Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant (PA)

WHAT DO PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS DO?

PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative.

 

PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality. Scroll down to learn more about the PA profession and its commitment to improving and expanding health care.

 

PAs’ duties depend on the setting in which they work, their level of experience, their specialty, and state laws. (from AAPA website)

Generally, PAs can:

 

  • Take medical histories
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illness
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication
  • Counsel on preventive care
  • Perform procedures
  • Assist in surgery
  • Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Do clinical research

 

WHAT ARE THE ACADEMIC PREREQUISITES?

In making decisions about admissions, PA schools consider a range of factors that may vary from one school to another. All prerequisite courses usually need to be completed with a grade of C or above.  A science and cumulative GPA > 3.5 is competitive; the GRE is required for many programs, and is a factor considered in the admissions process.  

 

It is recommended, and often required, that you complete the following courses:*

Biology BIO 143, BIO 243, BIO 231, BIO 233
Chemistry 1 year Gen Chem w. lab (CHEM 125 & 126 or CH/BI 125 & 227 or CHEM 121, 123, and 126 or CHEM 122 & 126), 1 year Org Chem w. Lab (CHEM 247 & 248), Biochem w. lab (CHEM 379)
Math & Stats Calculus (MATH 119 or 120) (pre-req for Gen Chem)

Statistics – (STAT 212)

Physics A year of non-major (non-calculus based) physics (PHYS 124 & 125) is required by some schools. Please check individual program prerequisites.
Social Science PSYCH 125, PSYCH 241, PSYCH 247
Recommended Advanced coursework in related areas, such as neuroscience, immunology or developmental biology.

Many schools require a course in Medical Terminology (BIO 291).

 

Sample Course Timeline

The following timeline is an example of how you might wish to schedule your prerequisite courses. Timing of these courses may change due to major requirements, study abroad experiences, cohort coursework such as Great Con or Ch/Bi timing of the application, and admissions guidelines at PA schools. In addition to these courses, each student will fit in any classes required by their major. All students are strongly encouraged to meet with Professor Crisp to plan pre-dental courses. All students must also consult with their advisors regarding course selection.

 

Year 1: General Chemistry, MATH 119 or 120, PSYCH 125 

Year 2: CHEM 247 & 248, BIO 143 – Fall (Note: only offered in the fall), BIO 243 – Spring, STAT 212

Year 3/4:  CHEM 379, BIO 231, BIO 233, Psych 241, Psych 247, Physics (if applicable)

 

Sample Prerequisites Course Requirements for admission to PA schools

 

*Please note, prerequisite requirements can vary greatly among PA programs. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they complete all prerequisite coursework in the time required for admission. Please consult each PA program’s website for prerequisite requirements.

 

WHAT STANDARDIZED TEST WILL I NEED TO TAKE? Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

WHAT CENTRALIZED APPLICATION WILL I USE? Central Application Service for Physician Assistants

 

WHAT ARE THE EXPERIENTIAL PREREQUISITES?*

  • Shadowing: 50-100 hours shadowing PAs in a variety of settings with different patient populations is strongly recommended/required. 
  • Healthcare Experience: Direct patient care experience is critically important for admission to many PA programs. Some programs require paid experience, such as working as a CNA, EMT, home health aid, phlebotomist, etc. Other programs will accept volunteer experience, such as in a free clinic, hospital, etc. The number of hours required varies widely from program to program, from 250+ to 2,000+ hours. Students are encouraged to obtain significant healthcare experience before applying to PA programs.
  • Volunteering: It is highly recommended that you volunteer in your community, starting as early as your first year at St. Olaf. Although your volunteer role can be in healthcare or outside of healthcare, we recommend that you aim to volunteer in both capacities. PA schools are looking for applicants with sustained and meaningful volunteer experience serving the underserved.  They don’t want students who are simply checking the “volunteer box.”
  • Leadership: It is strongly recommended that you serve in a leadership capacity (president of an organization, academic tutor, service on an advisory board, etc.). Leaders can enhance their communication and organizational skills, as well as learn how to interact with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds

 

WHAT OTHER RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE AT ST. OLAF?

Study Abroad

Alpha Epsilon Delta: Preprofessional Health Honor Society

Pre-health Professionals Club

Pre-health Moodle site

Pre-health Google calendar

Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry

 

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

American Academy of Physician Assistants

Physician Assistant Education Association

 

WHO IS THE DESIGNATED ADVISING SPECIALIST?

Professor Kevin Crisp (Professor of Biology, Chair of the Health Professions Committee)

Office: Pre-Health Advising in Piper Center (TOH 270)  Phone: 507-786-3981 Email: crisp@stolaf.edu

 

*Ultimately, it is the responsibility of applicants to ensure that they complete all prerequisite coursework and experiential opportunities required for successful admission to PA school.

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