Seven things you learn when becoming a physician assistant

August 3, 2015


Physician assistant school can be intense. There is a lot of information to learn in a relatively short time. Between classes, laboratory work and clinical rotations, you may be amazed at all the information you can fit inside your brain. You’ll not only learn how to care for patients and do procedures, but you may also learn a lot about yourself along the way. Consider some interesting or surprising things you’ll learn during PA school:

How to save a life

Some PA programs may require students to complete an advanced cardiac life support certification. During the certification class, students will learn how to run a code and save a patient’s life.  If you become ACLS certified, you will learn to recognize life-threatening conditions, which require resuscitation. Even if you do not take an advanced cardiac life support class, you still learn many of the same things in the course PA school.

You’ll learn to insert a breathing tube, start an IV and do other invasive procedures

Physician assistants perform a lot of the same procedures doctors do. During your clinical rotations, you may have the opportunity to learn how to do various procedures, such as intubation, which involves inserting a breathing tube in a patient’s airway. You also learn how to start different types of lines, such as a central line.

How to deal with all types of people

Not everyone you come in contact with at the hospital will be polite and respectful. Patients come in all types including those who may need psychiatric treatment or are dealing with addiction issues. Many will be short-tempered because they are worried about their health. There are also patients, of course, who are just plain rude. But as you gain more experience dealing with all types of people, you’ll become more confident in handling different types of situations.

How to function efficiently on very little sleep

Although everyone is different, PA school often requires a lot of studying. Between classes, associated labs and rotations in different specialties, you will have your hands full, and sleep may be a luxury. You may be surprised at the stamina you have and your ability to work with little sleep.

The ability to multitask

If you are already good at multitasking, you’re in great shape for PA school. But if you were someone who could only focus on one thing at a time, PA school will teach you how to multitask. Before you know it, you will be juggling several things at once and doing it well.

How to remain calm in a crisis

During your training, you are bound to deal with critically ill patients. In some instances, you will be involved in life and death situations. You’ll learn how to focus and remain calm when the stakes are high.

You’re capable of more than you thought

One day while you’re in physician assistant school, everything you’re learning may start to come together. You may also find yourself doing procedures you thought you would not be able to master, and your confidence will grow. By pushing yourself and working hard, you’ll find you’re capable of doing more than you thought you could.

Want to see if you’re up to the challenge of becoming a physician assistant? Observe the ups and downs of the role by shadowing one at any of our overseas destinations.


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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.