Ahhh rotations. As a prePA, I would hear about rotations a lot, but in reality had no idea about the logistics of it. How did it all work? Did you choose clinical sites? Preceptors? Housing? What about job offers while on rotations?
Before reading, keep in mind that each school’s rotation experience will differ. The majority of schools will have didactic followed by rotations. But, I’ve also heard of schools that have combined didactic and rotations.
My experience: My program was roughly 3 years, which meant didactic was about 1.5 year and rotations were about 1.5 years. I had 4 primary care rotations (IM, family medicine, peds) 1 Emergency Medicine, 1 Surgical, 2 electives, and 1 public health rotation. Each was 6-weeks long. Two rotations were followed by a trip to campus (Northern California) for two end of rotation exams and a week long of board review preparations.
Here are some of your FAQs answered:
If you see an asterisk* next to a question, its a reminder that this may vary greatly based on school
Do you pay for rotations?
Nothing in life is free…especially not PA school. Ha! Rotations are basically your courses, so you’re paying tuition while on rotations—even if you’re nowhere near campus. As you’ve probably gathered, PA school is not cheap. So, if you’re choosing a rotation because it is a “chill schedule” or you get a lot of days off, keep in mind that your “days off” are probably one of the most expensive ones you’ll ever take. For me, getting a ton of experience and seeing patients trumped being able to take mini vacations while on rotations. Choose wisely!
Did you choose clinical sites/preceptors?*
Most schools already have clinical sites/preceptors that have been used for years. My school did give us the option of setting up some of our own & many students did. I attempted to set up my own, but in the end was unable to due to hospital credentialing/liability for students. I ended up having amazing preceptors and clinical sites, so it all worked out.
Are rotations near campus or in other locations?*
My school was located in Northern California but had rotation sites available all throughout California and throughout various states (e.g Nevada, New York, Oregon, Colorado). Since our rotations were 6 weeks, they tried their best to keep students in one specific area for 2 rotations. Key word: tried! It didn’t always work out this way.
Did your school provide housing? If not,how did you find housing?*
Our school did not provide specific housing. But, since most clinical sites have been used throughout the years, some sort of housing contact or housing situation had already been figured out. The upperclassmen were such a great source of information. I also relied on help from family, friends, and classmates. I stayed at my in-laws, on my sister’s couch, with classmates’ family members. It was truly an experience in building community & being open to new adventures. If I had exhausted all my contacts and was still unable to find housing, I used Airbnb. This happened once or twice and worked out quite well.
I’m a prePA, how do I find out more about a specific school’s rotation schedule? Your best bet is to search online or ask. Lots of schools have this information listed. While interviewing for a school, ask current students and faculty about the program’s rotations. Whether you will have local rotations or be required to travel should never be a surprise to you once you’ve selected your school! You should know about this as it may also change your finances—(e.g. may need to take more or less loans out).
To answer the last question & give you another perspective, I’ve teamed up with Joel Ciolek. Below you'll find his responses
Joel is an Ophthalmology PA-C, professor, and mentor.
As an Ophtho PA, he’s one of only 74 practicing PAs in this specialty! Wow, talk about being unique. Be sure to check out his IG page: @pa.joelciolek as he shares more about his field & expertise
Overview of Clinical Year:
During your clinical year of PA school, you complete rotations in Family Medicine, Inpatient Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, General Surgery, and then two elective rotations. Each rotation typically ranges from 4-8 weeks and you have to take an End of Rotation exam upon completion of the rotation. But, clinical year is more than just clinical medicine; it’s also a year of networking and serving your community - patients, preceptors, and supporting staff. Simply put, clinical year is job interview year.
What are the benefits of doing your PA-S clinical rotations in the area you want to live/practice in as a newly graduated PA-C?
I did majority of my rotations within the same community, and fortunately this community was in an area that I wanted to live in/practice in after school. I spent months, hours, and long days in this medical community. I took care of patients in outpatient clinics only to then take care of the same patients in the emergency room, operating room, and inpatient floor. Patients get to know you. Physicians, PAs, and NPs get to know you. Nurses get to know you. Surgical techs get to know you. The hospital gets to know you. And you get to know them.
I had seven job offers at the completion of PA school. All offers were in the area I wanted to live in after school, places I wanted to work because I already knew the culture by being there as a student, I already knew the EMR, and I could continue to serve in the medical community that entrusted me when I was a student. This is when I realized PA school is all about clinical year.
Personally, I can’t imagine investing all of your time, energy, sacrifice, and network in an area where you are going to transplant from once clinical year is over. In many ways, you’ll be starting over again. Of note, this isn’t always an option for students, but if it is, take it into consideration. It made my transition from a PA-S to a newly graduated PA-C much easier