Why Physician Assistant Job Shadowing is a Good Idea

  • Article by:Health Career Center

Are you considering a career in the medical field as a Physician Assistant (PA)? If yes, then you are most likely looking into which PA schools or programs you should apply to. However, before you begin the application process, it’s crucial to shadow this role so you have a clearer understanding of the Physician Assistant job and what that truly entails. Here is a look at five reasons why Physician Assistant job shadowing is a good idea and crucial to your future professional success and happiness, as well as some tips on how to connect with a Physician to shadow.

Try before you buy

In other professions, an internship is the first chance individuals have to gauge whether their potential career choice is what they expected and desired. It provides an opportunity to try it out without any serious strings attached. With medical professions, this is not an option until after you graduate from medical school, which means several wasted years and expensive tuition costs for a profession you may no longer want to pursue once you experience it first-hand.

To keep this from happening, shadow a Physician Assistant. This process will give you first-hand exposure to the role and help you evaluate whether this career is the right fit for you. It will help solidify your career expectations and develop a clearer picture of the responsibilities expected of a PA on a daily basis.

Get direct exposure to patients

Before shadowing, applicants to PA programs rarely have a chance to interact directly with patients. Through shadowing, you have the opportunity to see firsthand what it’s like to work in different settings (clinical vs. surgery). This allows you to understand the limitations of what medicine can and can’t do.

Shadowing also gives you exclusive access to the relationship between the patient and the Physician and Physician Assistant and how that contributes to the patient’s medical care. Many PA’s also allow those shadowing them to interact directly with patients, often giving them a chance to develop their own relationship with the patient and better understand what that involves.

Network and build relationships

One of the best things to come out of shadowing a Physician Assistant's job is the relationship you develop with that individual and the PAs and Physicians in the office or practice. Many prospective PAs claim they developed strong relationships with those they shadowed and now view them as both their friend and mentor. The relationship and networking opportunities shadowing provides can prove priceless down the road when it comes time to apply for PA programs. These professionals will often be a great resource for advice or letters of recommendation throughout the course of your career.

Insight into your preferences

Individuals interested in the Physician Assistant job will eventually have to select a specialty they would like to pursue. Whether you think your interests are attuned to something more general, like family practice, or more specific, like pediatric surgery, the opportunity to shadow PAs in a variety of specialties will give you a better idea of which area suits you best.

Prep for interviews and applications

Considering how competitive the application process is for PA schools, shadowing a Physician Assistant can help bolster your application and give you an edge on your fellow applicants. A majority of PA programs require applicants to have clinical exposure and around three years of direct healthcare experience. This is to help ensure they are accepting the right individuals that are passionate about their future and prepared to enter the medical field.

PA program interviewers often ask the interviewee what their understanding of a Physician Assistant job is or why they are choosing to pursue medicine. Having the experience of shadowing a PA allows you to answer these questions fully and proves that you are serious about your future career.

How to find a Physician to shadow:

Given all these benefits, it’s hard to see a reason not to take the time to job shadow a Physician Assistant. Now that you understand the importance of this practice, here are the two best methods on how to find a Physician to shadow in your area:

  • An excellent resource to use is PA Shadow Online (PASO). Students simply need to register to utilize this online resource. It works by connecting students with Physicians in their area that are ready and willing to have students shadow them. This is the easiest way to find a Physician in your area that is willing to have you shadow without necessitating numerous phone calls or research.
  • If PASO does not yield any results in your area, then another option is to reach out to your local clinics, urgent care facilities, or hospitals and ask about their shadowing policies for students. If they don’t have a program in place, ask for a direct line to a Physician. Directly contacting a Physician is an excellent way to ask them more about their role, let them know your career aspirations, and find out whether they would allow you to shadow. Typically, they are more than willing to allow you to shadow them for a set period of time.