Should I become a phlebotomist as a path to PA school?
June 3, 2013 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm 27 and would like to become a physician's assistant (PA), but don't have any background in medicine, a prerequisite for nearly every PA program. Should I go through a phlebotomy program? Are there phlebotomy jobs out there? Would this be a good way to get working hours as a medical professional?

I'm 27. I got a bachelor's degree in international studies and then worked for 5 years in politics. I had to get out. I now work part-time in a non-politics job I am liking less by the minute. I'm not making enough money, nor do I feel like I'm growing or building toward something. I've decided I think I'd like to try out the medical field. I am planning to begin taking the prereqs for PA school this fall at my local university (which will take me at least three semesters to complete). In the meantime, I've got to figure out a way to get direct-patient hours.

Typically, PA schools require you to log at least 1,000-2,000 hours in direct-patient care. In other words, you really need to have worked as a healthcare provider for a year or so. I'm trying to figure out how to get my foot in the door. I considered EMT training, but found out you don't actually do a lot of direct-patient care, as far as logging hours is concerned, because you spend a lot of time waiting at the fire station for emergencies to happen. Also, it seems tough to get a job as an EMT.

Sparked by a conversation with a friend who works at a hospital, I started contemplating phlebotomy school. Is phlebotomy a good path to PA school? Are there jobs in the phlebotomy world? It seems like schools (nonprofit and for-profit alike) are churning out a lot of phlebotomists. I don't want to invest my time and efforts if I won't be able to find employment after I get my certificate.

So, my questions are: Is phlebotomy a good way to get hours for PA school? Are there other routes a person with my age and background could go to becoming a medical professional? Any other advice or thoughts on phlebotomy, PA school or jobs in the medical field in general would be great too.
posted by anonymous to Education (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
As a biology professor, I advise a lot of students who are considering PA school. Phlebotomy and EMT are two of the routes that we recommend to students, but you're right that accumulating your hours would be slower as an EMT. Another common recommendation for them is to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. There are lots of jobs along these lines at not just hospitals but especially nursing homes. You won't make a ton of money, obviously, at any of these jobs but you will definitely get your clinical hours.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:04 PM on June 3, 2013

I just realized that link is a front for for-profit schools. I apologize. The information there all appears correct, but look to your local community or technical college (conveniently NOT linked by their webpage) for inexpensive training.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would lean toward phlebotomy over EMT for the reason you mentioned. I have a friend who is a new EMT and we spend a lot of time gchatting while she waits to rack up those patient care hours (like, a lot -- I work a desk job and you'd think she did too based on how often I see her online).
posted by telegraph at 3:15 PM on June 3, 2013

My friend just got into her first choice PA program. She became a CNA over phelbotimist after shadowing both for a day each. She recommends a CNA program.
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:24 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look for actual hiring phlebotomy jobs in your area. I considered it but the rare jobs in my area required 1 year of experience. You can possibly get volunteer experience but the whole thing seems like a pain.

Can these hours be volunteer?
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2013

I used to work at a blood bank (doing marketing, not in donor services). We obviously had a lot of phlebotomists and were always hiring. It's definitely an entry into working with "patients." You have to do a mini-phyiscal (temp, BP, HR), do a finger prick for the hemoglobin, then obviously draw out a pint of blood. Occasionally a patient has a "reaction" (fainting, nausea, vomiting, etc) and you have to manage that pretty swiftly.

We actually didn't require any training or medical background - even if you had a phlebotomy certification you still had to go through our 12-week OTJ training. Technically we "preferred" a year or so of medical experience but it wasn't required (and having a college degree would probably more than make up for that). It was considered a "good" job for someone with no experience (paid better than minimum wage), but it the wages were certainly crappy to my standards, even for a non-profit.
posted by radioamy at 4:45 PM on June 3, 2013

A very good friend of mine is a nurse and before she was a nurse her job was with the Community Blood Centers. She started as a phlebotomist and drove the blood bus.

She still says they trained her to be a phlebotomist, so she didn't have to pay for classes, adn that working with them was the best job she ever had.

Consider calling up your local blood bank and finding out if they're hiring!
posted by bilabial at 5:50 PM on June 3, 2013

I know two people in PA school. One worked for years at Planned Parenthood doing general patient care - blood draws, assisting with procedures. The other did the same work in a volunteer capacity, largely around impoverished HIV positive patients or in places like Haiti. Neither is a phlebotomist, CNA or EMT. Honestly, finding some volunteer work seems like the best way to determine whether you even like working with patients. It's definitely interesting work, but frequent interaction with sick people and their bodies can take some getting used to.
posted by linettasky at 8:30 PM on June 3, 2013

You're right about EMS as bring a slow way to rack up hours. However, emergency rooms will often hire EMTs as techs. This will get you the hours you need. I personally think this will give you more of the skills you could use as a PA, though it probably doesn't pay as much as phlebotomy. Good luck!
posted by brevator at 5:06 AM on June 4, 2013

« Older Idiot-proof burning a live CD from an ISO image...   |   There Must Be a Reason They Sit on Those Little... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.