Friday, December 12, 2014

I Have a Job!

I can’t believe I’ve made it to this point - PA school is actually wrapping up. We’ve taken our last exam and only have a couple of days left at our clinical rotation sites.  This time next Friday I will have already walked across the stage and received my diploma! The only thing left to tackle is the ASCP Board of Certification Exam. I’m terrified, to say the least, but I’ve signed up to take my exam at the end of January. Unfortunately I’ll be hitting the books hard until then.

So without further ado, I think it’s time to share that I HAVE A JOB!  Starting in January I’ll be working at a hospital outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The department has three pathologists and I will be the first pathologists’ assistant they’ve had. I will work 100% in the gross room and will not be doing any autopsies, as they are sent to another location. The lab receives around 9,000 surgical cases annually and does a decent amount of intraoperative consultations.  I loved that the lab receives a variety of specimens including Whipples, mastectomies, and quite a few penectomy cases (a rare specimen, typically).  It was important to me that I’d be in an environment that would continue to challenge me and expand my pathology knowledge.

The lab is also a clinical rotation site for PA students attending the University of Maryland. This past year increased my confidence, knowledge, and skills exponentially because of the mentors I had at my clinical rotation sites. I’m excited (and a tad nervous) to be able to have a role in educating future PAs, ensuring that they have a clinical experience similar to mine.  


Accepting a position in a lab with a wide variety of specimens and teaching opportunities was at the top of my priorities. An added bonus was that the job was in my desired location, only 45 minutes from home! After so many years of schooling, I can’t wait to finally start my career in a field that I love!

18 comments:

  1. Okay, I've tried to post this comment maybe 3 times...thanks for nothing blogger.... ;)

    Anyway, I was the one who posted the anonymous question about your job hunt in the last post, so I'm extremely pleased to hear that you found something close to home!

    I've been reading through your blog for a while now. I'm currently working and trying to pay back some of the debt incurred during undergrad while coming up with ways to make myself a more desirable grad school candidate...I'm very jealous that you've already graduated and have started your dream job.

    Can I ask what the classes themselves were like during your schooling? Obv there was lecture, but was there group work, independent research, presentations, etc? I'm just very curious about the whole thing, and Google will only give me so much information ;)

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  2. Hi Margie!

    Glad the comment went through! And thank you for posting the anonymous question earlier; it got my butt in gear to actually finish this post!

    Our program is broken up into the first year, which is completely didactic, and the second year, which is full-time clinical work in labs.

    The first year the classes were very strenuous and we had full course loads each semester. I'd say a majority of the classes were lecture based. Occasionally, we would have hands on demonstrations where we would gross clay organs. And for our microanatomy classes we would as have lecture at a 17 head microscope so that we could all see each slide simultaneously. As far as group work goes, for anatomy lab we worked in groups to dissect the cadaver, but I believe that was about as much group work that we did the whole year. Also I should add that our bigger, more generic, classes (ex- Physiology, Microbiology, General Pathology) were taken with dental students. But the classes tailored to Pathologists’ Assistants (ex – Anatomical Techniques, Surgical Pathology, Microanatomy, Anatomy) were more intimate learning environments with just the PA class (16 people).

    The second year we are enrolled in a class to help us prepare for the board certification exam. For this class we’re given reading assignments each month and are responsible for learning/reviewing the material. We have monthly exams to test how well we’ve been studying.

    A few of my classmates did independent research during the second year and gave presentations at the regional and national PA conferences. However, all of us were required to give three 30-minute presentations in front of our classmates and professors, throughout the course of the 2 years. These presentations were on assigned disease processes or organ systems. We would talk a little about the normal anatomy, the common pathologies seen, and then how you would proceed if you were to receive that specimen on your gross bench.

    Hope this helped! I'm happy to hear you found my blog and I would love to answer any more questions you may have!

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  3. Again it eats my comment....must change name first I suppose.

    And that answer was fantastic! Exactly what I was looking for. As for other questions....I've got tons but I'll let you bask in the awesomeness of being (mostly) finished for the time being. I remember when I took my lab boards. I mAde the mistake of giving myself two months to move and get settled at my new job (which was just OUTSIDE the realms of what I needed to be studying). I was a wreck the whole two months and I was SURE I was going to forget some crucial piece of info that would tie all the information together.

    Apparently in those days, I was quite the worrier ;). Anyway, good luck on your boards and have a merry Christmas! Do you think you'll be posting still once you finish with the test and you start working?

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    1. It's quite easy to worry about those things; it feels like so much pressure! I hope to keep posting; I have a few posts I've been meaning to write, but haven't gotten around to yet! Definitely stay tuned!

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  4. I am currently enrolled in a PA program, but I was wondering how the job market looks. Obviously there are a good amount of PAs graduating each year- I was just curious as to how the job availability was holding up. Good luck and I wish the best for you!!

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    1. The job market is still pretty good! It is harder in the areas surrounding the PA programs to find a job, but it is still doable. My best advice is to be open to a variety of places and get your CV out to as many labs/hospitals as possible!

      Although, I should mention that WVU graduates in the off-season (December) so we are mainly competing with our 15 other classmates and any PAs who are looking to relocate. I'm not too sure if the programs graduating in May-July have a harder time with the job market!

      Good luck job hunting! Let me know if you have any other questions!

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  5. That is awesome to hear, as I have followed your progress on here for a while now. Congratulations!! and welcome back to the Baltimore area :)

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    1. Thank you! Glad to hear that you've kept up with my blog! Are you still interested in PA programs?

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  6. Hi! I have a question for you! I'm a little confused about the ASCP in regards to Medical Laboratory Science and pathology assistant. Both programs take the same cert, so can a Medical Laboratory Scientist essentially get a path assist. Job? How does that work exactly? Please let me know if you have any info on this or resources for me to look at about it! Medical Laboratory Science is my 2nd major and doing another 2 years for the PA seems like a lot!

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    1. Hi J Kap! I'll do my best to clear this up. I don't know too much about Medical Laboratory Scientists, but I do know that MLS and PA do not take the same certification exam. The ASCP board of certification has many exams for multiple fields (blood banking, physical therapy, cytotechnology, etc.). Each exam has different questions tailored to your specific field of study. When you pass the exam for your specific field you become ASCP certified in just that one field. So when you pass the MLS boards your credentials would say "J Kap, MLS (ASCP)". Since I sat for the PA boards my credentials are "Nikki Scrubs, MHS, PA (ASCP).

      In order to sit for a specific exam you must fulfill specific requirements. For example, to become ASCP certified as a Pathologists' Assistant you must have a degree from a NAACLS accredited Pathologists' Assistant program. You can check out the list of exams the ASCP offers and the requirements for each here: http://www.ascp.org/Board-of-Certification/GetCertified#tabs-1

      In my PA class there were quite a few students with Bachelors degrees in MLS. So it is however a helpful degree and background to have when applying for PA programs!

      Hope that helped!

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    2. That does help, thank you! I do know of some people being able to be PAs with just the MLS

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    3. * but I haven't been able to figure out how that works!

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    4. You know, the PA at the hospital I work at started out as a histotech, and was grandfathered in as a PA. She was able to take the ASCP exam before the closed the window to anyone without a masters. Maybe they did it that way?

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  7. Hi Nikki,

    I'm aiming to take my ASCP cert exam in May (latest June) and am super nervous! May I ask how the exam was for you and what you did to prepare and for how long in advance? Did you purchase the AAPA study course and was that enough or did you use additional resources (Robbins, BRS, etc)? I've asked multiple PAs and just trying to get a general consensus. Thanks!

    -Josephine

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    1. Hi Josephine!
      I'll say the ASCP exam was the hardest exam I've ever taken in my life. That being said, if you're studying, you can definitely pass. WVU's program was set up so that we would be doing board prep the entire second year. So we had monthly exams based on the reading list published by ASCP, which was a great way for me to stay on track with my studying. I graduated in December and took the exam at the end of January; so in total around 13 months prep, but this was in addition to working at clinical sites for 40 hours a week (aka not full time studying). I did purchase the AAPA study course and thought that it was helpful just to get a better feel for the topics/questions. I'd suggest using the self quizzes to help guide your studying. For each question I would look up every answer in the textbook and read around those sections. I saw the AAPA just released the 2015 study course (not sure how different it will be). I studied heavily from Robbins; which I'd say is probably the most necessary and helpful study tool. I read BRS once and would sometimes use it as a quick reference because I liked the condensed format. For the most part the surgical pathology questions will come easy to you just from experience grossing, but I'd definitely recommend Lester's Manual of Surgical Pathology and Surgical Pathology Dissection by Westra & Hruban. I also reviewed normal histology slides for every organ and thought that was helpful! Hope this helps you in your studying! I was super nervous too! Let me know if you have any more questions!

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    2. Hi Nikki, You're awesome, I really appreciate the response! It's reassuring to know I'm on the right track in my studying :) -Josephine

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  8. Hi,

    I'm interested in Pathology Assistant, and I'm taking an extra year to take some extra classes, such as anatomy, as well as retake a few classes to boost my GPA. I am in the process of making my fall schedule and I am unsure which prerequisites to retake. I am looking at retaking organic chemistry, however, I am unsure how beneficial it would be. If you have any information or suggestions, it would be much appreciated. I have asked faculty and advisors at my university and they do not know anything about pathology assistant! Since you are well on your way and have a new job I figured you might be able to help me out!

    Thanks!

    Cydney

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