Nursing versus PA route due to set-backs

  1. Recently, I made a decision to switch my goals from a physician to a physician assistant; and am now considering changing to nursing. I've failed upper division organic once and dropped it two times. I can't seem to be able to grasp the material enough and can't finish the tests in under 40 minutes. I've thought about applying for DSS for test anxiety but wondering what's the best route to take in general. I also am in upper division anatomy and probably going to just pass. Would it be wise to just go for nursing and finish all prerequisites literally in 2 quarters and apply for nursing school connected w/ my college? I would also consider academic forgiveness to remove the failed organic and physics class as well. Otherwise, it could take me almost 1-2 years just to get my B.S in biology due to not passing organic and more then likely a not so great GPA. The teacher in my school gives us 40 minutes or less in biology major organic classes for tests and it would probably take me 1-1/2 due to anxiety and making sure I'm accessing the question correctly.

    Winter and Spring quarter this year as of now won't benefit my PA- path that much. Only teacher teaching organic is a tough grader, intense, and made me look extremely stupid in front of class when I asked a question. Basically, that would be a waste of my time and I could use those quarters to finish all pre-reqs for nursing. I know the health organic/ nursing is a lot easier in comparison to pre-med level. If I did nursing I could always pursue NP degree in future once I've matured and gained actual experience.



    Please let me know if you have any advice or suggestions in this matter?
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   Guy in Babyland
    I am not sure of the competitiveness of the nursing school that you intend to apply to, but most programs are highly competitive which means a high GPA in order to get accepted.
  4. by   verene
    Do you actually want to be a RN or do you just see it as an easier path? You've been very focused on being a physician and then being a PA both of which are medical model based professions. Would you actually be happy being an RN, and not being in the provider role for several years?

    Secondly, depending on where you live and what RN programs you apply to the process can be just as competitive as PA schools. (Albeit with slightly different pre-reqs, and program of study), so it may not be the "easy in" to the healthcare world you are looking for.

    It may be to your benefit to get professional assistance around your test anxiety as that seems to be the root cause of your academic issues, and something you will need to confront no matter which profession you ultimately decide to pursue.
  5. by   whitescrubsaremyfave
    I was also a pre-PA student that switched to nursing, although my situation was different. I worked in an ICU in a downtown hospital and once I didn't get in the first time applying to PA school, I took it as a sign to pursue nursing. I'm in my first semester now and am doing great, but it is just as much effort as pre-PA classes were, so don't do it if you're not prepared to do the work, because I thought the same thing you are probably thinking, that it's easier, and it's not, just different and challenging in other ways. However I will say I focus and study a lot better because the information is a lot more interesting-it has a lot more to do with the human body then organize chemistry does at least. I also find it crazy that the others who replied think nursing school competitiveness is the same as PA, unless they can speak from first-hand experience, because I can promise you they absolutely are not, regardless of school, regardless of region. PA is overly saturated with outstanding applicants, and plus you are expected to gather healthcare experience while taking your coursework. I feel I have a valid opinion on this because I had almost a 4.0 in both overall GPA and science, had 3,000 patient care hours, two undergraduate research projects, a number of graduate level classes, was in the honors program at school, etc. And I still did not get in. I got into every nursing school I applied to last summer. Competitiveness is not the same between the two. And that's okay, because that doesn't mean one is harder then the other, just have different obstacles.

    I would say do some shadowing-go to a few different hospitals, a few different nursing jobs, before you make your decision. I wish I would have done that instead of writing nursing off as something that I now know it is not. There is autonomy in nursing, but it is definitely not the same as being a provider. However, that doesn't mean it won't satisfy you as a career. It can also set you up with a solid medical knowledge that you can expand on later in life if you wish.

    Additionally, it is nice because the flexibility with lateral mobility in the field is much more then that of other healthcare professions. You can go back for your MSN and get involved in education and leadership, both of which are rewarding and pay well. Or do NP-I am not sure what the other commenter means by several years. Now a days, NP schools sometimes don't even require a year of experience as an RN, it just depends. I am not saying they aren't competitive, just different! And that is good. Ultimately I am happy with my decision. But I also had a lot of exposure to nursing prior to making that decision.

    Poke around on this website, see what you can find about nursing and different specialties, then do some shadowing like I said. You don't want to start nursing and have to quit, because unlike regular college coursework, nursing classes do not transfer. And if you do poorly they can really hurt your GPA-one of my classes is 7 credits right now.
  6. by   Dustin20
    Thank you so much for that input. To me, I find myself so fascinated with human body and things like hematology and microbiology. I found I'm not a fan of classes relating to several species such as compare anatomy and really no interest in upper division chemistry. I wouldn't mind being a nurse practitioner in the future but feel I need hands on experience and stuff relating to the human body primarily to really motivate myself as well. I also have my CNA license and phlebotomy and really enjoyed doing that as well. That's kinda why I'm thinking nursing may put me in a direction that makes me feel successful and important which will motivate me to pursue things like nurse practitioner.
  7. by   Dustin20
    Literally the last 2 quarters being winter and spring no classes offered will benefit my pa-path. I could literally knock out all nursing pre-requisites. My dad has a master's in nursing so genetically and environmentally not really surprising we would have some intellectual similarities. I think RN would give me experience and mature me for the medical field. I'm really only interested in stuff relating to humans and things outside of that I just don't have much of an interest. Like I hated comparative anatomy and could care less about variation across species and all that. My grandma is also a high up RN and has connections which could helps me getting in a nursing school worse come to worst if they don't have any openings in my area. Nursing school would take me same time as trying to get my B.S. in biology due to setbacks. They only offer certain classes per quarter and in sequence. That's why I'm like nursing may be the best and an nurse practitioner in the future would be more to my liking then PA since they don't need doctor approval for everything.
    Last edit by Dustin20 on Nov 13 : Reason: Autocorrect
  8. by   S7ud3n7_Nur53
    I was also considering PA school, but quickly decided nursing was a better route for me after shadowing both PAs and NPs.

    Shadowing a PA intimidated the hell out of me. She knew EVERYTHING and was very autonomous from the doctor. There was also a NP working in the exact same position she did. She was equally knowledgable, smart, and autonomous from the doctor. However, the NPs route to advanced practice was very different.

    I don't have much of a medical background and I can't imagine being ready to be a PA after a 2-3 year program. Also their schooling seems more intense since it's all packed together so quickly. I decided that if I wanted to enter into an advanced practice role, I would like some time to work in the field. And nursing is perfect for that! That way I will have time to discover if I am cut out for advanced practice and also gain confidence when it comes to caring for patients. And if I'm not cut out for it, I can still have an awesome nursing career.

    However I agree with some of the previous posters, nursing programs in my area are also pretty competitive. I had good test scores and decent grades and did not get accepted to all the schools I applied to. If your main concern is your GPA, I think some community college ADN programs are less competitive when it comes to GPA. Then maybe an ADN-RN bridge route might be a better option.
  9. by   ladyfrofro
    Quote from S7ud3n7_Nur53
    However I agree with some of the previous posters, nursing programs in my area are also pretty competitive. I had good test scores and decent grades and did not get accepted to all the schools I applied to. If your main concern is your GPA, I think some community college ADN programs are less competitive when it comes to GPA. Then maybe an ADN-RN bridge route might be a better option.
    It's not that ADN programs are less competetive. The prereqs aren't as extensive as the BSN meaning they focus more on just A&P, Microbiology, and sometimes chemistry.
  10. by   FuturePsychNP21
    Ok so your organic chemistry class might be easier but nursing school is NOT easier than a PA route (or med school). Sorry to burst your bubble. Don't go into nursing just because you think it's an easy way out, there are a ton of people on waitlists who actually want to be nurses/know how hard nursing school is going to be.
  11. by   whitescrubsaremyfave
    It sounds like nursing would be a good fit for you! Just don't think that nursing is a stepping stone, because it is very challenging, just different then the challenges you're used to. The content (at least so far for me) is not complex, but there is a lot of it, and they expect you to know the information perfectly. And the exams are difficult in that you cannot miss a lot of points, for my health assessment class if you miss 3 questions that's already a B, and you must have a 78% to pass, so that's pretty high. There are also no curves, which I know when I was a pre-PA student I could always bank on that. My motto was it doesn't matter what I score, as long as I score better then everyone else. Nursing school isn't like that, they don't care if no one gets higher then an 80%. Your grade is your grade. It could just be my school, I'm not sure. But my point is it presents with other challenges. If you fail lab test outs, even for the smallest little thing, you have to come back on your own time to take it, and if you fail 3x, you fail the class, meaning you fail the other nursing class, meaning you fail the semester. Add that to 12 hours of clinical every week, plus any hours you may pull working. So it's not easy!

    Also regarding your comment on NPs, that is not necessarily true, it ultimately depends on each state and their legislation on what PAs and NPs can do, respectively, as well as any specific facility policies that may apply. I know states that NPs don't need docs to sign off on their charts, but I also know that certain places within the state require it anyway to avoid lawsuits. So it truly depends. Neither is easier then the other or more autonomous then the other. It just depends what you are interested in. I also think a lot of the autonomy portion, outside of the legislation, depends on the physicians you work with as well as how you are as an individual. That is why shadowing is so important!
  12. by   whitescrubsaremyfave
    It seems to be a regional thing. I know some ADN programs in my area are more competitive then the BSN programs. It appears to just depend.
  13. by   whitescrubsaremyfave
    It sounds like the PA you shadowed was quite autonomous. I truly believe this has more to do with who the supervising physician is, and the individual's level of expertise, moreso then PA vs. NP, outside of legal restrictions.

    Nursing is definitely the more versatile of the two because you are correct in that PA schools are mostly two years, full time, 8-5 classroom setting. Distance learning options are not very common as they are with NP. You can also pursue different routes-administration, education, informatics, etc, although these fields appear to be available to PAs as well, the educational model for PAs is essentially all the same-they all go through the 8-5 classroom thing for two years after a bachelor's degree. It is also a little scary having a BS degree (no pun intended) that is not a BSN when applying to professional schools (PA, med school, PT/OT, etc) because there is no guarantee you'll get in, even if you're a top 10% type of applicant (not saying I was). Nursing is "safer" in that way in that as long as you can pass your program and the NCLEX, you will be employable, and you can opt to continue pursuing a higher education if you would like to, when you are ready, like you said.

    Don't get me wrong, I also agree nursing schools can be pretty competitive! I just do not feel this is comparable to how competitive PA school is, if for no other reason then it seems like pretty much everyone wants to do, and grades alone, even perfect grades, will not cut it for most PA schools. If you have perfect pre req grades the chances of you being rejected from nursing school are slim to none, unless the school is notoriously exceptionally difficult to get into. For PA it is a completely different applicant pool, and good grades are just the beginning. But, I believe the failure rate out of PA school is much lower then that of nursing school. So it seems like PA schools do their weeding out during the application process moreso then in the programs, and nursing schools maybe have less stringent admission criteria but a lot of people fail out. So in the end I think they are even in that way.

    Dustin20, you may want to consider finishing your degree along with doing pre-reqs and looking into accelerated tracks. I know ABSN programs can be pretty competitive, but it will expand your options in that you can apply to traditional ADN/BSN programs as well as accelerated ADN/BSN programs. Additionally, these programs can sometimes be shorter in length. My accelerated ADN takes a total of 15 months, which is great news for me, who is eager to start in the workforce!
  14. by   Froggybelly
    My local PA program has around a 5% matriculation rate, so I would imagine they have extremely competitive grades to get in. My associate level nursing program had a 23% acceptance rate, but they waitlisted or denied students with a 3.9 gpa in the sciences. I don't think nursing is the easy way out for people who have difficulty with science or testing. Most nursing school grades hinge on NCLEX-style timed tests and even after school and the real NCLEX, there's a career full of certification and competency exams to look forward to. Healthcare will involve a lot of testing, regardless of the route you take.

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