The PA profession continues to gain traction and popularity in the recent years. In this previous article, I had noted that the number of PA jobs will increase by 39% between 2012-2022 (USBLS) due to the economics of healthcare in America. That being said, to provide for the demand in the future, the supply HAS to increased today. And that is being achieved by opening more PA programs throughout the country.
PAEA. THE NUMBER OF PA SCHOOLS INAUGURATED IN THE LAST DECADE HAS INCREASED AT A HISTORICAL RATE
With several new programs coming up every year comes the question, should you apply and attend a new PA program given that it has no history or a track record?
The answer is, it depends.
New programs aren’t drastically different, but their subtle differences in their inexperience can make a massive difference. First, let’s talk about the program itself. Given that they have no track record, creating a medical program from ground up is extremely difficult. And, even if the program is created to the best of the ability, there will be cracks. Most programs do have these cracks and over the years, they continue to fill those cracks and create a steady, strong program. However, this comes with experience, and due to lack of experience, new programs are susceptible to falls. If you’re paying top dollar to attend the school, you want to be confident that it has all the tools necessary for you to become a top clinician.
That being said, many of the new programs hire deans and department chairs from long standing programs. If this is the case, you can confidently progress.
The next variable to factor are the professors. Ultimately, most of your time will be spent with your professors in lectures, labs and around the campus. These people will give you the knowledge and the power you need to harness in order to succeed. It is imperative that the professors are knowledgeable and experienced themselves. In larger cities, it isn’t an issue as PAs are widely available. However, in smaller cities and towns where PAs aren’t as relevant, it can be tough to find clinical staff for a new program. This results in sub-par professors, who won’t provide the same level of teaching. Obviously, this isn’t the case everywhere, but a variable to keep in mind.
Lastly, accreditation. Accreditation is a process of external peer review. It is administered primarily by non-governmental, voluntary organizations that grant recognition to institutions or specialized programs of study that meet established qualifications and educational standards. The ARC-PA is a national PA agency that provides accreditation to PA programs nationally in order to maintain normative standards across the board for all PA programs. This is important because, you will not be able to become a certified PA if you do not graduate from ARC-PA accredited program. We will touch on accreditation in a future blog post.
If you have not been accepted to any programs, we’d strongly suggest to attend the new program, given that you’re aware of the risks.
As an anecdote, one of my friends was accepted and chose to attend a new PA program in Vermont. She went through the entire process from CASPA to interview to putting her deposit down to buying books, lab coats, supplies, and getting ready to attend classes. This PA program was opening its door for the first time to their students. Approximately 1 month prior to classes beginning, all students were informed that the program was being closed indefinitely. Yup, the program closed before it even held a class. This was due to financial strain and infrastructure gaps that the school had. This does not even account to what we mentioned previously in the article. Like I said, building a medical program from the ground up is challenging and there are far too many variables to be considered, some of which you have not even thought of, like infrastructure for example! My friend did not entertain other offers from PA school since she had already accepted this offer. She, unfortunately, had to wait till the next cycle to apply again. Thankfully, she did and all is well, but things could’ve spiraled out. Obviously, this is anecdotal and an outlier, but it’s a story that needed to be said to understand the complexities of a new program.
All new programs aren’t bad. They just lack experience. Experience comes with time, and personally, I’d rather invest my money in a program with a strong foundation. If a new program is your only option, that is fine! However, tread carefully!
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