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PA Debt Series, Episode #4 – Kristin Burton, PA-C

Updated: Mar 26, 2022


Kristin is a current practicing PA working in Pulmonary Critical Care in Indiana. She works a rather grueling schedule, seven 12-hour night shifts in a row! This requires her to function in more of a Critical Care PA and less Pulmonology. She is then rewarded by having two weeks off to focus on herself and her business. She previously worked in inpatient Cardiology.

At the time of graduation in 2016, student loan debt: $161,000!

Motivation to Pay Off Student Loans

Prior to PA school graduation, Kristin had no plans on how to deal with this $161,000 of debt. Initially, Kristin expected to have a lot of freedom to do whatever she wanted with her new PA salary (i.e., traveling, buying a new car). She quickly realized her student loan payments was going to put a huge damper on these plans. It was overwhelming to think about her massive amount of student loans. She became very focused to get creative and find a way to pay off her loans, quickly!

When she first ran the numbers of how to pay off her loans, Kristin realized it was still going to take a long time to pay off her debt. She was able to negotiate her first job as a PA ABOVE the AAPA national average salary for new grad PAs and found it would still take roughly 10 years to pay off her loans…Becoming more and more impatient to find a way to pay off her loans, she eventually found a plan!

Paying Off Student Loans

Her strategy was rather simple: live off her spouse’s salary and put all her income towards her student loans! In addition to her full-time position, she picked up 4-5 per diem jobs, worked extra shifts and put EVERYTHING towards her student loans. This equated to roughly $10,000 per month towards debt.

$10,000/month x 16 months = $161,000

WOW! Kristin may have broken a record as the fastest PA to pay off $161,000 of student loan debt! She says it was DEFINITELY worth it, even though she devoted 16-months of her life to her work. Looking back, Kristin realized this schedule was not sustainable long term. Put in the work, save every penny, live below your means, and pay off your student loans. Before age 30, Kristin was able pay off all her student loans AND her mortgage! Who says you can’t pay off your student loans quickly and still do the things you want in your lifetime???

A valuable part of her journey was learning to become a better clinician. She viewed this time as more of a “residency”. During her first job, Kristin worked 7 on, 7 off. This afforded her the ability to pick up extra shifts on her off week. As new graduate PA, we need to be exposed to a variety of scenarios and merely just be present to get the necessary experience. Additionally, other healthcare providers and staff realize when a person is putting in the hours and recognize their ability to deal with whatever comes through the door. It is a great feeling to be the one who others look to when things get challenging.

After making her last payment, she vividly recalls the person taking the phone call saying, “wow, you are really good with managing money”. What a nice gesture! She then “lived it up” by taking a luxurious vacation and enjoying many aspects of life she put off while paying off her loans. Folks, we call this DELAYED GRATIFICATION! Shortly thereafter, she cut back significantly on how much she was working. If she chose to pick up an extra shift, it wasn’t because she had to pay for an expensive lifestyle or apply it towards her debt. It was because she wanted to. Financial freedom had set in, and she had no debt guilt!

Advice for Students and Practicing PAs

  • Your money plan CAN NOT only be about student loans! Find ways to invest early in your career! Ignoring investing is detrimental in the long term. Take advantage of compound interest by beginning to invest early. Let’s be clear, this is different for everyone. Make sure you understand your unique situation and develop a plan!

  • Short term sacrifice! Continue to live like a student for a few years after graduation. Stive for balance though. Realize that you must do things in your life you enjoy but it is ok to work tirelessly and delay gratification to get ahead financially.

Along Kristin’s journey to pay off debt, she learned a lot about personal finance. No only about paying off debt but also investing, asset protections, business opportunities, ect. Kristin has started “Strive Coaching” providing educational financial material to healthcare professions. Her passion is to empower healthcare professionals to get out of debt while making informed financial decisions and creating individual financial plans.

Finding ways to create a plan and act on it is key to prevent a retirement only making minimal social security income and not having much money to show for all the years of hard work. Ensure you are not trying to keep up with your friends and colleagues. Do your purchases provide fulfillment and “move your joy needle”?

Visit to learn more about Kristin and how she strives to educate healthcare professions on how to use money as a tool to design a life you love!


Check out the PA 4 Finance website for more information about becoming financially literate, growing wealth, and making the most out of your hard-earned money! Email for any additional questions or to inquire about PA 4 Finance’s services.

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