PA Applicants Gain More Extensive Patient Care Experience at ACR Than CNA Work

To get into PA school and other professional healthcare programs, applicants need to have meaningful healthcare experience, with 31 PA programs recommending at least 1000 hours of healthcare experience.  What’s the best way to get that experience?  Sarah Abbott, ACR’s Director of Staff Development and Internships, interviewed 14 former ACR employees who have gone through the process of getting accepted into PA school, to get their advice. This is the second in a four-part series of tips for getting into PA programs. (If you missed part 1, check it out here!)

Many people ask if they need experience as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) to qualify for PA school or other healthcare programs. The answer Sarah got from PA-S and PA-C’s was a resounding NO.  In fact, ACR’s training for Direct Care Professionals goes above and beyond the requirements for CNA certification. In addition to more training, Direct Care Professionals (DCPs) at ACR typically have more opportunities for direct patient care experience than CNA certification allows. Several former ACR employees who got into PA school assured her there was no need to go through the expense and hassle of enrolling in a CNA licensure program–experience at ACR was all they needed.

Here are some insights from Sarah’s interviews.

Laura Richardson, PA-S2: Did not get CNA certification. She said, “I didn’t have the time or money to take a CNA course, and I got equivalent if not more involved healthcare experience as a DCP at ACR Homes.” (Read about Laura’s pre-PA Internship at ACR HERE)

Natalie Ikeman, PA-C: Did not get CNA certification. She said, “I ONLY listed ACR, and I was proud to do so. I didn’t need anything else to prepare. Looking back, it was THE perfect experience to prepare me.”

Olivia Schultz, PA-C: Did not get CNA certification. She said, “I feel that ACR helped me stand out [in the application and interview process] because I believe the job was more hands on than a traditional CNA job; being able to administer medications, perform ADLs, and develop relationships with the residents showed PA programs how well-balanced and trained I was to hand both the physical and emotional aspects of medicine.” (Read about Olivia’s pre-PA Internship at ACR HERE)

Mitch Tiedke- PA-S2: Did get CNA certification. He said, “My ACR experience was most useful to me in learning essential patient communication techniques and problem solving. Also, working as a float was an opportunity for me to work with a very diverse patient population and taught me to be a quick learner and adapt to new situations.” (Read more about Mitch’s ACR experience HERE)

Joy Adams, PA-C: Did not get CNA certification. She said, “I think my experience at ACR may have been the #1 reason I got into PA school. (side note, of the 30 students in my PA class [at Augsburg] 5 had worked for ACR.) I absolutely loved my time at ACR. In my interview, PA narrative, personal statement/essay, I shared how working for ACR lead me to want to pursue PA school.”

ACR Training versus CNA Certification

CNA certification (Certified Nursing Assistant certification) is not required to work at a company like ACR Homes. Once you are hired, ACR will train you in CPR, First Aid, passing medications, medical equipment, personal care, basic nutrition, behavior management, and many other important components of being a health care professional, beyond what is required for CNA certification. Not only can you skip the expense and hassle of enrolling in a CNA training course, but as a Direct Care Professional at a company like ACR, you’ll be paid for your training hours!

If you already have CNA certification, the direct care hours you work at a company like ACR can help you maintain that certification.

In addition to more training, Direct Care Professionals (DCPs) at ACR typically have a wider range of direct patient care experience than CNA certification allows. The chart below compares the training DCPs receive, versus an official CNA certification.

ACR Homes Direct Care Professional (DCP) VS Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Rest assured, there is no reason to leave the relationships you develop at ACR any earlier than necessary–healthcare experience, patient care experience, and even leadership experience categories can all be obtained through ACR–all while meeting incredible residents, gaining extensive hands-on experience passing medications and using medical equipment, and honing communication skills that will help you in PA school interviews…and for the rest of your life!