Direct Patient Care and Common Routes

One way that Physician Assistant school is different from Nursing or Medical school is the requirement of obtaining direct patient care hours before applying and matriculation. Direct patient care is usually described as a hands on job in the healthcare field that returns payment. PA schools requirements are all very different, so when applying, make sure you find out the required or recommended hours for the schools you want to apply to make sure you meet the requirements. PLAN AHEAD! Most of these jobs have a course or training that you will need to complete that could last up to 1 year! One mistake I made was waiting too long to start gaining experience and in turn I had to work full time while taking classes full time during my last semester of undergraduate. I myself have experience in the first three jobs listed so if you have any questions about them, please let me know! Here are some of the more common routes of obtaining direct patient care hours for PA school:


Training: 3 weeks full time – 8-16 weeks part time

Where to find training: nursing home, Red Cross, tech schools, medical education schools

A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, helps patients or clients with healthcare needs under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). CNAs often work in a wide variety of settings; nursing homes, hospitals, adult day care centers, personal homes and assisted living facilities all require nursing assistants to act as a helpful liaison between the RN or LPN and the patient. Nursing assistants fulfill basic quality-of-life needs for patients of any age in residential nursing care facilities or outpatient clinics. To enter into this field you need to complete a Certified Nurse Assistant course and take a state examination. Duties include taking vital signs, assisting in feeding and serving meals, assisting in bathing, turning patients, transporting, blood glucose checks, and charting all of these activities.


Training: 3-6 months

Where to find training: google local EMT schools and compare costs

EMTs are clinicians, trained to respond quickly to emergency situations regarding medical issues, traumatic injuries and accident scenes. EMTs are found working for ambulance services and in emergency departments. EMTs are certified according to their level of training and training must meet minimum requirements of state standards. EMTs must complete training then take and pass the National Registry for EMTs examination before working. EMT-Basics scope of practice includes basic life support skills such as bleeding control, ventilation, oxygen administration, vital signs, CPR, AED, splinting, delivery of child, and medication administration.


Training: On the job training, can vary. In my experience about 3 weeks.

Where to find job: Physassist, ScribeAmerica, Proscribemd, Americanscribes, CEP America

A scribe is essentially a personal assistant for physicians. A scribes duties include performing documentation in the Electronic Health Records like History and Present Illness (HPI), past medical history, symptoms, labs, X-rays, ongoing notes, and diagnosis from patient’s arrival to their discharge.


Training: Can last from 9-12 months for a certificate and up to 2 years for an associate’s degree.

Where to find training: On the job, Community colleges, technical schools, online schools.

A medical assistant is an allied health professional that supports the work of physicians and other health professionals, usually in a clinic setting. Medical assistants can become certified through an accredited program usually offered through a junior or community college. They perform routine tasks and procedures such as measuring patients’ vital signs, administering medications and injections, recording information in medical recordkeeping systems, preparing and handling medical instruments and supplies, and collecting and preparing specimens of bodily fluids and tissues for laboratory testing.


Training: 4-8 months.

Where to find training: Red Croas, technical schools, medical education schools. Google for the closest school near you!

Phlebotomists are people trained to draw blood from a patient for clinical or medical testing, transfusions, donations, or research. The duties of a phlebotomist may include properly identifying the patient, interpreting the tests requested on the requisition, drawing blood into the correct tubes with the proper additives, accurately explaining the procedure to the patients, preparing patients accordingly, practicing the required forms of asepsis, practicing standard and universal precautions, performing the skin/vein puncture, withdrawing blood into containers or tubes, restoring hemostasis of the puncture site, instructing patients on post-puncture care, ordering tests per the doctor’s requisition, affixing tubes with electronically printed labels, and delivering specimens to a laboratory.


Training: 2 year associate’s degree, 4 year bachelor’s degree

Where to find training: 

A respiratory therapist is a specialized healthcare practitioner trained in pulmonary medicine in order to work therapeutically with people suffering pulmonary disease, who has graduated from a university and passed a national board certifying examination. A respiratory therapist’s job includes examining and interviewing patients with breathing/cardiopulmonary issues, performing diagnostic tests, developing a treatment program after consultation with physicians, implementing treatment programs, monitoring and keeping record of treatment progress, supervising respiratory therapy technicians when they implement tests and evaluating the findings, providing emergency care. Respiratory therapists work most often in intensive care and operating rooms, but are also found in outpatient clinics and home-health environments.


Training: 10 months for certificate, 2 years for associate’s.

Where to find training: Walgreens, Community college, medical education schools, technical schools.

A pharmacy technician is a health care providerwho performs pharmacy-related functions, generally working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Job duties include dispensing prescription drugs and other medical devices to patients and instructing on their use. They may also perform administrative duties in pharmaceutical practice, such as reviewing prescription requests with doctor’s offices and insurance companies to ensure correct medications are provided and payment is received.

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