Deciding on a career path can be a tricky thing. In kindergarten I wrote in a book that I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. Honestly, I’m not too sure where that idea came from. Shortly after that I decided that I would become an author/illustrator mostly because I loved to read and draw. Then, in fourth grade, after attending a Women in Science day with the Girl Scouts, I came home and told my mom that I would become a surgeon. We got to dissect a cow heart that day. I was forever changed!
I went to college with pre-med dreams. Over time, I became a bit disillusioned by the medical school application process and frankly scared that I didn’t have what it took to become a physician. What did I really know about the day in and day out of being a doctor? I wanted to help people and make a difference, but I knew there were alternative ways to do that. I decided that I needed work experience to figure it out.
Entry level jobs, for a student with a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience, during the Great Recession were hard to come by. My first healthcare job out of college was with an ophthalmologist who posted an ad on craigslist. He wanted someone he could train to see patients his way. This was a position that I was very eager to accept, as it would give me the patient contact experience I was looking for. It was with this job that the door to allied health was open to me. As an ophthalmic technician, I decide which diagnostic tests to perform and whether or not to put dilating drops in. Just a few short months of being on the job, I gained the confidence and desire to work with patients in the clinical setting. I wondered what my career path would look like if I remained in the field and what other opportunities were out there.
This drove me to learn more about becoming a Physician Assistant (PA). They can examine, diagnose, treat, prescribe and assist in surgery under a supervising physician. The schooling is short (2-3 years) and there is flexibility in working in general practice or specialties. The job opportunities are bountiful. Through reading up on the field, talking with PAs, and shadowing opportunities – my desire to become a PA was solidified.
Applying to PA school is extremely competitive. The process requires a lot of time and money. I made a sad attempt of applying back in 2011. That was a real wakeup call to the necessity of researching thoroughly every school you are applying to and applying early. In the three years that followed, I laid as much ground work as I could.I needed to boost my grades, which I did in community college at night. I also continued to gain certifications in ophthalmology. I even decided that I would apply to a nursing program if my second attempt at becoming a PA didn’t happen.
Thankfully, seven applications, four interviews and two acceptances later… I am proud to say that I will be attending the: Southern Illinois University Physician Assistant Program!