The importance of work experience for physician assistants

May 18, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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The main reason why aspiring Physician Assistants are advised to acquire work experience is to help them determine whether a career as a PA is really the right choice for them. Many premed students choose to become PAs because it allows them a quicker and easier entry into the medical field as compared to the long, rigorous route to becoming a doctor. 

Sounds like the perfect fit for you?

Well, it could be. But then again, maybe not. The truth is, there is often is a huge gap between theory and reality when it comes to physician assistants. When you are reading about the profession, you are absorbing somebody else’s perspective on it and whether they praise it or criticize it will depend in large part on their personality and their personal experience. The important thing to keep in mind is that their experience or opinion does not necessarily ring true for you. You may have a completely different personality from the writer, which will shape your opinions and experiences.

Physician Assistant work experience also helps boost your med school application

Some medical schools list physician assistant work experience as one of the eligibility criteria for admission. Others may not list it. Irrespective of whether it is mentioned or not as a mandatory admission requirement, all medical schools give preference to applicants who have acquired some work experience.

The reason for this is simple. Medical schools want to know that the students they are prepping as future physician assistants are serious about their career choice and have taken the trouble to explore the field further. Getting PA work experience speaks volumes about your genuine interest in the field and shows the admissions authorities that you have taken the trouble to find out everything you can about it. It also means you are less likely to drop out of school partway through.

It helps you build your network

Work experience allows you to build your network even before you join medical school. Whether you are shadowing a physician or doing a placement, you will get to meet and interact with medical professionals from different specialties. Most will be willing to answer any questions or clarify any doubts that you have about the profession. If you build a rapport with them during the time you spend at the facility, you know you will have someone you can reach out to for advice, support or encouragement at any time while you are in med school or even after you graduate and are job hunting.

The only way for you to be absolutely sure about your career choice is by acquiring some Physician Assistant work experience. It is only when you ‘get your hands dirty’ will you know whether you have what it takes to work in this field. Can you work well under supervision? Are you a good communicator and a good team player? Can you handle the sight of blood? Physician Assistant work experience will help you get a clearer picture of your capabilities and your preferences and will help you decide whether or not this is the right career for you.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.