Succeeding at Your First Job as a PA

May 8, 2015

cardiac nurse

All your hard work, preparation and long hours of studying have paid off. You graduated and have landed your first physician assistant job! Although you may have worked in the medical field before attending PA school, you may still be a little apprehensive before you start your first physician assistant job. But there are several things to keep in mind, which can increase your chances of succeeding. 

Nerves are Normal

It is OK to be a little nervous when you just start out as a physician assistant. After all, during school you had preceptors, teachers and licensed physician assistants with you to catch you if you made a mistake. Now you are the licensed professional and that can be a little overwhelming at first.

While it is normal to feel nerves, don’t let tension stop you from going forward with your skills. Take the opportunities you have to perform procedures or treat complex cases. You won’t gain experience and grow in your professional by letting nerves limit you.

You Still Have a Lot to Learn

You may have been an excellent student, but that does not mean everything will be smooth sailing. Being a PA student and being employed as a physician assistant are two different things. Keep in mind, you still have a lot to learn. PA school prepared you to work in the field by helping you develop the critical thinking skills needed. But there are some things you can only learn through experience.

Don’t expect to know everything your first year. It is essential to gain confidence in your abilities throughout your first year on the job. On the other hand, if you think you know everything, you may get into trouble. In medicine, there is always something to learn.

Remember you don’t stop learning once you complete school. Consider subscribing to medical journals in order to stay current on new technologies and treatments. Join a professional PA organization and attend conferences to network with other healthcare professionals. Take continuing education classes offered through your place of employment to learn new skills. 

Let Others Teach You

Another way to do well as a rookie PA is by listening to your patients. There are times you may be so focused on procedures, tests results and tasks that you rush through your patient encounters. If you remember to listen to your patients, you will develop compassion and a good bedside manner, which makes you a better physician assistant.

In your first physician assistant job, you also need to rely on the expertise of the other medical professionals around you. Nurses and technicians can be valuable sources of information. A successful physician assistant learns how to work together with the rest of the healthcare team. You may be able to write orders, but don’t forget to listen to the team around you.

Setting career goals is also a good way to increase your chances of success. Think about where you want to be in your career as a PA in the next five years. Write down your goals and a step by step plan for achieving them.


Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email

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.