college · pre-med

PA Path

Here’s the deal:

I’m not 100% sure I want to be a doctor anymore. In fact, I’m 98.3% sure I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. First of all, med schools boast (is it something to brag about? I don’t think so) some of the the highest suicide rates in the country. That is not something to look forward to! Secondly, back in March a PA came in to talk to all 4 of us on the Pre-Health Liaison at Simmons. She changed my life probably. According to her, PAs spend more time with patients than doctors. They have more personal, lasting relationships with their patients, and can do everything a doctor can do, as long as they have approval from the doctor they work under.

After being a volunteer at Boston Children’s this year, I’ve realized that the reason I want to go into the medical field is because I love people. I never ever ever EVER thought those words would come out of my mouth. Working in retail really makes you hate people, but volunteering to play with sick kids and relieve their dutiful parents makes you realize that they aren’t all bad. Just people with annoyingly specific requests and an accompanying bad attitude. If doctors don’t have relationships with their patients, then I do not want to be one. I can’t believe Grey’s Anatomy lied to me about this.

So now, I’m leaning heavily towards PA School. Going into my third year of college, and I just now figured out what I want to do with my life? How do we expect high school kids to make this decision? When I was in high school, I could barely decide on an outfit everyday, much less decide my future career path. Here is a list of pros and cons to pursuing the PA route:

PROS:

  1. Less school (PA school takes only about 2 years to complete, and you learn 80% of what med students learn!)
  2. Less school=less money= less student debt
  3. More personal relationships with patients! Hell yeah I want to know ya! Now scoot that broken femur over here, Carol!
  4. Do literally everything a doctor can do (with approval from an attending). To go along with this I want to mention that the angel of a PA that visited school back in March has her own clinic. Her own clinic. She performs surgery, prescribes medication, and most of the time, her patients don’t even see a doctor, just her.
  5. The need for PAs is growing. If you live in a small town, chances are there isn’t even a doctor at your local practice; it’s a PA.
  6. It’s so easy to change your specialty! No residency/fellowship to specialize, and if you decide to change from dermatology to emergency medicine, you don’t need to go back through a training program (like a residency) like you would as a doctor.
  7. Flexibility. As a PA you’re not as married to your career, and you don’t even have to be on call if you don’t want to. Personally, I don’t know about you, but in the future I’d like to be married to my husband. Or dogs, whichever. Our lovely PA friend mentioned that she only works 4 days a week, and has saved up more than a month of paid vacation time she can cash in for when her kids are sick, her best friend is getting married in the Caribbean, and when she’s had enough and needs to sleep for a week. Sounds good to me.
  8. Competitive, but not too competitive. I have some bad grades. Not gonna lie. I have a couple of B’s (all in chemistry), a B- in a polisci/econ class I was forced to take for Simmons’ liberal arts requirement, and a C+ in calculus. None of these are the potential application killers that they would be if I was applying to medical school.
  9. Super ultimate pro: have a skill that can be useful when we reach the inevitable zombie apocalypse. (same with being a doctor, but this is my list and you have no say).

CONS:

  1. Sitgma around being an MD’s “coffee bitch” (petition to change the term from “physician’s assistant” to “physician’s associate”. Much better).
  2. More time to get my life together in med school (4 years vs 2)
  3. Less $$$ (Starting pay for PAs in Massachusetts is 90K. Not too shabby, and with less student debt to payoff, this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable salary difference).
  4. Need 500 clinical patient-care hours for PA school. (Currently, I have 0). I’m working on finding a program to become a CNA/EMT/Medical assistant, though!
  5. I already busted my ass to get a C+ in calculus, which I DO NOT need as a pre-requisite to PA school. The trauma of knowing I suffered through calc for nothing is definitely a con.

Unfortunately, my mom is not so on board with the whole PA thing. She thinks it’s a back up plan and that I shouldn’t be limiting myself.  When I tell her I’m not actually limiting myself, and it’s what I want to do, she reminds me to keep my options open and continue pursuing med school. Just the other day, when talking to some cousins whose daughter is applying to PA school, mom butted in to tell them that it was simply my backup plan. Let me tell you, that really threw a wrench into that conversation. I don’t think they took my interest seriously after that. Thanks, mom.

Despite her push back, I’m going to go after PA and see where it takes me. It’s something I’ve realized I’m more passionate about with each day that passes. Unlike with med school, the promise of PA school motivates me to continue with my education. Unlike med school, the though of which made me want to curl up into a ball because nothing matters and I’m a garbage can of mediocrity and I’ll never be good enough/smart enough/have hair like Meredith Grey.

 

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