Monday, April 10th, 2017

PA Training – How to Get Medical Experience

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under CNA Training

Plenty of people want to join the PA profession for its solid pay, meaningful work, and high demand. But in accepting you, a PA training program is taking a risk. PA school is tough, with an accelerated pace, complicated material, and people’s lives on the line. To reduce the chances of admitting an unqualified student, most programs have some form of medical experience requirement that can range from 300 to 1000 hours. Even so, if you have little experience working with patients in a medical setting, you may do fine in school and make a great PA. Maybe you majored in biochemistry but have always worked in the lab. Or perhaps you are changing careers from something totally unrelated. So how does a sharp, motivated applicant fulfill the medical experience requirement? There are many ways, but here are four of the most efficient and useful paths to gaining relevant experience without spending years in the medical field. Number five is a reminder of hours you may already have but don’t realize.

1. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). EMT courses are offered privately and at community colleges, and usually take one semester to complete. An EMT certification will prepare you to work in the medical field on an ambulance, or in other settings where basic emergency medical care may be needed, such as in hospital ERs, ambulance companies, shopping malls, and sports stadiums. It’s important here to note that usually the certification is not enough by itself-you should plan on working in the field for a minimum of six months. The work doesn’t pay a lot, but it will get you working with patients relatively quickly, and give you the chance to learn the basics of medicine.

2. Medical Assistant. Many doctors’ offices employ uncertified personnel to greet patients, take vital signs, pull charts, and manage the needs of a busy medical practice. Sometimes these jobs will go to Certified Nursing Assistants (see CNAs below), but often they are trained on the job. This work won’t give you an official credential, but like #1 above, it will get your hands on patients and teach you the basics.

3. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). CNAs work in many settings assisting in the daily care of patients. This can be great experience as long as you do it in a broad setting, such as a hospital, health clinic, or doctor’s office where you will see a sufficient variety of patients. For this reason, you should avoid working in nursing homes and private homes where the patient diversity is minimal. CNA programs usually last from 2-6 weeks fulltime, and are offered at community colleges and the American Red Cross.

4. Medical Scribe. Scribes are frequently used in Emergency Rooms, where a limited number of physicians and PAs must care for many patients. The Scribe’s job is to shadow the care providers and record patient exam findings, treatments given, labs to be ordered, etc. Think of them like the doctor’s extra brain. If it sounds a bit like a secretary, it is, but it’s more too. Scribes work closely with PAs and doctors and are an integral part of patient care. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are a must if you wish to work as a medical scribe.

5. Medical Interviewing. This is not a job per se, but a category of jobs that is often overlooked. Have you worked as a psychiatric technician/assistant, alcohol and drug counselor, marriage and family therapist, intake coordinator, patient registrar? These less “traditionally” medical jobs involve work with patients and you should get some credit for them. Many of these offer patient interview experience that can be valuable. Claim these as hours of experience unless specifically told by a program that you cannot.

Finally, remember to call or email with each school you plan on applying to, as program requirements vary significantly.