PA Schooling & Admissions Insights from 3 Manitoba PA students

Manitoba MPAS

Welcome to Part 1 of 2 in our series covering PAs in Manitoba! Stayed tuned for our post next for an inside look at PA school in 1st and 2nd year!

Meet our 3 Manitoba PA Students!

Three PA students from University of Manitoba who kindly agreed to answer a few questions on what its like to be a Manitoba PA student!

Tammy, 2nd year Manitoba PA student

Tammy, 2nd year Manitoba PA student

Tammy, 2nd year Manitoba PA student: I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and moved to Winnipeg for the MPAS program. At the University of Ottawa, I obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences (CO-OP) and then a MSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. I enjoy trying new things especially with different foods and activities. Lately I’ve been into heel dancing, breakdancing, krumping, pole dancing and Crossfit. I’m also an adrenaline junkie – my current obsession is white water rafting. Connect with Tammy

Vishnu, 2nd year Manitoba PA student

Vishnu, 2nd year Manitoba PA student

Vishnu, 2nd year Manitoba PA Student: Born and raised here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Attended the UofM where I obtained a BSc in molecular and developmental cell biology, as well as a Bachelor of Nursing (RNBN). I spend a lot of my free time spending time outdoors and playing sports with my friends. I mainly enjoy golf, curling, badminton, soccer, football, and hockey. I also enjoy hiking – there really isn’t anything better than working up a sweat and experiencing nature’s beauty! Connect with Vishnu.

Payton, Manitoba PA Graduate

Payton, Manitoba PA Graduate

Payton, recent Manitoba PA graduate:  I grew up in a rural community just outside of Brandon, Manitoba. I attended elementary/high school in Forrest, Manitoba – a town that is a blip on the highway with only a church and the local school. I continued my studies at Brandon University (BU) where I obtained a Bachelor of Science with a major in biomedical biology and a minor in chemistry and psychology. Following graduation from BU I moved to Winnipeg to start my PA journey. I recently completed the PA program and will be starting as an Emergency Medicine PA in a rural community. My friends often compare me to Monica Geller from the show Friends as I am VERY competitive and am likely a little bit obsessive-compulsive. I love nothing more than a game night or an afternoon spent on the golf course. Connect with Payton.

How did each of you learn about the PA Profession in Canada?

Payton:I have always had an interest in the healthcare field; however, I was always unsure on what area I would be best suited. In an attempt to narrow down my interests, I spent time job shadowing various departments at the local hospital.

It was at this time that I had my first encounter with a physician assistant.

He was actively engaged in patient care, yet performed a variety of different tasks and was not confined to one area of medicine as compared to other medical professions.

After just one day of shadowing I knew that I wanted to be a PA!

Vishnu: My first exposure to the PA profession happened on my neurosurgery rotation in my third year of nursing. At the time I was leaning towards completing my RN degree and becoming an NP.

The PAs on the ward were very well integrated into the neurosurgery team, truly functioning as an extension of physician services.

They were incredibly knowledgeable, approachable, very well respected, and were vital in the management of post operative patients.

Needless to say, by the end of my rotations I had my sights set on the PA profession!

Manitoba MPAS Program

Choosing to Study in Manitoba for the PA Program

Vishnu: Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba – home to mosquito and construction season! Studying in Manitoba meant the ability to be around lifelong friends and family which are very important to me.

The ability to obtain a Master’s degree and work in a province where PAs are regulated were also large deciding factors to stay in Manitoba.

Tammy: I’m originally from Ottawa, Ontario.

For me, the move to Manitoba was worth it because I preferred the PA graduate degree and I wanted to gain experience in a political environment where PAs are regulated.

I believe this kind of environment is useful to my learning because there is more consistency in the scope of practice when I shadow PAs in the first year and when I work rotations in my clinical year. As well, I get to learn about Manitoba’s structure for PA regulation and carry that knowledge with me if I wish to work in a different province upon graduation.

Manitoba is a Master’s Program

Tammy: Since Manitoba’s MPAS program is at the Master’s level, it requires a minimum of a four-year bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) as a prerequisite.

In order to graduate, students must complete a Capstone project including a proposal, a final written report and finally a slideshow presentation in June of their second year.

Manitoba PA Program Class Sizes

Vishnu:  Our class size is fairly small at 14 members. Compared to my previous degrees I didn’t have many classes with sizes this small, but I think it has been advantageous to work with a small group.  

Our class bonded well together since the beginning of the year which has helped us support one another in all our classes. We all have different strengths as we all have come from different backgrounds, and we’ve all been willing to help one another learn the material together.  

Manitoba PA Class of 2019

Manitoba PA Class of 2019

Payton: Our class has 15 members and prior to my year the class size was only 12! Growing up rurally I have always had small classes, so this was what I was accustomed to. You spend so much time with your classmates, so you really get to know one another quickly!

In addition, each person has a unique background and thus brings their own set of strengths to the class. For example, a large portion of our class was struggling on a concept in neurophysiology.

Luckily, one of my classmates had a Masters in Neuroscience, so after the lecture she spent an hour re-teaching the class, ensuring that we all understood. Your classmates are truly the only ones who can understand how hectic PA school is, so you really learn to rely on each other.

Manitoba PA Class of 2018

Manitoba PA Class of 2018

Manitoba PA Admissions

Tips for Preparing for PA Admissions

Vishnu: I ensured I met all the requirements prior to applying to the PA program. I also reached out to past clinical instructors who could provide letters of recommendation.

I didn’t prepare for the MMI, the best advice I received from a friend in medical school was to “answer the question.”

My advice? Be genuine, know yourself, take interest in your community/city, and be aware of challenges and obstacles that society faces.

Payton: To prepare for admissions I ensured that I had all of the prerequisite courses and met any additional requirements. I also spent some more time shadowing a PA at my local hospital. When I found out that I had received an interview I spent quite a bit of time prepping for the dreaded MMI.

I attended a mock MMI session at my University and also practiced with several friends who had taken part in a MMI while applying to medicine.

Many of my classmates prepped for the MMI by reading the book “Doing Right”. I had the book; however, I was still finishing up my last year of undergraduate at the time and thus did not have the time to read it.

My advice for the interview process is to just be yourself – the MMI is not to test your knowledge. It’s for you to show your personality and demonstrate your ability to reason and see both sides to any controversial topic.

The Manitoba PA Fellowship

Manitoba Physician Assistant Website

Manitoba PA Fellowship Website

Tammy: Previous classes have had student associations, but the Class of 2019 is the first to give the student association the official name and logo  “Manitoba Physician Assistant Fellowship (MPAF)”. Roles include President, Vice-President, Treasurer, CAPA Representative, Events Coordinators, and Social Media Representative.

Collectively, we organize events for National Physician Assistant Day, coordinate class jackets, set up fundraising campaigns for our graduation ceremony, and put forward class ideas and concerns to the MPAS administration concerning lectures and the program.

More Tips for Canadian Pre-PA Students

Paying it Forward – the Manitoba PA Fellowship Website

Tammy: As an out-of-province student, I was having a hard time finding recent online material about the experience of a Manitoba PA student, which was an important factor for me when I was applying to Canadian PA schools.

The Manitoba PA Fellowship (MPAF) website is meant to share with other pre-PA students information such as tips on interviews and MMI, what resources are available to students (finances, health, career), typical student schedules, teaching styles during didactic year, who teaches the classes, set up and style of exams, etc.

I also wanted to create an online presence where pre-PA students can connect with Manitoba PA students through the website or through the MPAF Instagram page (@manitoba_pa_fellowship). For the future of the website, I would like to expand more on experiences during clinical rotations (what were students’ experiences in specific placements/locations/clinical settings/medical field?), as well as provide resources for the transition from student to employed PA.