Entries Tagged as 'Tips On Getting Into PA School'

Pre-Physician Assistant Internship Program

posted on: January 12, 2016

Pre-PA Internship Program Physician Assistant


I am so excited to share this with all of my Pre-PA folks. I have been working hard to develop a Pre-PA internship program for those who are on the path to become a Physician Assistant. As a PA I know one of the most difficult things to obtain while prepping for PA programs are shadow opportunities or hours working directly with a Physician Assistant. I receive many inquiries from pre-pa students looking to shadow me at my office. Unfortunately, I am not able to accommodate most of those requests due to my schedule and the nature of my job. While I was not able to provide sporadic shadowing opportunities for students I still longed to somehow help pre-pa students because I know how difficult the journey can be to become a PA. I began to think if there was some way I could share my knowledge and experiences with those seeking guidance. After much work this Pre-PA Internship Program was born. This internship program allows pre-pa students to work side-by-side with myself, other PAs and Physicians to experience health care and see what we do day to day. We are currently interviewing candidates for our inaugural class. Read more about this program below and if you would like more information about applying please contact erin@skinps.com for more information.

Pre-PA Internship Program

The Physician Assistant Internship Program is available for college students who demonstrate a strong and sincere interest in becoming physician assistants. This program provides volunteers the opportunity to experience health care from a clinical perspective through patient contact and volunteer experience. Volunteers are trained to assist physician assistants or physicians, who, in turn, are able to share their personal experiences with their volunteers.

What does a volunteer do?

Time spent in the program proves invaluable because it provides each volunteer with an “in-the trenches” experience in a real medical setting. Volunteers are respected as professional members of a patient care team. As a result, they gain an insiders’ understanding of the operations of a medical office- an experience which helps them determine their specific course for future studies. Students support physician assistants or physicians by performing such tasks as checking in patients, assisting in procedures, acting as scribe for PA and additional duties as requested.

What is the time commitment? 

To participate in the Physician Assistant Internship Program, students must have graduated high school. Volunteers must fill out application and proof of a permanent residence. A minimum of a 6 month commitment, volunteering four hours a week. Shifts are M-F  8am-12pm or 1pm-5pm depending on availability. You are required to work one shift per week and are welcome to work more. If you miss your assigned shift you must make it up. In order to complete the program in good standings you must complete 100 volunteer hours with in the 6 month program.

Who can volunteer?

Anyone age 18 and older, currently attending college or who already has a degree is eligible for the Pre-PA Internship program.

Where is this program located?

Skin Physicians and Surgeons. 859 East Foothill Blvd. Upland, CA 91786. (909) 981-8929


How to Pass the PANRE Exam

posted on: June 19, 2015

How to Pass the PANRE Exam Physician Assistant

If you’re not a Physician Assistant you probably want to tune out right now.

If you are, these 5 dreaded letters tend to haunt your existence around the 5 or 6 year mark after graduation (or 9/10 years if you’re on the new recertification cycle) . The Physician Assistant Recertification Exam (PANRE) is a recertification exam that all PA must take in order to maintain their certified status. No matter how you slice it-taking a large standardized test sucks. I find it especially daunting if you work in a speciality. The PANRE covers all aspects of medicine, not just the one you work in. For me, a whopping 5% of the exam was in Dermatology (woo hoo!) Even if you work in Family Medicine, there is going to be a significant amount of studying involved.

During PA School, your only job was to study. Once your career kicks off,  you must find some significant time to study while working a full time job, adult responsibilities, having a family, etc… It’s not impossible, but in my experience I realized I had to shift some things around to devote time to my studies. I started studying 3 months prior to my exam date and studying about 1 hour a day for the first 2 months. Then, I increased the time spent daily as the exam drew closer. Two weeks prior to the exam I studied 2-3 hours a day with a few 5 hour stretches on the weekends.

Here are a few tips may help you pass:

1. Study when you can-  For me, long gone are the 8 hour marathon study sessions in Starbucks. I found studying in 10-15 minute increments can be very effective too. Down time between patients? Do a few practice questions. Kids playing bath? Park it on the floor and watch an 10 minute review video on your iPad. Don’t make lack of time an excuse to study. Everyone has a limited amount of time, it is a matter of how you prioritize it (Instagram can wait)

2. Pick a date and pay for your exam- Having the pressure of an exam date will light a fire under you to get you motivated. It’s easy to keep putting things off when there is a 2 year window to take the test. Just get it over with, you will be glad you did.

3. Focus on the “big sections”- The PANRE is weighted by organ system just like the PANCE. Spend more time studying the organ systems that will be more represented on the exam like Cardio, GI, Pulmonary and Ortho. I honestly spend zero time on Dermatology and still got 100% on my Derm questions so I’ll take my 5% Derm of the exam as a gift.

4. Make sure you study all topics from the NCCPA Blueprint. They really will pull from all of these topics. There are A LOT of topics too .

5. Purchase a study guide. This pays for itself 10fold. I don’t know about you, but my notes from school are long gone. I needed something that was easy and convenient. A study guide allowed me to watch review videos on my lunch break and practice questions between patients. There are many programs/services that lay out all of the information you need according to the NCCPA blue print. A few of them I’ve personally heard good things about:

HIPPO Education PANCE/PANRE Review– This is the one I used. The videos are entertaining, concise and to the point. Lots of great practice questions and 50 Category 1 CME credits. $495

PA Board Review with Joe Gilboy– I had several friends attend this in-person 3-day course in Irvine, CA and really enjoyed it. $295

Med-Challenger PANCE/PANRE Board Review: $325

Please feel free to share in the comment section any tips you may have as well…good news is I passed my re-certification a few weeks ago! It can be done even with a full-time career, husband, kids, and while enduring 1st trimester morning sickness!

Now Offering: Pre-PA School Consulting

posted on: October 30, 2014

I started this blog and Instagram a year ago with the mission of sharing skin care tips and information on various dermatology conditions. What I did not expect is how many Pre-PA students I’ve “met” the past year via this blog and Instagram. There are many steps that one must complete prior to being accepted to a PA program. Everything from choosing which PA program is right for you , ensuring you’ve completed all necessary pre-reqs for that specific program, obtaining an average of at least 1000 hours of paid hand-on medical experience, finding PAs to shadow, taking the GRE or MCAT, accruing medical volunteer hours, and that’s just the basics. Once you’ve checked all the those off the list you need to ask yourself, “what is going to make me the most competitive applicant?” All of this can be quite a daunting task.

For years I’ve mentored and guided numerous Pre-PA applicants on their journey to PA school. This is something I am very passionate about. I absolutely love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Watching the journey of those from working on their undergraduate degree to getting through PA school and finally landing their dream job is such a rewarding experience. My goal is to help as many people as I can complete their PA journey. It seems like a natural progression to now offer structured Pre-PA School Consulting. I have joined C&C Independent College Consulting to offer comprehensive consulting for Pre-PA students at any place of their journey to becoming a certified Physician Assistant. Learn more about services offered HERE.

How I became a Dermatology Physician Assistant

posted on: October 3, 2014

Dermatolgoy Books

While in PA school you go through what seems like endless modules of every system in the body. You start to get a taste of what specialities you like (or even faster, those you don’t like) but it’s not until you start your rotations do you really learn what each speciality is all about. While in PA school you will do on average 7-10 rotations in various specialities: family medicine, obstetrics, orthopedics, pediatrics, surgery, ER, internal medicine, etc… At the end of your PA program you will be primary care trained and can start working without additional training. However, you are able to work in a speciality as a PA with additional training. You can either find a residency/fellowship program for PAs in the desired speciality or you would need to find a physician who is willing to train you. Both of those options can be difficult to find as a new graduate but it is possible.

While in my 3rd year of PA school I had narrowed down what specialties I wanted to pursue. I really enjoyed aesthetics and thought I would pursue plastic surgery. At my program our last rotation involved 2 days in the clinic in the speciality of your choice and the rest of the time was spent on campus working on our thesis. I had my advanced plastic surgery rotation all set up when I was chatting with my mom and she mentioned that she had an appointment that week with her dermatologist, Dr. Sandra Lee. I told her I was going to tag along with her to the appointment to try to get my foot in the door and do some networking. I introduced myself to Dr. Lee and told her I was in PA school and interested in Dermatology. She kindly educated me about the procedure she was preforming on my mom like I was already a student under her wing. A week later I received a call from Dr. Lee inquiring if I was really interested in Dermatology. I told her I was very interested in aesthetics and did not know if I wanted to pursue plastics or dermatology. She offered me to do my advanced rotation at her office to see what I thought about both medical and cosmetic dermatology. I was able to move my advanced rotation from plastics to dermatology and spend 4 months at her and her husband’s office. While there I rotated with one other student from a program in New York. I must have done something right because Dr. Lee and Dr. Rebish offered me a job when we met up for dinner when were all in San Francisco attending a Dermatology conference.  I will never forget calling my husband while in a bathroom stall whispering, “They offered me a job!” After graduation both Dr. Lee and Dr. Rebish took on the task of providing me advanced training in dermatology. They are a great team where Dr. Rebish focused my training in medical dermatology; Dr. Lee was my go to gal for surgical and cosmetic dermatology. I joined the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) which has great resources for new graduates as well as PA students. I highly recommend joining a PA society in your chosen speciality (I’ll give you some of those resources in an upcoming post).  I attended Dermatology conferences including those put on by the SDPA and Maui Derm. I also did advanced training courses in various lasers treatments, dermal fillers and neurotoxins. I am so thankful for Dr. Lee and Dr. Rebish hiring me as a new graduate and now 5 years later I couldn’t be happier. I think the take home message here is that this job opportunity was not posted on monster or craigslist, It all started with me crashing my mom’s doctor’s appointment and that’s what opened this opportunity. If you want to get into certain specialities as a PA you really have to create those opportunities.

Tips On Getting Into PA School: Part 2- Paid Hands-On Experience

posted on: March 18, 2014

PA Orthopedic Rotation Ortho

Orthopedic rotation during PA school at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center where I put my Cast Tech knowledge to good use

So you decided you want to go to PA school? Well between trying to finish your pre-requesits, get some volunteer experience, pay your bills and manage your ever-shrinking social life these PA programs expect you to somehow get your “hands-on” paid working experience where you work directly with patients. You start to do your research and start pulling your hair out when you realize almost all paid hand-on jobs require some sort of extra schooling, certificate or licence. How are you suppose to squeeze that in with your current schedule? Well I’m here to give you a few ideas about what kinds of jobs are out there for Pre-PA students.

{every state is different when it comes to licensing requirements and the amount of schooling to complete these programs, make sure you check with your state for exact laws and requirements. These are only a few jobs that can get you that paid hands-on experience. If you’ve had luck with another type of job let us know about it by leaving a comment below}

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)– Commonly employed in nursing homes or in a hospital setting, take vital signs, collects specimens for medical tests, assist with personal hygiene and feeding of patients who need assistance. Schooling time: 6 weeks (full time) to 4 months (part time). Pros: Short schooling and usually pretty easy to find a job. Cons: This is a tough job. I worked as a CNA for 2 1/2 months the summer after my Freshman year.  As a CNA in a nursing home you are responsible for getting your patients ready for the day, bathing, getting dressed, feeding, ect… For me this was “back-breaking” work often with a large patient load.

Phlebotomist- People trained to draw blood from a patient for clinical or medical testing, transfusions, donations, or research. Schooling Time: 4 weeks- 4 months. Pros: Short schooling, usually easy to find job. Cons: Limited variety of medical treatments observed.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)- EMTs are clinicians trained to respond quickly to emergency situations such as medical issues, traumatic injuries and accident scenes. Often employed by ambulance services, hospitals, fire departments, schools, etc… Schooling Time: 3 weeks-4months. Pros: Exciting variety in medical situations you will be exposed to. Cons: Not for the faint of heart, involved in traumatic and emergency situations.

Medical Assistant (MA)- Typically work in a doctors office, check-in patients, take vitals, preform injections, handle instruments, collect specimens for lab testing, etc… Schooling Time: 6-9 months Pros: works directly with a physician/PA and is exposed to a variety of medicine. Cons: Long schooling process. Can be difficult to find part-time Medical Assistant jobs. *you can sometimes find a MA job without a certificate if they are willing to train you. I was able to do this. Check with your state for specific regulations. 

Medical Scribe- A Medical Scribe is essentially a personal assistant to the physician/PA performing electronic dictation and gathering information for the patient’s visit. Schooling Time: 1-4 months. Pros: Literally see everything the practioner sees, you become very familiar with medical terminology. Cons: Not exactly “hands-on” as you are not touching patients but most PA programs accept this as paid hands-on experience.

Elderly Caregiver- Help the elderly in their own homes with taking medications, daily hygiene, running errands, etc… Schooling Time: CPR Course; 1 day.  Pros: No schooling necessary. Flexible part-time or full-time work. Cons: Not as “medical” as other jobs.

Cast Technologist- Works in a hospital or private office setting with an orthopedic surgeon applying casts to patients. In an office setting you work as a medical assistant but also apply casts. I am partial to this job because this I worked as a cast tech for a year between undergrad and PA school. Schooling: 1-3 day casting work shop + possible medical assistant schooling requirement. Pros: FUN job (if you like hands on stuff). I loved casting, working with my hands, cutting of casts , etc… While I currently work in Derm I have always found Orthopedics so interesting. Cons: Limited job availability.

My best advice is not to wait for one of these jobs to pop up on craigslist or monster. Network, pound the pavement and get your name out there! Get your resume in tip-top shape but also provide a cover letter indicating you are a pre-pa student and are highly motivated for the job and why YOU are the best one for the job (even if you have zero experience). I was able to find a Cast Tech job, zero experience and they knew I’d likely be leaving in a year. I did that by networking. Many medical jobs are not posted anywhere. While you may only get 1-2 call backs from dropping off 100+ resumes you only need that one job to get that experience you need.

Tips On Getting into PA School: Part 1

posted on: March 3, 2014

USC Keck white coat ceremony Physician Assistant PA{Me and the hubby at my White Coat Ceremony in 2007}

I’ve had a lot of inquiries by Pre-PA students on tips on getting into PA school. I’m no expert on PA program admissions but I applied and got in so I must have done something right. Since graduating I’ve mentored about 2 pre-pa students per year and have a 100% on their acceptance rate, so here are some tips that can be helpful in getting you into PA school.

Narrow down the programs you’re going to apply to. Every program has different requirements for their applicants including class prerequisites, minimal number of hands-on hours, volunteer hours, etc… One program may require Spanish while the next requires Genetics. Knowing what prerequisites you’re up against will help you better plan your class schedule. You would hate to either take an extra year to wait to apply because you have to take one more class or not applying to a program because you’re missing a class or two.

Line up those paid hands-on medical hours. Even if a program does not “require” hands-on hours it will make you a much more competitive candidate if you do have them. I think this is the hardest part of applying to PA school. Most states require some sort of license or certificate to work in an “hands-on” capability. This is can be frustrating because on-top of working on your bachelors degree you have to find time to squeeze in more schooling to get a license for a profession that you’re only planning on using for a short time. Common hands-on jobs PAs have prior to attending PA school include: EMT, Phlebotomist, Certified Nursing Assistant, Medical Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant, etc… I recommend researching these professions and seeing if the classes will fit in your school schedule or your summers off. I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant and a Cast Tech for an Orthopedic Surgeon prior to PA school. I’ll give some more information about how I got those jobs in a future post.

Don’t forget to Volunteer. In addition to having paid hand-on medical hours having medical volunteer hours will make you a more competitive candidate. Luckily these are easier to obtain than paid hands-on hours. Most hospitals have volunteer programs that easily satisfy this requirement. It is better to have a weekly, ongoing volunteer commitment vs just picking up a few hours here and there. I started volunteering HERE in high school as a junior volunteer and racked up over 300 hours with my weekly 3 hour shifts. I volunteered in pediatrics and loved every minute of it. I mostly played with the patients, brought them toys and video games, did paperwork and other odds and ends. When I went away to college I was able to get a volunteer position at St John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. I really wanted to work in the ER and the only weekly shift they had open was Fridays from 4- 7pm. So every Friday afternoon I trekked my way through LA traffic to put in my time. I learned so much during these short 3 hours shifts. My favorite tip I learned from an RN there was that if you have a patient that was pretty stinky you can soak a washcloth in Listerine Mouth Wash and put it next to their bedside and the room smells minty fresh. Such a simple fix! In addition to these weekly commitments I found various health fairs, medical conferences and weekend medical missionary trips to Mexico to add some variety to volunteering experience.

Look for Pre-PA programs. There are a programs that are focused on giving pre-pa students the ability to work directly with Physician Assistants and witness first what exactly a PA does. The program I am most familiar with is the Physician Assistant Helper Program at LAC+USC. This amazing program allows you to work with PAs at LA County Hospital in the ER. While I applied and was accepted into this program I had finished my undergrad and got a job with an Orthopedic Surgeon near my parents house so I decided to move home and take the job there. The hour commute to LAC+USC did not work with the open shifts. I do know many people who volunteered with this program and have told me that it was such a wonderful experience. Do some research and see if any of your local hospitals or PA programs have something like this.

Are you a PA or currently in PA School? Comment below with your advice for Pre-PA students!

Next Week Look For: Tips on Getting into PA School Part 2- How to really get that paid hand-on medical experience