Changing Careers and Cross-State Commutes: Julie Torres’s PA Student Journey

From Elementary School to PA School

By Kate Maloney

March 27, 2019

Julie Torres wears casts on her leg and arm
Torres practicing her casting technique.

Julie Torres is a second-year PA student at Oklahoma University Health and Science Center, but she’s already on her second career. She first worked as an elementary school teacher and found the experience challenging, rewarding, and inspiring. But she also found it financially limiting. Torres was committed to teaching and sought out new ways of doing so. It was while she was considering a career in nursing that she took her first anatomy and physiology class, and that’s when everything changed. “I knew from that moment, I wanted to be at the forefront of the healthcare decision-making process,” she says. “I wanted to be a PA.”

Translating classroom skills to PA career
Pursuing a second career wasn’t an easy choice for Torres. “I adored my students and still miss them to this day,” she says. “But something was missing that I couldn’t find in the classroom.” She’ll take classroom lessons and strategies with her as a PA, though. “I learned how to recalibrate priorities and adapt on the fly,” Torres says. “In PA school, challenges and curveballs are often thrown our way.”

She also has first-hand experience taking complex topics and concisely explaining them. “Patients have lots of questions, and I’ll need to be able to explain complicated medical topics in a way that is meaningful, informative, and non-intimidating.”

[9 Tips to Pay Off Your PA School Loans]

Deciding on PA school
Once Torres decided to pursue the PA profession, she wasn’t sure where to go for PA school. Torres was diligent as she researched PA programs. She took into account many factors: first time PANCE pass rate, how established a program was, location, access of learning tools, cost of living, prerequisite requirements, and rotation site and variety. She also trusted her gut; “It wasn’t until I visited the campus that I really knew OU was where I wanted to study.”

[Which PA School is For You? 5 Factors to Consider]

Julie and Joe Torres
Torres and her husband, Joe.

Living away from family
Torres had additional considerations when it came to choosing OU for PA school. She would be leaving her husband, Joe, in Colorado, for the duration of her PA program – more than two years. “Living away has its fair share of frustrations,” Torres shares. “Neither of us are big phone talkers, so having to rely on the phone as the main form of communications has been a major challenge for us.” But Torres says she’s been pleasantly surprised by how often they’ve been able to see each other – at least once a month. “The intense schedule and amount of studying you need to do is actually a blessing in disguise. It consumes you and makes the days and months fly by.”

Torres credits her husband’s steadfast support of her PA career as critical to making their long-distance relationship work. But they both know the arrangement is only temporary, and Torres plans on returning to Colorado upon graduation. “PA school challenges you in multiple ways,” Torres says. “I just look at living away from home as one more challenge PA school has thrown at me. All things worthwhile come with some degree of sacrifice.”

Julie Torres is a second-year PA student at Oklahoma University Health and Science Center and a student delegate in AAPA’s House of Delegates. She can be reached at [email protected].

Kate Maloney is the senior manager of corporate communications at AAPA. She can be reached at [email protected].

Additional Resources
Which PA School is For You? 5 Factors to Consider
PA School Success: Embrace Opportunities and Challenges, Relieve Stress
Student Member Resources

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