Alpha Chi Omega Message Board
PA vs MD vs DO
I am positive I want to go into the healthcare field but am not sure if I want to be an MD, DO, or PA. I would really like to hear some advice on the differences between the professions. Also, if anyone is in the Jacksonville, FL area and is one of these professions I would LOVE to meet up and talk and/or shadow!
I'm a second year medical student at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (MD program). (Sorry we can't really meet up but I'll leave my email address if you want to take the conversation off the board.)
I have several friends who have taken different paths within healthcare and what it comes down to is two things: what you actually want to be doing & how much of your life you are willing to commit to your career. Don't get me wrong, all the people who work in healthcare make a big commitment to their careers but you need to think about if you're prepared to work over 80 hours a week and spend more nights in the hospital than at home (MD/ DO) or if you want to have slightly more of an outside life (PA; who still work some long hours).
I'm sure you've looked this stuff up but PA is school is a 2 year program & then you'll start working. Keep in mind that this is a growing field that offers you a lot of opportunities to specialize BUT you will still technically be underneath the MD or DO.
Both MD's & DO's get called "doctor" but the programs are slightly different (for this reason, DO programs usually expect applicants to not only shadow a DO but have a letter of rec from a DO). When it comes to residencies you'll find that there are DO only programs, MD only programs, & programs that take either. If you do a DO program, you can take the MD boards & apply to MD residencies but it will be more competitive for you than applying to DO residencies. Traditionally DO's do more of the general or primary care positions and MD's do more subspecialties but this is not black & white and this has been changing slowly to be more mixed. You can do anything with either degree. (I can't really say if it's better to be at the bottom of your class in an MD program than to be at the top of your class in DO program or vice versa, that would be a question for a residency director.)
DO programs have the osteopathic/ manipulation stuff worked into their curriculum so it's a little more "touchy feely" and they are usually community based programs. Meaning that the school doesn't have it's own hospital but that you go to the local clinics & hospitals or even to other school's hospitals for your 3rd & 4th year clerkships. Some MD programs (like mine) are community based but less frequently require students to do rotations in other cities (it's almost always an option to do "away rotations" in your 4th year) but most MD programs have a attached hospital.
Also, you will find that it is less competitive to get into DO schools than MD schools so you may need to look at your application to decide if it's better to apply one way or the other or both. I know several people who applied to both with DO programs as their "safety" programs and I know several people who applied strictly to DO schools because they liked them better. (Keep in mind that they are separate application services.)
I think that no matter what you'll find your career rewarding but I have met PA's that go back to get an MD (there's one in my class) & I have on occasion wished that I just did a PA program because I would be graduating now (instead of having 2 more years).
With that in mind, all 3 of the programs are looking for applicants who are very dedicated & who know what they are getting themselves into. So if you haven't yet, you should shadow & volunteer in healthcare & if you can get involved in medically related research. Also, check out student-doctor network (online forum) that may help you decide.
I hope that helps a little, it's one of those decisions that requires some soul-searching & requires you to be completely honest with what you want out of life.
Consider watching Boston Med or Hopkins or NY Med (full episodes available on youtube) because it shows a lot of the sides of medicine.
If you have more questions or need a better explanation of something let me know by email (email@example.com).