Having PA shadowing experiences is a critical part of any PA school application. Once you land a PA school interview (fingers crossed), every interviewer will ask you about your shadowing experience or lack there of. To give yourself the best chance of acing these questions and bolstering your application overall, the importance of securing a shadowing experience cannot be over emphasized.
But how does one go about finding a PA to shadow? This is one of the most common questions that I address with pre-PA students. With just a little creativity and tenacity, you can land the perfect PA shadow experience. But here are my top 5 tips to get you started:
- Ask a PA at your personal Doctor’s office- simplest idea first! Most people either see a PA themselves or are patients at an office that employs PAs. If you are lucky enough to have a PA as a provider, ask them if you can shadow (ask for a very a limited commitment to start with). If they agree, this could lead to more hours or very likely open the door to other PAs that you can shadow. If you don’t know any PAs already, see if any work at any of the offices you are already a patient. If so, ask if you can get their email and then ask away! Talking to one PA, always leads to more PAs (yeah, we are tight like that!) so even if the one you ask says no, they almost certainly will try to help you find someone else you can shadow.
- Call your local PA program- PA programs (and their websites) often have ideas and even specific contacts for shadowing opportunities. Even if your local PA program doesn’t end up having any specific suggestions, it’s always a great idea to call programs and introduce yourself to get on their radar. You’d be surprised that even a short phone call could stand out at an admissions committee meeting, over another applicant they have never heard from.
- Check out http://pashadowonline.com/ – Finally someone answered our prayers and created a forum to match PAs willing to shadow with interested pre-PA students! Once you register, you can search by your city and even see the PA’s typical work schedule. PAs can be contacted directly through the site by e-mail.
- Search the AAPA or state PA society directories- The AAPA lists members by state and practice specialty. This is a great resource but you have to be a member with a login to search this resource. It certainly looks good to programs to join the AAPA or state PA society as an applicant (and usually the cost is nominal) but it is certainly not a necessity. State PA societies often have links to regional or city PA groups. Some even mention PA shadowing programs specifically. State/Regional groups are great resources and a good place to start introducing yourself to other PAs in your area and start networking!
- PA specialty groups- This is a great list if you already have identified a specialty you are interested in gaining experience in or even working in after PA school. From Neurology and Surgery to Dermatology, these groups often have directories of members, so you can search for a PA in your area. In addition, some have student resources that can apply to Pre-PA students.
Hopefully this list will give you a good starting point and in not too long, land you the perfect PA shadowing gig! Good luck!