The best books for PA school students

My 14 Favorite Books for PA School [& Beyond]

To be honest, there aren’t that many books you really need for PA school.

That’s because most of the time, you’ll be studying power points, lecture notes, or other resources provided by your PA school faculty.

But there are a few books that I found extremely helpful when I was a PA student. 

The books on this list made it a lot easier to wrap my head around complex topics, and remember the info long-term.

I think these are some of the best books for PA school, and I’d highly recommend you pick up at least a few of them.

Without further ado.

Best Books for PA Students in Didactic Year (Classroom)

Here are some of the books I think you need for your first year as a physician assistant student.  

You can certainly use them during your rotations as well, and throughout your career.

Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple

This is my Favorite book, by far!  

It goes through all the major body regions (like cardiovascular, pulmonary, etc), explains how they work, and also explains what can go wrong with them.

It’s written in a way that’s easy to understand, and makes the concepts a lot easier to digest.

I would read this book while you’re learning physiology at the beginning of your didactic year, and then keep reading it as you go through diseases of each body system later on.

Rapid Interpretation of EKGs

EKGs can be a tricky topic. At first, it seems complicated to understand.

What I really liked about this book is that it really simplified things and made it easy to wrap my head around EKGs. It also made it easy to remember the most high yield information about them.

It’s a pretty quick read. I’d recommend you use it as soon as you start learning about EKGs.

Complete History and Physical Exam Guide

Your school may require a different book about physical exams. If so, that’s fine.

Either way, this is a pretty good one to be able to quickly review how to examine any body region.

It will come in most handy when you start learning about how to do a physical exam. And you can continue reviewing it when you start clinical rotations.

Antibiotics Simplified

This book takes a really confusing topic (antibiotics), and breaks it down into easily digestible chunks.

After reading this book, it has been so much easier to understand and categorize antibiotics throughout not only PA school, but my whole career thereafter.

I’ve noticed I tend to have a better understanding of antibiotics than most of my colleagues, and I think this book is a big part of the reason why.

Pharmnemonics (Flash Cards)

It can be pretty challenging to learn all the different medication names as a PA student.

So I think picking up some pharmacology mnemonic flashcards like this is pretty useful. Just to help you get more familiar with the names.

Like everything else, it’s not mandatory. But it’ll probably make the task a little easier.

Aids to the Examination of the Peripheral Nervous System

This is a small but really useful book.

It has a bunch of images / photos to help you learn nerves, nerve roots, and how to test nerve function.

This book is really handy when you’re learning neuroanatomy. It’s also really useful for improving your physical exam skills.

Best Books for PA Students on Clinical Rotations (2nd Year)

The best books for physician assistant students on rotations

Some of these books will come in handy during your didactic (classroom) year, or when you’re studying for your PA certification exam.

But I think they’re especially useful when preparing for clinical rotations, and studying for end of rotation exams.

First Aid for the Wards

If you just get one book for clinical rotations, this may be the best option.

It’s designed to walk you through each of the common medical school rotations (which naturally are similar to PA school rotations.)

There’s a section for emergency medicine, internal medicine, neurology, OBGYN, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

So it covers just about everything. 🙂

I found it pretty accessible and easy to read.

Basically what you would do is read the section right before you start that rotation, to get a basic overview. Then review it as you’re going through the rotation.

Surgical Recall

This book is specifically for your general surgery rotation.

Basically it teaches you the type of stuff you might get “pimped” on. And it’s in a simple question and answer format.

On several occasions, I was reviewing this book and then coincidentally got asked something related the very next day. So it made me look smart. 🙂

The Prescriber’s Guide (for Psychiatry)

This is kind of the ultimate guide to psychiatric medications. It has all the details you’d want to know about each common type of medication.

This isn’t a book you would read cover-to-cover. You would simply use it as a reference each time you’re learning about a new psych med.

It’s extremely well-organized and thorough.

Harriet Lane Handbook (for Pediatrics)

This book is a really useful reference for pediatrics.

I didn’t know about it during my rotation, but I wish I had.

Once I started working at a pediatric clinic (part time), one of the pediatricians there told me about this book. And I’ve used it several times to look up information in a pinch.

Medical Spanish

I’ve looked at various medical Spanish books, and this is one of the better ones.

It’s not necessary for everyone, but if you’re trying to communicate better with your Spanish-speaking patients this is a good book to pick up.

By the way, I also have a website about medical Spanish, as well as a medical Spanish podcast and medical Spanish YouTube channel, in case you’d like to check them out. 🙂

Best PANCE Prep Books (for Your Certification Exam)

After PA school, you have to take a big certification exam called the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam).

Here are some of the books I found most useful in preparing for that exam.

(They were also quite useful preparing for each end-of-rotation exam in the second year of PA school.)

USMLE Step 2 CK

This book is designed for medical students to prepare for their first big board exam, after two years of medical school.

But since medical school is similar to PA school, it makes sense to piggyback on some of their resources.

I used this book during my clinical rotations, studying for end-of-rotation exams, and when reviewing for the PANCE.  

A Comprehensive Review for the Certification and Recertification Examinations for PAs

Here’s a book that is specifically designed for the PANCE.

As the title says, it’s a comprehensive review.  So this could be a good book to cross-reference with the one I listed above. Or you could use it alone if you prefer.

Davis’s PA Exam Review

This book makes a nice supplement to the other ones listed above.

Instead of just covering the info, it gives you clinical scenarios and follow-up questions to get you thinking. In doing so, it tries to cover all the key info to prepare you for the big test.

It also has a lot of additional practice questions to use for mock exams.

Final Thoughts on Physician Assistant Books

So there you have it, some of the best books for physician assistant school.

These are some of my favorite books for PA students or PA’s.

You certainly don’t need every physician assistant book on this list. But picking at least some from each category is probably a good idea.

Looking for more resources?

 You could also check out my recommended medical equipment for PA school and rotations, or my list of the best emergency medicine books for PA’s [coming soon!].