Why hospital internships are important for aspiring PAs

August 19, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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If you’re an aspiring PA, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of fulfilling your career goals. In addition to maintaining good grades in high school and college, a hospital internship and shadowing experience is a key part of preparing to become a PA.

How will an internship prepare me?

An internship prepares aspiring physician assistants in a few ways. For instance, many physician assistant programs require either healthcare experience, volunteer work in a medical setting or hospital shadowing work experience. Keep in mind, admission requirements vary widely among PA programs. For example, some schools require direct patient care experience in a job, such as a paramedic, medical assistant or nurse’s aide. The number of hours required also varies from about 200 to 2000 or more.

But remember, not all direct patient experience has to be paid. There are also certain physician assistant programs that do accept hours worked as a volunteer or during a hospital shadowing work experience. Since admission requirements can be so different among schools, it’s important to contact the schools you are interested in to determine specifics.

Even if hours completed during your hospital internship will not fulfill the hours you need in healthcare, shadowing is still a good idea. For example, if you have not worked in a hospital, you might not be sure what working as a physician assistant is all about.

Learning what the role entails

Sure, you think you know what doctors, nurses and physician assistants deal with, but do you really? Seeing firsthand the good, the gross and the difficult situations helps you figure out if you have what it takes to succeed in the field.

Are you squeamish around blood? Is the thought of seeing someone die too much to handle? You may not know the answers to those questions, which is another reason a hospital shadowing work experience is helpful. Consider an internship sort of like test driving a car. You have the chance to develop a more realistic understanding of what being a PA is like without committing to a career just yet.

During an internship, you’ll have the chance to observe direct interactions between PA’s and patients and see how they handle different situations. You may also watch a PA perform different procedures and juggle several responsibilities at once. But that’s not all. A hospital internship is also an opportunity to network with healthcare professionals, learn about various specialties and determine if you can see yourself doing the work.

It’s so hard to find meaningful and lengthy work experience in your home country, which is why we welcome so many preclinical students onto our healthcare shadowing programs overseas. 


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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.