Welcome to The PA Café

The PA Cafe
Hey!
If you’re reading this, it means you’re a mom who is giving PA school some serious thought …. I applaud you! Parenting and grad school is no small feat. It takes strong passion and serious courage to chase this dream. There are many other women out there, just as insane as you are, pursuing the Physician Assistant career. The purpose of this blog is to encourage, prepare and help you navigate the road to becoming a PA. Here you will find real stories from real moms in the throes of it all. Listen this won’t be easy AT ALL! There will be days you will want to throw in the towel. You will be overwhelmed, sleep deprived, fatigued, irritable and feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions (because you are). But in the end, when your children speak about how proud they are of you, when others tell you how you’ve inspired them…. Well, that makes it all worth it. Honestly, there’s no real step by step guide here. Just know that you are not in this alone.
Sincerely,

Moms in pa school

Dictionary

Dictionary of word/phrases frequently used

HCE – Health Care Experience

Hell Week – A week consisting of 3 or more exams, plus quizzes and written assignments. In addition to a full day of lecture.

Murphy’s Law – Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

NSU – FTL – Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale campus

PCE – Patient Care Experience

PCP – Primary Care Provider

Prereqs – Prerequisites

SI – Student Instructor

SO – Significant Other

TA– Teacher’s Assistant

Village – Support system

Jen’s PA stats

When did you graduate?

2019

What’s your specialty?

Psychiatry. I’ve always been drawn to psychiatry and have since taken an interest in holistic healthcare.

Was it difficult finding a job?

Mmmm, kind of but not really since I wasn’t necessarily looking. Let me explain…

I took a year off following my PA school graduation. During that year, the COVID pandemic hit and many PA-Cs were being furloughed. I started my job search about 6 months prior to when I was hoping to start. Having taken so much time off after graduation, I elected to search for residencies to both refresh my memory and build confidence as a provider. There aren’t many PAs who are aware of or elect to do residencies so finding one wasn’t difficult but locating one accepting applicants with the quarantine in place was a bit challenging.

What was your GPA?

Both Cumulative and Science 3.4

Did you get straight A’s?

Not at all! like to think of my transcripts as – Main course of A’s with a healthy side of B’s. A dash of C’s and a D (don’t judge me! It was a rough semester).

Why PA?

I’ve worked in healthcare for the majority of my adult life. In that time I became familiar with the different career paths available as a medical provider. The physician assistant stood out to me the most for various reasons. The most prominent being the patient interaction and ease of transition between specialties.

How many times did you apply?

One and done! Submitted my application in August and received an interview letter two weeks later. Interviewed in January and received an acceptance call back the same day.

How long did it take you to complete your CASPA application?

Total of 4 months. I broke it into chunks to ensure accuracy. I started in April with the most tedious portion, filling out the course history. Then I would periodically go back and fill in sections as I completed them. I submitted my application towards the end of August, that’s when my GRE and prerequisite courses were completed.

How did you obtain PCE?

Majority from my time in the military as a Medical Lab Specialist

Was it difficult finding a PA to shadow?

Yes! I suggest starting with your PCP. Ask them if they or anyone they know would be willing to let you shadow for a couple hours a week. Most PA’s love to talk about what they do and are more than willing to share resources with you. I received shadowing experience because of my pre-PA club membership and just networking at church and with other moms at my kid’s school, activities/practices.

Did you volunteer or join any clubs?

Yes, I volunteered at a community health clinic for a few months after submitting my CASPA application. I went on a Missions trip with my church to Haiti. For about 2 years I worked as a Student Instructor (SI); I was basically a TA and tutor for my peers. As for club activities, I was a member of the Pre-Physicians Assistant Association at my University.

How was your interview? How did you prepare? Attire?

To say I was nervous would be an understatement! I thought I completely bombed it, but apparently not because I got in! I spent weeks preparing with mock interviews and practicing in the mirror. Although I did not wear a business suit, I strongly suggest that you do. I was the only one in the interview area without even so much as a blazer on. I wore a navy blue and white striped cardigan over a navy blue shell, black slacks and a low heel shoe. My hair was in kinky twists at the time so I just pulled it back into a single French braid. Comfortable yet still business appropriate, and I got in = )

Fun Facts

I went on a 1week mission trip to Panama while in PA School

I am passionate about many things including finances which you will find that I discuss here very often

Resources

For more information on the PA profession and application process, checkout the list of resources below

More about the PA profession

American Academy of PAs

Florida Academy of PAs

Special Interest Groups/Organizations/Caucuses

AAPA Constituent Organizations

Interest in Global Health

PAs for Global Health

Fellowship of Christian PAs

PrePA Process, Interview and Application Preparation

PA Education Association

The PA Platform

Dave Dubose The PA Coach

A Dose of PA Blog

PA Forum

The PA Life

Mentorship and Shadowing

The Mentoring Firm

Finances

PA Cents

Total Money Makeover*

Budgeting App

Budgeting Tips for College Students

Scholarships

National Health Service Corps

Health Professionals Scholarship Program

PA Foundation

Florida Society of Dermatology PAs

African Heritage PA Caucus Scholarship

Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship

PAs for Latino Health Scholarship

Vetarans Caucus Scholarships

Tillman Scholar

Fisher House Foundation

No Greater Sacrifice

Parenting Resources

The Body Book for Younger Girls*

The Body Book for Older Girls *

The Feelings Book*

The Body Book for Boys*

{Disclaimer- Affiliate links marked with an asterisk(*). All other blogs/organizations listed above have no marketing or advertising affiliations with The PA Cafe.  This is just a list of resources found to be helpful over the years. It is NOT by any means a representation of all the information accessible to current and prospective applicants. If there are resources available that we should know about, feel free to contact us , we’re always happy to expand the list.}

FAQ

What to do about my low GPA?

Focus your attention on all of the areas where you shine. What makes you a standout candidate for PA School? Is it your extensive healthcare experience, dedication to volunteering and activism in the community, are you a business owner, or veteran? Find out what makes you stand apart from all other applicants who possess a superior academic record.

The Next step is to focus on schools with lower or no GPA requirements and compare your stats to that of the current class. This information can be found on the website of the program which you are applying to. To keep better track of your CASPA requirements and determine which schools you are most qualified for , subscribe to My PA Box. Use code THEPACAFE to save 15%

Should I talk about my kids?

Yes! Don’t shy away from it, being a parent doesn’t make you any less professional or competitive as an applicant. In fact, I feel it makes you more memorable and some interviewers look favorably upon those with children/life experience. Listen, the number of mothers in PA school may be on the rise but the research is scarce. Grad school and parenting is tough business. In our class of 75 students, there are a total of 7 moms. Just be sure you are able to express who you are as an individual and that you have that part of your life under control.

Disclaimer: Don’t play down being a mom but please don’t go on and on about your kids or use them as an excuse for constantly being late/missing assignments.

Do you offer any PrePA services ?

No, I do not. but checkout The PA Platform who offers a variety of Pre PA services. Use code ThePACafe to save 10%

I’m a single mom and I don’t have any friends/family that can help me, can I do this on my own?

Anything is possible… but I DO NOT recommend it. YOU NEED SUPPORT. A trustworthy, reliable, drama-free support system. Not just while you are in school, but when you start working as well. Time to start flipping through that Rolodex of names in your memory bank and make some calls. Get more involved in your church/community. Join the PTA, schedule play dates, socialize with other parents at the park, during sports practices and dance recitals. Read the “Building A Support System” article for some ideas on how to seek help when friends and family aren’t an option.

Accepted, What should I be doing now?

Save Money! If you can become a PA without the loans, do it! If you can’t, you still need to be saving up as much money as you possibly can before you start the program. Life will continue to happen while enrolled so having an emergency fund ready to go is crucial.

Now is a good time to brush up on your anatomy and physiology. Having a strong foundation in these areas will help digest the new material coming at you fast and in large quantities.

Time management, what’s that?

Like so many other moms, I too suffer from a severe case of mommy brains. Get into the habit of writing things down. Purchase a planner and set up your phone calendar with alerts. Learning to manage your time now will help transition into the PA program more smoothly.

My significant other isn’t fully on board, what should I do?

This is a huge problem that needs to be fixed before moving any further. If your spouse/partner isn’t 100% on board, your problems are much bigger than PA school. It’s time for a long talk and maybe consider some counseling. You don’t want to start the program without their full support.

What should I expect?

Drastic change! Not just for your life, but for everyone around you as well. You’re in class Monday- Friday from 8am-5pm. There’s never a moment you’re not studying. You won’t be spending as much time with your partner or children as you would like. Family and friends will complain they never see you anymore, and its true they don’t. If you had a life before, you can kiss it goodbye! From now on you are either cramming for an exam or trying to keep up with life.

Before you start the process, prepare your support system. Have a family meeting explaining what you are doing, why you are doing it and the changes they should expect. Let them know it is temporary and that you need their full support. Not only will they be proud of you and gladly back you up on your decision; You will be setting an example of hard work and ambition for your children to follow.

What are some of the worst-case scenarios that can happen in PA school?

  • Car won’t start the morning of an exam.
  • Babysitter bails at the last minute (who hasn’t experienced this one before)
  • Come home to a flooded Living room
  • Your kid wakes up at 3am with vomiting, diarrhea and a fever
  • Car is making a weird noise and the mechanic says you will need to leave it with him for a couple of days.
  • Divorce/Separation/Break up
  • Pregnancy
  • Tragic death of a loved one

I’m not a parent, but I am an older… I mean more “mature” student, any advice?

Same advice applies. You may not have children, but you still have a lot going on. Maybe you’re married, caring for an elderly parent, a guardian/power of attorney for a loved one with special needs. The list goes on, but the advice doesn’t change. This is going to take some serious thought, careful planning and the full support of those who love and believe in you.

Meet the Author

About The PA Cafe
Author/Founder/Creator

My name is Jennifer, psychiatry PA-C and graduate of the Nova Southeastern University – Fort Lauderdale campus PA Program. I was able to obtain my PA-C career aspirations as a divorced single mother of one awesome little girl.

But let me tell you … it wasn’t easy! Allow me to briefly walk you down memory lane.

I’m a South Florida native and the daughter of Haitian Immigrants (Shoutout to all my Zoes!). I enlisted in the U.S Army after high school where I served as a 68K – Medical Laboratory Specialist. Once discharged, I returned home and became a board certified/licensed as a Medical Laboratory Technician.

….And that’s when life hit the pause button on my career. What felt like a drastic overnight change – suddenly I was a wife, homeowner and stepmother struggling with a high risk pregnancy all while readjusting to civilian life.

I was overwhelmed to say the least, but my drive and passion for more wouldn’t let me stop. While 6 months pregnant I enrolled in college for the first time. Being the daughter of immigrants – there was a lot about college, finances and navigating adulthood in America that I had to learn on my own. Numerous mistakes, frequent attacks of self-doubt, a toxic marriage that eventually led to a divorce and single parenthood were just a few challenges that I would have to overcome along the way. My entire college experience (both undergraduate and graduate) has been as mother. I’ve changed my major many times and there have been semesters where I’ve had to either reduce my workload or not attend school at all. I finally graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. That same year I submitted my CASPA application and was accepted into PA school.

I have always been drawn to the medical field, but it took a few years, trials and errors before I took the steps to fulfilling my PA quest. I had to find the courage and confidence in myself to just go for it. I searched endlessly for someone else out there who could relate and help guide me on this journey… but my results often came back empty. This would eventually lead to the birth of The PA Café.

The road up until this point hasn’t been a smooth one. The PA Café highlights the daily grind and misadventures that comes along with being a mom in PA school. I hope that sharing our personal experiences will not only encourage you but also help you navigate the ups and downs of parenting in PA school.

Contact

For guest blog post inquiries, please fill out the form below or email us at thepacafe@gmail.com