THE PA BLUEPRINT: As we’ve said previously, one our of favorite aspects of being PA-preneurs is connecting with our colleagues in this space, and we’ve really enjoyed our collaborations. When we recently heard Beth and Katie from Pre-PA Clinic on a podcast, we knew instantly that we needed to connect with them. The more we heard from them, the more we realized how much we shared in common. Along with them also being a PA-preneur partnership, they both have clinical and academic experiences, like to travel, enjoy recreating outdoors and are passionate about helping future PAs. So, we reached out to a warm reception and decided to have them do a guest blog post, and they truly delivered some great content. Check out our interview with them:
PRE-PA CLINIC: “When the physician assistant career was named the number one job in America… people were floored. We were flooded with tons of emails, texts, and DMs asking us if we had heard the news and congratulating us on choosing our profession wisely. While the rest of America debated and chattered excitedly about the news, PAs all around the country shrugged and went back to work. The idea that the physician assistant profession was that wonderful wasn’t news to us…we had known it for years!
A crucial aspect which sets PAs apart from other jobs (even in healthcare) is the type of person it attracts. Hard working, smart, intuitive, personable and caring are just a few qualities that students must have to get accepted into PA school. Our profession can only be as good as it’s people, and we have done an excellent job at finding a special subset of the population who have the skills and compassion needed to continue to make our profession great.
Students need to be fast learners and self-directed. PA school is typically around 27 months, which is a small timeframe to learn physical exam, pathology of disease, pharmacology and surgical skills to name a few. Trained as generalists (not specialists), we are required to know how to treat outpatients in a family clinic, lance an abscess in urgent care, deliver pre-natal care to pregnant women, and first assist in surgery. PAs work in everything from interventional radiology to aesthetics and have the flexibility to switch between specialties anytime in their career. This flexibility and competence require intense training and focus and the ability to process and apply information quickly and accurately in a variety of settings. PA school isn’t for the faint of heart.
Though we could prose on and on about what makes a great PA, it’s really the things that we CAN’T teach students that matter the most. Compassionate. Caring. Kindness. We can teach you medicine but students need to have the drive to serve. We can’t give you that in school. This is truly the difference between “good” and “great” providers. It’s not the level of knowledge or where they went to school, their GPA or any other number or statistic you can think of….it’s how much they actually care.
As the U.S. popularity of PAs has risen over the past few years, the profession has expanded overseas as well. Though not as well established as they are in the U.S., you can now find PAs in 18 countries around the world and American PAs are well situated to enter the overseas arena. Many countries such as the UK, Canada, and New Zealand (to name a few), employ American PAs and look to our curriculum as a framework on how to structure their own educational needs. Sadly, though we are allowed to work and serve patients in many countries there is no reciprocity. At this time, only PAs who graduate in the United States are eligible to work in our country. But the profession (and healthcare) here is changing rapidly and no one knows what the future might bring. For the meantime, we wouldn’t be surprised if PA landed on top of the job boards again…we’ve always known what a fantastic profession it is.”
Over the course of your work as professors, what qualities did you see in the most successful students?
“The most successful students are compassionate, empathetic, and motivated. They work hard to learn medicine, not for the grade, but for the purpose of providing quality care after graduation. Students who understand graduate learning are different and understand the mantle of responsibility that is placed upon healthcare providers are the type who really succeed in school. “
You both have gotten your doctoral degrees. Tell us about your decision to accomplish that and please give any advice that you feel would help our audience decide whether to pursue a doctoral degree or not.
“Our profession is advancing very rapidly and we want to be at the forefront of this! We wanted to further our education so that we could not only improve our clinical skills but also our skills to teach the upcoming generation of physician assistants! The program that we attended required a minimum number of years practicing as a PA to be considered for admission. It had both a clinical track and an academic track and was two years in length. If you are trying to decide on pursuing a doctorate, then you need to decide WHY you’re interested in continuing your education and how you want it to shape your future.”
You’re both very engaged and passionate about expanding the PA profession internationally. What are some international opportunities that currently exist for American PAs, and what are the best resources for someone to find more information about working abroad?
“The PA profession is in 18 countries around the world and continually expanding! There are opportunities to work as a PA abroad but each country has varying restrictions and descriptions of what a PA’s responsibilities are in their healthcare system. Other than contracting with the government or signing on for locum tenens, searching positions through the country itself are potential ways to jump on board working overseas. Several organizations advocating for international PAs are https://iapae.com/ and https://www.ifpacs.org/ .”
How is working as a professor different from working as a clinician? What are the pros and cons? How long do you think someone should work clinically before they transition to teaching? Is it hard to make the switch back?
“We love working in academia and teaching medicine to the next generation of physician assistants! The transition into teaching was a learning curve, especially coming from clinical positions, primarily because there was a subset of skills to learn to effectively teach medical education. Pros: the students!! Cons: not everyone graduates is an unfortunate reality.”
A big “Thank you” to Beth and Katie for their willingness to do a guest blog post, and for delivering such great pearls of wisdom. If you’d like to find out more about them or connect with them, here are the best resources:
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