, what specialty, which doctor, etc. I realize I will have to be on call sometimes, and work weekends or nights. If a doctor is tired and wants me to do some catch up work at night, I'm ok with it because he/she needs to have a life as well. I am a night owl lol ~ sorry 120k is a bit high, but even 75-85k is still a good salary, especially for a new grad.
Also, sorry if i used the wrong term, "supporter assistants" I was emphasizing I like following, and not necessarily always being in charge (if that makes sense.) So i perhaps used the wrong term, I didn't mean offense. Sorry my grammar sucks.
i appreciate your work as a senior PA, but please do not down grade new PAs. I am 18, so your wisdom and experience would be a great benefit to future PA grads like me. But everyday is a new day to learn something, even for you. I want to join this field to treat others (just like the rest of us, right?) So i will deal with the cons of the job, just like any other profession.
So thanks for this information :D i am curious, you work in two states? That is quite a daunting task, wow.
 

yumeysquaredot

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I have noticed there is a small debate on "which is the best" or "just go to medical school"
Not just here, I meant in general.
But i just wanted to let everyone know, whatever job they have (RN, EMT, MD, PA, NP, etc) each one is vitally important, and healthcare would experience a big loss if one of these positions was not fulfilled. I do not like how RNs can be rude to CNAs and LPNs, because they are only "butt washers" That's hurtful. It is also not true, because everyone has to wash someone's behind at some point in their life, including their own. Plus LPNs and CNAs do more than bathing patients.
Or whenever a doctor disses a PA, because "PAs are just assistants. They aren't real doctors" That doesn't mean PAs dont practice medicine, or can't be of great help to patients and the doctor.
Everyone has a role. Without teamwork, our jobs would fall apart and more people will end up not getting the critical care they need. So be proud of your job -whatever acronyms follow your last name. If you feel like you dont like your job, maybe this is a sign to move on to a different path in life. But think long and hard about it. I know that sometimes married couples feel burned out, and treat their partners like room-mates, and not soul mates. But you have to remember why you loved your spouse in the first place. So with that, you have to remember why you loved your job in the first place. Why did you want to be a PA? I also want to hear the good sides of being a PA, and not just the negatives, though I definitely want to be aware. Any funny stories? What makes your day?
well i just wanted to throw that out there.
 
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deleted6669

I wanted to be a PA to practice medicine without taking ochem or spending the extra time to attend medical school and residency. I was a college grad and paramedic with most but not all of the med school prereqs. going to pa school was the path of least resistance. I made the wrong choice and it's too late to turn back. the things I like about medicine are the same things docs like; interacting with patients and making a difference in someone's life. I like the travel involved with the job. I work at 4 sites in 2 different states and drive several hours to some of the positions in rural areas so I can have a good scope of practice. many PAs in metro areas are treated as "assistants". once you get into health provider shortage areas, PA respect and scope of practice goes way up. I like overseas medical missions work. overseas I do the same job as a doc and have no arbitrary restrictions on my scope of practice. if I am capable of doing something and it needs to be done, I do it. if something is beyond my skill set I ask another pa or doc to do it.
 

yumeysquaredot

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I see, Very interesting. I admire the dedication to your job, even if you want to be a MD. I am also interested in medical missions, but currently my parents forbid me to go, considering the danger. I guess i have over protective parents lol. If you dont mind me asking, do you have family?
 
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deleted6669

I see, Very interesting. I admire the dedication to your job, even if you want to be a MD. I am also interested in medical missions, but currently my parents forbid me to go, considering the danger. I guess i have over protective parents lol. If you dont mind me asking, do you have family?
yup, married with kids, mortgage, car payments, and all the responsibilities that go along with them.
 
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deleted6669

if you are serious about PA school allow me to recommend the following site which has > 20,000 PAs posting on it instead of the 5 who post here:
www.physicianassistantforum.com
I am the senior moderator and EM moderator there. it isn't my site, I am just a volunteer.
 

yumeysquaredot

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Oh, I love that site. I have tried making an account but it wont let me answer the security question properly. I mean, it is obvious what the wobbly letters say, and I type it, but it seems the system glitches :p
 

priorities2

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Don't worry about medical terminology. It's just like any other subject that needs to be memorized. Plus, there's a focus on making sure the patients understand you (i.e., making sure you yourself understand the concepts behind the medical terms and practicing your ability to put them into layman's terms - the worst thing you can do is spew medical speak at patients). Definitely don't make career choices based on a worry that you won't be able to hack medical terminology. You will, and you'll have to in any of these fields anyway.

also, to echo what was said above, be careful about generalizing about any of the professions. Outpatient versus inpatient is a huge difference - any of the above listed professions could work in either one. If the place you work for is only open 8-5, well, your hours are likely 8-5 no matter if you're an RN, PA or MD. Specialty is also a huge factor and you may not know what you would like to specialize in until later.

Take things one step at a time based on the important factors like level of interest in the educational topics, debt AND payoff combined together w/ risk factored in, and level of interest in future career prospects (including learning about the various subfields and different directions one can take within a path, as most people know very little about the diversity of most health care fields).
 
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