In My Shadow

Photo Credit James Taylor

Throughout my career, I've encountered many prospective students and one common question has always been: “How do I know if the field is right for me?” I have always replied with one simple answer - you have to shadow a PA. The only way to know for sure is by seeing exactly what they do! What is the primary focus of doing this? You want to directly see what their day to day routine is like.

The longer a PA has been in practice they are likely to have more autonomy. If you are spending the day with a PA who has been in practice for 6 months versus 6 years, you may see the life of a PA to be very different. The role of practitioners can significantly vary by specialty. If you’re able to spend your time alongside a few providers seize the opportunity.

I’ll never forget PAs that took the time to introduce me to the profession.  Last year I was approached by Mollie, a prospective student who asked if she could observe me. I welcomed her enthusiasm and I was glad to introduce her to the role in an office setting. Throughout the months she was with me she became my mentee. I showed her everything from how to review a chart, to what a physical exam entails, as well as creating treatment plans. During challenging moments she witnessed me consult my supervising physician and learned to appreciate one of the most appealing facets of the profession: PAs always have support. Our time together was short lived however as a current PA student, we could very well work alongside each other one day.

If you're not sure where to begin or how to get in touch with a PA you may want to start your search at a hospital. Typically the volunteer department can guide you. If you cannot directly observe a PA, you should ask to be placed on a floor that utilizes PAs. I have met volunteers who began their time in the hospital this way and introduced themselves to PAs who they later went on to shadow.

Ultimately, the only way to truly know if something is right for you is by trying it out yourself – spend time with a PA. Most of us started off this way and are more than happy to be a part of your journey. Any questions about mentoring, please do not hesitate to ask! You can email me at