Why I’m Becoming A PA Instead of Becoming A Doctor

I’ve been slacking a bit at publishing blog posts lately because I have been preparing for applying to PA school! CASPA (The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) opens their application cycle April 25th. And the sooner you get your application in, the better. So while I haven’t been writing on the blog, I’ve been writing my personal statement. 🙂 I will definitely be posting more in the future about my journey to becoming a PA. I also have many tips that I wish I would’ve known in hindsight that I look forward to sharing! But today, I want to talk about why I became a PA in the first place over becoming a doctor.

Decisions, Decisions

Throughout most of my college career, I was conflicted about whether I wanted to go to PA school or medical school. I am one of the most indecisive people in the world to begin with, but I mean this is the career that I’m choosing for the rest of my life! I figured that in undergrad, the pre-reqs for PA school and medical school are super similar, so I would just begin my undergraduate courses…hoping one day my future career would dawn on me.

Unfortunately, an angel never came down and told me which career to choose. 😛 I have been so back and forth about PA school vs. Med school up to this winter honestly. I see ups and downs to both careers. I never wanted to feel like I was “settling” by becoming a PA. Then, on the other hand, I didn’t want to feel trapped during med school… or during residency or just while just starting to work. I’d be pushing my late-20’s/early 30’s before finishing residency- I’d definitely want to start a family by then, but feel guilty because of all the money I just put in to schooling. I decided that becoming a PA would offer me the best of both worlds- the opportunity to practice medicine, and the time line and balance I wanted for my life. Plus, I learned many other pros to becoming a PA over a MD/DO.

Here is Why I Decided to Become A Physician Assistant:

  1. Less Schooling– Honestly, this is surprising for me to say since I actually really enjoy learning and going to school. However, I do really want to have a family. While it’s definitely POSSIBLE to do in medical school, it makes things a lot more difficult. I talked to many female PA’s that said they did not regret their decision to become a PA at all. On the other hand, these PAs had physician friends that were wanting to start a family, but felt trapped due to the constraints of residency. I love that PA school is only 27 months, and does not have a required residency. I hope to start PA school by 24 or 25, which means graduating by 26 or 27. Being completely done with school by 26 or 27 is much better than if I went to medical school. If I went to medical school, I would just be starting my residency at 26 or 27.
  2. I can accomplish my goals in medicine whether I was a PA or doctor- This is the real kicker. If you can’t do what you want to do with medicine without becoming a doctor… then become a doctor! I am almost 100% certain I want to go into pediatrics. At the very least, I want to something on the clinical side of medicine, not surgery. As a PA, while you have a supervising physician, you still have a lot of autonomy in clinical practice. It depends on your physician, sure, but the majority of the time, PA’s handle their cases, and consult with the physician if it’s a more complicated case. What I want to achieve through my medical career is to want to help others, share my medical knowledge, diagnose and treat patients, and learn more and more about the human body throughout my career. I can do all of this through becoming a PA. If I wanted to go into surgery, I might have chosen to become a doctor because a surgical PA cannot perform surgery on their own. They are the doctor’s first assist.
  3. Time vs Money- This study about PA’s vs. doctors confirms a shocking conclusion. The results of the study concluded that for women, becoming a primary-care PA is more financially beneficial than becoming a primary-care doctor if you are going to work 40 hours or less a week. (This study factored in the time and money that it takes for PA school vs. med school.) So, I don’t see the reason to spend 6+ more years in training when there isn’t actually a financial benefit for me, unless I work more than 40 hours a week… which is something I don’t plan on doing the majority of my working years (see point 5).
  4. I realized I really wanted to be a doctor for the title, but not for the lifestyle– Dr. Kiersten DeCook just has a ring to it, ya know. 😉 Plus, with my maiden name, I would’ve been the first medical doctor in my family… But is it worth sacrificing so much time I could be with loved ones? Is it worth spending the majority of my 20’s sitting at a desk or doing scut work in the hospital? Is it worth the sacrifices that I would have to make becoming a doctor. Personally, it just didn’t seem worth it for me when I could still practice medicine while being a PA. At the end of my life, I’m going to care a lot more about what I experienced in life and who I spent it with- than a couple letters in front of my name.
  5. The Work/Life Balance– While I want to be able to have a successful career, I also want work-life balance. This balance seems much easier to obtain as a PA. This is especially true during the long and intense training process of becoming a doctor. Sure, some doctors do it all, and you can work part-time whether you are a doctor or PA! And, work-life balance also greatly depends on the specialty. But as a PA, I will be able to go to work and then go home without having to worry about the administrative side of medicine many doctors are faced with. And once again, the schooling process is vastly different… those doctors earn that Dr. title.
  6. Teamwork– While I don’t want someone bossing me around- I look forward to being a part of a healthcare team. I like that as a physician assistant, I can be mostly autonomous, but can still consult with my attending physician if there’s a complicated case I don’t understand. I like knowing that the hard decisions are not solely on my shoulders. But, I also plan to gain trust from my physician I work with so that I am as autonomous as possible.
  7. Lateral Mobility– So sure, right now I think I want to go into the clinical side of medicine. But maybe 15 years down the road, I want to go into surgery. I can do that! Without having to go back to school for years! That’s a super great benefit that is unique to becoming a physician assistant.

Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve gone wrong with either career choice. And I’m not writing this to bash on physicians AT ALL. If it weren’t for physicians, the physician assistant profession wouldn’t exist! Plus, Ryan wants to be a doctor and I support him 100% (I keep annoying him to try to get him to study right now actually… he’s playing video games instead :P) I just feel like becoming a physician assistant is the best choice for what I want out of life. I am super excited to become a PA… Now time to go work on my application again so I will hopefully be accepted!




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