5 Classes I Wish I took Before Enrolling to a PA Program written by Ryan English, edited by Laura Morrison, May 2014
Having a semester and a half under my belt as a graduate student in a physician assistant program, I’ve looked back to see what other classes I could have taken as an undergraduate that would have benefited me in my future. I’ve also noticed two classes that I’m really glad that I did take. There is so much information flying at you in PA school that having a little knowledge in a related area helps immensely. With that experience in mind there are 5 Classes I Wish I took Before Enrolling to a PA Program. Let me explain!
If you have extra time, or you need to boost your academic portfolio with some strong classes, consider these:
Immunology - #1 take before enrolling to a PA Program
The first half of our introduction to disease class is Immunology in some form or fashion. Immunology is a subject that effects everything, and it uses abbreviations and acronyms so often that it is difficult to keep them straight. Taking Immunology would lock in the big picture before diving into the details. If you’ve taken immunology but you want to strengthen the academic side of your application, take another upper level biology course. Biochemistry, cell biology, cancer biology, etc. Any of those will help you, and getting an A will help your application.
Medical Business/Management - #2 take before enrolling to a PA Program
Healthcare is a big business. Maybe one of the reasons you’re becoming a PA is to avoid the headache of owning a practice or running a business. You won’t completely escape that side of things. Knowing who gets paid for what and how they get paid clarifies many situations. You will need to know how your clinic handles different insurances, how you handle uninsured patients, and how you generate revenue for the practice.
Pharmacology - #3 take before enrolling to a PA Program
My steepest learning curve so far has been in Pharmacology. The vocabulary has little to no structure. Half of the mechanisms are incompletely understood, the rest are not understood at all. The volume of drugs to learn is staggering. It’s also one of the most critical classes because we will be prescribing to patients, so we will need to know all of these things. Having a background in Pharmacology would allow me to focus on the details and reduce the upfront time sink of memorizing drug names.
Small Group/Intercultural Communications/Conflict Resolution - #4 take before enrolling to a PA Program
Health care is a front line service. We will be directly interacting with our patients, and we will need to navigate stressful conversations with patients and families. We will encounter a myriad of communication styles, personality types, and cultural backgrounds. In my undergraduate career, I took these communication classes. Knowing the dynamics of communication, how groups work, and how to best respond to different personalities has been a huge benefit. We spend the majority of our time interacting with others, it only makes sense to sharpen those skills.
Health Humanities (history, global health perspective, medical ethics) - #5 take before enrolling to a PA Program
Most of my class has a science background, few have much practice in ethics of history. Having a broadened perspective is not only impressive to an admissions committee, it deepens the appreciation of the decisions we make. Understanding the ethical nuances of end of life care helps us explain those dynamics to a patient. Knowing the history of medicine helps us see what has remained constant throughout time. Knowing what the rest of the world is doing keeps us from losing perspective.
These are the 5 Classes I Wish I took Before Enrolling to a PA Program. Yours might be different, Look ahead at the Masters Programs by exploring degrees below. I recommend taking anything you might struggle with or not have a sound base in before you get to the PA Program itself!
About the Author: Ryan English is currently pursuing a graduate degree in physician assistant studies.
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