Tips on Finding a Good Elective Rotation

One thing that I have learned from being involved in so many PA and PA student activities is that all PA programs are very different. They all need to meet ARC-PA standards, but the ways in which they meet them varies. For example, some schools have elective rotations, some don't. Some help you set them up, some don't. I have had a few people email me and ask me how to go about setting up their electives, but each program varies so much it is difficult advice to give. Below are some general tips to consider when trying to set up your elective. These tips are helpful only if you know what you want your elective to be - if not, see one of my earlier posts (Choosing an Elective Rotation) to help narrow it down.
  1. Check with your program director. Most program directors have been around the PA profession for a while and have made a multitude of contacts over that time. Much of this is about who you know.
  2. Network, network, network. Attend any and all PA events that you can make it to and don't be a wallflower! Reach out and say hi to people. If you make a connections, get their contact info and follow up.
  3. Join the PA organization for whatever field you are interested in pursuing. You can find most on Facebook or with a good Google search. Some of these organizations are better/more organized than others, but make the effort to reach out to them. They may have a list of mentors that are willing to take students. The cardiovascular PA group is fantastically organized and has offered free student membership in the past.
  4. Check with your state chapter. They may have a mentor program for student members as well.
  5. Contact the department directly. I only suggest this if it OK'd by your school. Some schools do not allow students to directly contact potential sites so... ASK FIRST.
  6. Do your homework on the institution. It is important that you know what type of rotation you are signing up for since your elective is likely something you may seek employment in in the future. Big, teaching hospitals are great because you see a high volume of patients and often see rare/unusual cases, which can be super exciting! The downside is that these large institutions generally have residents and medical students that are fighting for these cool cases as well. These means that you may not get as much hands-on time as you would like - especially in the OR. If you want lots of hands-on experience, you may want to look at a mid-size or small hospital. The down side to this is usually a smaller patient load with more "bread and butter" cases - but you will likely get to participate more and have more responsibility. These are not the exact scenario at every hospital, but are things you consider and ask about before committing your one elective to it.
In the end, hopefully you are successful in getting the elective of your dreams. If not, learn as much as you can from whatever elective you end up in and don't be discouraged. If you weren't able to find a "Trauma" rotation, that doesn't mean that you will never work in trauma. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Pic: http://www.whatsnextblog.com/2008/09/whats_the_best_advice_you_ever_got/


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