How to Classify Your Experience as HCE vs. PCE

Jul 2, 2020 by

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Not a long while ago, the Central Application Service for Physician Assistant (CASPA) changed the way certain pre-PA roles were categorized. Due to these changes, there were a few roles that dropped directly from patient care to healthcare, which did not sit well with the PA student, and they started creating noise. Looking at the reaction of the students, the CASPA reversed the decision, and it worked out well for all the PA students. But the question here is why the objection and why did it cause an outcry. Let’s look at the answer by defining PCE and HCE.

Patient Care Experience

A patient care experience or PCE position means that the PA student studying for it will have direct responsibility for taking care of the patients.

Health Care Experience

A health care experience or HCE position implies that the student of the PA will be exposed to the medical environment, but they would be given very minimum patient responsibility.

The Difference

If you are looking for a detailed difference between HCE and PCE, then you can check My PA + Resource as they have talked about it in their post. For general understanding, the hours that are gained from patient care experience are much more valuable than the hours one gains from health care experience. The PCE program has more responsibility, which makes the hours more precious. A lot of PA programs have a minimum hour demand for PCE hours, and if you don’t get those, your application won’t be considered.

This does not mean that HCE is not valuable. There are a lot of PA positions for which you will need a considerable amount of health care experience. PCE is harder and more valuable, but the hours a PA should be getting depends on the kind of pre-PA experience one is looking for.

So, when the CASPA made the changes, it made a lot of PA students ineligible or weakened their application. Which led to the outcry of students due to which they had to take this decision back. But despite all this, the difference between HCE and PCE is not like day and night. It actually gets a bit complicated when you have to add your experience in your application for PA School.

To clear things out, the difference between HCE and PCE is that of the responsibility. It is not about having less interaction with the patient. A PA student could be interacting with the patient all the time and could still be in the HCE program.

Entry-level roles like CNA, MA, EMT, and dental assistance falls under the category of patient care experience. It also obviously includes higher-level roles like a nurse, physical therapist, and paramedic. On the other hand, the roles that are included in health care experience are the roles that don’t qualify as personal care experience. These roles include passing medications, filling prescriptions, clerical work, stocking supplies, and record keeping. These are all the positions that have minimum patient responsibility; that’s why they fall under this category.

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