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Ashley Hall (’19) Shares One Way to Gain Hands-on Medical Experience for Graduate School

BRISTOL, Tenn., October 31, 2017 –College students who plan to attend medical school are often expected to have experience in that field before ever applying to graduate school. For King University’s Ashley Hall (’19), a junior majoring in Biology with a minor in Psychology, her dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant (PA) meant utilizing her summer months off from school to gain medical experience to apply to graduate school.

When Hall was a little girl, she used to dream of becoming a doctor. As she grew older, the reality of the number of years needed to become a physician set in; she then turned her focus to becoming a physician’s assistant. “I want to be a surgical PA,” said Hall. “It will take an extra year, but I definitely want to go the extra mile to assist in surgeries. To even be considered as an applicant, I first have to have hands-on experience in a medical setting.”

Ashley Stiltner, assistant professor of Biology and Athletic Training at King, is Hall’s academic advisor. Stiltner said, “Ashley was informed by our Lab Coordinator Jeff Wright that she should look into becoming certified as a Certified [Nursing Assistant] (CNA) as a method of obtaining the prerequisite patient contact hours required by Physician Assistant programs. She then looked into this option and obtained her certification during summer break. In August, she began working part-time as a CNA to help her obtain these hours and gain experience with patient contact.”

When considering her options, Hall discovered the CNA Training Program at Mountain States Health Alliance. The program, which is free of charge to participants, “[presents] the basics of bedside patient care under the guidelines of federal and state requirements. Participants who complete the course will meet criteria to sit for the state certification examination.”

“There were a total of six weeks of training – three weeks in class and three weeks of shadowing a nurse, nurse intern, or a CNA,” said Hall. “It wasn’t like one of my hardcore Biology classes; we learned to take vital signs, charting information, and also about dignity in patient care among other things. My shadowing took place at the Johnson City Medical Center.”

At the end of the six-week program, Hall received her certification as a CNA, and in August, she began working as a part-time CNA in the ICU at the Johnson City Medical Center. “My interests are in trauma and emergency [medicine]. I like excitement, and am a bit of an adrenalin junky. In the short time I’ve been a CNA, I have seen so much. I’m excited about the future,” said Hall.

“This experience has given me an even greater respect for the medical field and those who choose that path,” Hall added. “If you take a minute to step back and think about it, the patients rely on you to care for them. I, for one, want to give them the best possible care I can. If I were in their position, I would want someone to take care of me completely, not just halfway do the job. It is very humbling; it’s something I will carry with me throughout my career.”

Hall encourages students thinking about a career in medicine to think outside the box when it comes to gaining experience before graduate school. “Go beyond your comfort zone. The more involved you get, the more you realize how much you can handle.”

According to the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants (AAPA), which represents a profession of more than 115,500 Physician’s Assistants (PA) across all medical and surgical specialties, describes a PA as a “nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional [that practices] medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. PAs can practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the uniformed services.”


King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.