5 Reasons Why PAs Should Consider Going to National AAPA Conference And How to Pay For It

Conference selfies- always!

As the AAPA 2023 Conference approaches, I wanted to share my experience from last year, why I feel it’s SO important for PAs to go to Physician Assistant/Associate conferences, and ways to help you pay for it! I have a ton of photos to share as well.

Why I Go to AAPA Conferences

Can you believe 2022 was my first in-person AAPA conference? Why, you might ask? Because I didn’t think I needed to go, didn’t think it was relevant and didn’t think it was worth the expense.

I was wrong.

Honestly, I just thought it was all about getting CMEs, and why would I fly to another state to get those? I mean, sure I’d get to meet other PAs, but why bother? What’s the big deal? I go to my state PA conferences (Shout out to the FAPA 2023 conference coming up this fall) so why did I need to ALSO go (and pay for) a national conference?

So why did I go? I love to travel and really wanted to connect and see my people. Yes, I knew I would get CMEs. Yes I knew there were some amazing keynote speakers, but deep down, I just really wanted to laugh and have fun with people that I’d connected with virtually.

What ended up happening was more than I could have imagined. The truth is, I made more connections, had more fun, learned more, and felt more fulfilled in the 5 days of the conference than I have in the past 2 years as a PA. There is something to be said for “the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” and it rang true for me too.

Many practicing PAs have reached out to me with a sense of feeling like they wanted to do more, connect more, be more inspired. Go to a national Physician Associate conference, and there’s no way you can walk away without being inspired in some way.

Looking Back

As an extroverted introvert, I left AAPA 2022 completely exhausted, but also completely full. I recall a moment, sitting a table surrounded by some of my favorite PAs when I realized how happy it made me. People I’d had one-off discussions about the PA profession, about our challenges and struggles through the pandemic especially, and also our wins and awards- they were all right there in front of me and I couldn’t be more excited.

Reason Number 1: Connection, Networking and Job Opportunities

If I could pick ONE reason to go to a physician associate conference, this would be the reason hands down.

Personal connections. I got to see my people! You might recognize a few of them from social media, but I was THRILLED to get to hang out with some amazing humans. I can’t list them all, but I CAN share photos! I roomed with my girl Brie and we had so much fun! I got to finally see my friends Jono and Harrison in person (and made new friends too!). I connected with some other Social Media PAs.. you might recognize some faces from the ‘gram: Sami, Jonathan, Jeremy, Lara and Katie.. I got to hang out or meet up with PA educator ROCKSTARS like Annie Janelle and Alicia. My conference buddy and FAPA friend Jason who travels everywhere as a medical device KOL, and PA entrepreneur extraordinaire Rick Yarosh. I was thankful to get to chat with friends from the AAPA leadership team and ran into several PA Mom friends too! I met podcaster, Kat too! There were SO MANY MORE connections.. but for now, go follow them all, I’m sure you’ll see me post photos with them in May 🙂

Alumni meetups. There’s usually a night dedicated to alumni meetups and so I was SO excited to see some UF Alums including one of my class of 2011 classmates and Shalon, a former PA professor! I also got to speak to the current PA students that made the journey which was super fun.

Job opportunities. No one ever really talks about this so let me let you in on a secret. Many (many) PAs find jobs through word of mouth and networking rather than use online resources. This means the more PAs you meet from all over the US, the more you connect with, the better your job opportunities you may have! It might not be this year, or even next.. but if you wanted to, say, switch specialties, and you remember someone you met in a lecture who worked in that specialty, that connection may lead to a job prospect. Never undervalue the power of networking– this is the power of an in person Physician Associate conference- it’s the “secret” value that no one can tie a monetary cost to.

Reason Number Two: The Main Stage Events

I’m not going to lie- when I heard Hayley Arceneaux was going to be a keynote speaker, I was sold! Plus I GOT TO MEET HER IN PERSON! It was a total fangirl moment, and I got super lucky that I ran into her in the exhibit hall. She and her mom are so sweet, and I LOVED hearing her tell her story about practicing medicine in space, the challenges, and the lessons learned. I am so intrigued by the field of space medicine, it’s definitely piqued my interest!

If you don’t know her story, DEFINITELY check out her journey to space with her incredible crew on the Netflix documentary Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space. I also really enjoyed her book “Wild Ride: A Memoir of I.V. Drips and Rocket Ships” and her podcast episode with the amazing PA, Tracy Bingaman.

We also got to hear from Simone Biles and Jane Pauley who both shared their experiences and struggles with their own mental health. It was inspiring and humbling to hear from two powerhouse women, and it was an event I won’t forget.

Reason Number Three: There is SO MUCH to Learn

I am not JUST talking about CMEs here friends. While, yes, that’s a perk, I’m talking about so much more. I got to hear what topics are front of mind for PAs across the nation, not just in the lectures but in those quiet conversations after. There so many amazing conversations about how PAs can show up for our patients and our communities- I attended lectures on trauma-informed care, and learned from others how PAs can eliminate race-based practices.

I got to see how PAs and PA students were applying research in the ePoster section. The quality improvement nerd in me was SO excited to see that PAs were taking part in QI projects and I was so impressed with some of the work they were doing! I’m presenting at Research in Action (RIA) this year too which is really exciting, so if you’ll be there, join me!

I also learned how PAs are working to change the future of the profession through special interest groups. We were able to briefly stop in and hear from the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commission, and and speak to Early Career PAs through various meet and greet events

Reason Number Four: The Challenge Bowl

One of the highlights of PA conferences- the challenge bowl has a way of bringing out the competitive nature of anyone. In real-time, it was a LOT of fun to watch- the hall was filled with lots of energy and you could see everyone rooting for the students who did an incredible job showing up for their PA programs (and themselves!). Many of us donned our alma mater’s shirts in support of our team, and it was a lot of fun challenging myself to see if I knew all the answers to those questions (hint, I didn’t 🙂 I was used to going to the FAPA bowl (also an amazing time) but to see it on a national level was a LOT of fun.

Reason Number Five: The Exhibit Hall

I may be alone here- but I LOVE going into exhibit halls- and AAPA had one of the bigger exhibit halls I’ve seen yet. I love seeing everything from the latest medications and technology (check out my post on thrombectomy tech from INARI). There were also lots of employment opportunities such as locums and other PA employers, and I got to see and meet members of some of the different constituent groups (shout out to Society for PAs in Pediatrics!).

Let’s be honest, the free swag is always a bonus reason to go into the exhibit halls. My pen collection quadrupled, I also got a couple of cool notebooks, a backpack and t-shirt from Butler University’s DMSc program… but by far, my FAVORITE SWAG was the free medical PA books from the military group. The exhibit hall had mini-product lectures and food, and there was even an area where you could get a massage! Exhibit halls help support the expense of conferences so I always try to do my part and stop by as many booths as I can.

On a fun note, I did figure out that after 3 days, the noise and crowds kind of got to be a bit over stimulating so if you are anything like me- hit the exhibit booths earlier in the conference rather than later, and go during a time lectures are occurring so it won’t be as crowded.

Conference Hacking: How To Cut Costs For PA Conferences

  • Register early. There is always an Early Bird rate that is sometimes $100-200 less than the month before the conference. I was able to register at the really early bird rate this year (before I knew they accepted my presentation and refunded me).
  • Book Your Hotel Early. Take advantage of those conference hotel rates and book the hotel at the same time if possible to make sure you get your spot. Those rooms will likely be sold out as you get closer to the date of the conference.
    • Bonus tip #1: You can usually tag on a day before or a day after the conference at the same rate- which means if you plan it right, you can build in a mini vacation at a nice hotel for half the cost!
    • Bonus tip #2: Make sure to sign up for hotel points to take advantage of the trip!
  • Room with someone else. Find a good roomie to hang out with! Be clear about expectations and make sure it’s a good fit- if so, it’s a great way to cut the hotel cost in half!
    • Pro tip: double-check the bill at the end of your trip to make sure everything is split correctly, and get that invoice corrected BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOTEL. Trust me on this one!
  • Be a speaker. Did you know that if you speak at AAPA your conference fees are waived? That’s saving you a HUGE amount of money! You also might get an honorarium for your time. Not all lectures are accepted but it’s a great opportunity to save money if you can put together a stand-out presentation.
    • Fair warning you have to submit your lecture almost a year in advance. Don’t feel ready? Then practice- try your alumni, local college or even virtual presentations to get used to it. Maybe give the lecture at a state conference.
    • Some employers have a separate budget for speaking- which is SEPARATE from CME funds! This is especially true for academic institutions- so ASK!
  • Ask your employer if they will help cover the cost. AAPA has a letter to help you with this but honestly, as it is part of an expectation of professionalism to be involved with our own communities, it may be a worthy endeavor to ask your medical director if they will help pay for your trip.
  • Take advantage of all the free events! There were SO MANY product theatres, happy hours, and other sponsored events, dinners and often drinks and food are served too. It’s a great way to connect but also a good way to cut down on food/drink expenses too!
  • Rack up Travel Points. Another great way to take advantage of conferences is to make sure to really take advantage of all the miles, points and rewards you can!

I hope that sharing my experience helps. I’m SO excited for AAPA 2023. I’ll be a speaker this year, so come find me!


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Physician Assistant, Owner and Blogger at EmpoweredPAs.com. Currently practicing in a Pediatric Emergency Department, overseeing and developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines with teams of amazing people, supporting and mentoring Pre-PA and PA Students, with a hope to advance our profession and give PAs the tools and resouces they need to advance their careers.