June 9, 2021
By Kate Maloney
March 1, 2021
Jasmine Turner worked as a pharmacist for five years before she decided to change her career path and become a PA. In her role as a clinical pharmacist at a diabetes care center, she sat down with patients one-on-one. She would review their labs and make adjustments to medications. These patient interactions changed the course of her life. “I truly enjoyed direct patient care and wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to do that,” she says. After researching options, she felt becoming a PA was the right decision for her.
Pharmacist to PA
Luckily for Turner, many of her pre-pharmacy and pharmacy classes were prerequisites for PA school. She continued to work full-time while she completed her remaining prerequisites and reached out to friends and colleagues for shadowing hours. In January 2018, she was accepted into PA school at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and matriculated that June.
The first 18 months of PA school were as tough as Turner had expected. She’d already experienced graduate-level medical education in pharmacy school and knew what it took to succeed. In March of 2020, she was about halfway through her clinical rotations – well on her way to becoming a PA – when COVID-19 surged. Her program went on hiatus while they worked to find the best way to safely finish rotations. She resumed them, shortened from four weeks to three, in May. “I was still able to see and do a lot,” she says. “The rotations were similar, whether pre-COVID or during.”
Joyce Nichols Memorial Scholarship Relieved Financial Stress
Turner graduated in October 2020, but then faced the challenge of finding a job while the healthcare world focused on fighting a pandemic. After four months of searching, Turner found a position that combines two of the specialties she’s most interested in: pediatrics and critical care. She will begin practicing at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at Oklahoma University Health in April 2021.
During PA school, Turner lived off her savings. It was a stressful time, not knowing exactly how things would work out and watching her bank account dwindle. Turner was close to graduation when an email from the PA Foundation caught her eye. The new Joyce Nichols Memorial Scholarship, supporting Black PA students and named in honor of the first Black woman to practice as a PA, seemed interesting, and Turner thought she met the qualifications. She applied and was selected as a recipient.
“The scholarship was such a big help,” Turner says. “It was a blessing at the perfect time. Since I didn’t have a job right out of PA school, the scholarship relieved some of my financial stress and let me focus on finding the right position.” She encourages other PA students to research scholarship opportunities and take the time to apply, noting there are many scholarships available if you look for them. “I was honestly surprised to find out that I received the Joyce Nichols Memorial Scholarship,” she says. “If I hadn’t applied, I wouldn’t have gotten it.”
Turner’s Career Goals
Turner is excited to begin her PA career and hopes to be able to provide care to minority communities and underserved populations in some capacity. “I’ve been able to volunteer at free health clinics, and it’s something I plan on continuing,” she says. “It’s rewarding to help someone who otherwise may not have been able to receive treatment. I believe it’s important to help others, especially those less fortunate. I’m a minority myself and know that health disparities exist. I hope to help lessen these disparities and improve outcomes.”
Even though she has graduated, Turner’s focus remains on learning. She knows that understanding and being sensitive to different cultures is one of the best ways a PA can connect with patients. Her next goal is to become fluent in Spanish, the second most common language in Oklahoma, where she’ll be practicing. “If I can speak to my patients in their own language, I’m removing a barrier to care,” she says. Turner knows her first PA job will be an excellent opportunity to continue to learn. “I’m going to soak up anything and everything I can,” she says, “so that I’ll continue to grow and be a highly competent PA who can provide the best care to my patients.”
Jasmine Turner, PA-C, PharmD, will begin working in pediatric critical care at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at Oklahoma University Health in April 2021. She can be reached at [email protected].
Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. She can be reached at [email protected].