Matt, Nick and Beth Rittle give credit for their interest in healthcare to their mom Colleen, a nurse who encouraged them to volunteer at the hospital in high school and college. One by one over the course of several years, they each chose the PA profession.
Matt (27): Four Years as a Certified PA
Matt knew he would go into the medical field in high school. While volunteering, he shadowed a PA and decided to enter the PA program at St. Francis University in Loretto, Penn. where he could get both his undergraduate degree and Masters in Physician Assistant Science in five years.
As soon as he graduated he took a job in emergency medicine at the Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver, Penn., a working middle class suburb of Pittsburgh.
“I love the unpredictability of the emergency department and the schedule where I work four nights a week with three days and weekends off,” says Matt. “The ED can be tough, and about 70% of what we do is family practice. However, I cannot imagine doing anything else.”
Nick (24): Graduated 2017, Newly Certified
Nick’s high school volunteering made him realize he wanted to work in a medical atmosphere that puts patients first. He also wanted a job with flexibility, and — observing his brother’s great experience — he felt that the PA role would suit him.
He applied to several colleges after high school and chose St. Francis University as well. There he was granted full admission, meaning he had a guaranteed spot in the PA program as long as he kept his grades up.
Having graduated in May, Nick has just started his first job at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh where he will care for inpatients after trauma, vascular, thoracic and general surgery. His shift is three nights one week and four nights the next, with every weekend free. The schedule definitely appealed to him.
Nick’s graduating class had a 100% pass rate on the PANCE, and all his close friends had multiple job offers. Nick himself interviewed for his current and job and accepted it immediately. “I like the flexibility and the diversity of patient problems,” he says. “It is also very satisfying to see patients improve after surgery.”
Beth (32): PA Student at Slippery Rock University
When Beth went to college, her mom “tried to push me into nursing but I wanted nothing to do with it back then!”
Instead, she chose to major in communications. For most of her career, she has worked in hospital marketing and public relations departments doing writing and web design.
“About five years ago, I realized I was not passionate about what I was doing,” she says. “I was surrounded by nurses and administrators and got interested in how hospitals are run and the legislative issues that affect them. Then, I worked on a website for advanced practice providers and interviewed NPs and PAs and learned about them. I realized that what I wanted to do was direct patient care.”
This decision had big implications for her life. Beth did not have the science prerequisites necessary, so she spent several years going to night classes while working two part-time jobs to save money for PA school. She also sold her home so that she did not have a mortgage and could focus on her studies.
Beth says her PA class includes about 15 other students who have chosen the PA profession as a second career. When she graduates, she is interested in either working in a hospital or an urgent care setting.
Beth says the sacrifices she made to get admitted to a PA program were worth it. “Work life balance is important to me. When I graduate, I will be 35, and being a PA will give me the flexibility I am looking for. Most importantly, I will feel good every day because I know I will be making a difference.”
The siblings are very close and share stories about PA school and their work. In typical sibling banter, Matt quips: “I laid the groundwork for them, although they might not admit that.”
The three have a fourth sibling, Ali, who volunteered in the hospital during high school for one day and realized medicine was not for her. She, however, gives back in other ways — as a special education teacher.
It is no surprise that Colleen Rittle says, "I am extremely happy and proud of the choices and accomplishments that all of my children have made in their careers!"