“I always get discouraged and anxious when I study, doubtful of whether I truly understand the material. At the end, you have to learn to trust your capacity to attain knowledge. Trust that everything will flow, just as the deoxygenated blood flows through the heart to eventually become oxygenated. Learn to Breathe!”
In the summer of 2017, I turned away from my ultimate dream, becoming a Physician Assistant. After completing my undergraduate career with honors in three and a half years and taking two years to work in three healthcare-related jobs, I was headed off to the next step of my dream, Physician Assistant school. I walked into school as an overzealous, confident student excited for the next adventure. And two weeks before finals of my summer semester, I decided to take a leave of absence. I felt extremely burned out and I did not feel as though I would be able to continue in the program any longer. Before I continue telling the many about my burnout, I have to disclose a hidden part of my identity that leads to all this. I am a DREAMER PA-S.
Standing under dim auditorium lights during my second-grade concert, I remember proudly belting out the patriotic lyrics “This land was made for you and me”. At a young age, I was sold into the naive immigrant belief that this nation would support my hopes and dreams. Growing up, however, I learned about the insurmountable obstacles immigrants face when reaching for their goals. Nevertheless, those barriers shaped my experiences and helped me thrive academically and culturally. My undocumented, first-generation status hindered me from numerous opportunities. Additionally, I faced different forms of microaggressions which caused me to question my identity as a future medical provider. Overall, the obstacles I have faced has also guided me down the road to becoming a Physician Assistant.
My mother arrived with me in her arms when I was a nineteen-month-old child from Bangladesh. At a young age, I knew how my arrival into the United States would be faced with hardships and through all the adversities I would have to strive more than my peers for accomplishments. During my second year of college, the miracles of miracles occurred during the Obama administration. I received the crucial social security number and work authorization card under the temporary executive law of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in the summer of 2012.
According to USCIS, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation and 2) a work permit.”
During that time, I knew I had to pursue my tenth-grade dream of becoming a Physician Assistant because I had to help those who were like me. Patients who were uninsured and undocumented like myself and my parents who deserve access healthcare. I had witnessed my mother with her swollen ankles and feet with a family history of heart failure and ovarian cancer not be able to think about going to a primary care office for preventative screening or any medications. There was one night, my father woke with extreme chest pain and we immediately had to take him to the Emergency Room. After conducting an EKG and waiting for the troponin level, the Physician Assistant at the time had found that my father may have a mild case of pericarditis which may have been caused by a viral infection he had weeks ago. However, his blood glucose tests indicated that he had a definite case of untreated Diabetes Mellitus. And when we had expressed that he did not have a primary care provider due to the immigration status, she immediately ran to her desk and filled out a prescription for a three-month supply of Metformin. I wanted to be like her from that day on. And even though it was only for 3 months, it had meant a lot to my father and me. At the time, we did not know how else to seek treatment for such a chronic disease. From that moment on, I wanted to be the Physician Assistant who understood the hardships that immigrants like ourselves face on a daily basis would do anything in her power to help those in need.
But attending graduate school in the beginning stages of the new political atmosphere had a tremendous effect on me and provoked more anxiety within me. My first semester, when my professors would speak about one day seeing my patients, I would immediately run to my room and cry. It had dissipated my vision of one day working as a PA. I could no longer envision myself wearing a white coat, stethoscope around my shoulders, approaching patients. This became one of the reasons I suffered even though I was exactly in the midst of my dreams. As a PA student, I became to feel isolated as I acknowledged the privileges of my peers knowing that one day they would be able to practice medicine in the US. In the fear, I was not able to disclose my concerns to any of my advisors, professors, and peers. I was running a marathon with everyone in my class while carrying a heavy armor on my shoulders and it was truly draining me. I never thought I could share with any of the students what I was dealing with and I felt completely alone and vulnerable. And I lost hope in myself as I started comparing myself to others as I began realizing that I had additional stressors in comparison. And I didn’t know how to voice it to anyone. I lost my vision that I could not ever be a healthcare provider due to my status. So I had a hard time concentrating in the beginning of the semester. And I did very poorly on my first 3 exams but then I boosted myself and started doing well in my classes. During finals, however, I began to feel alone and anxious which caused me to do poorly on my finals. I ended my first semester with a 2.71 and I was placed on academic probation.So in the summer semester, I was really hard on myself and that aggravated my anxiety and stress. Exam grade scores began to define my self-worth and ambition which lead me to lose my motivation and focus. I began to forget why I wanted to pursue this profession in the first place. But most importantly I began to forget my identity and that’s when I knew I had to take a break and reevaluate myself and my career choice. So I began writing and traveling to help me figure it all out.
At this point, I do not know what the future holds for me any longer since the temporary DACA act was rescinded on September 5, 2017, but I do know that I cannot stray away from my path because my diverse experiences and identity help define my role as a future healthcare provider. During my time away from academia, I started working in a community hospital with a plethora of immigrants and refugee patients and the providers deliver compassionate care. The patients and providers have inspired me to continue pursuing my dream. Every day is a new perspective for me. I have taken the time to reflect on how I had gotten to such a point of despair and hope to change my outlook on the outcomes in the future. After reflecting back on this experience, I have decided that perhaps if we can change the way we look at ourselves and the events occurring around us, we can be the change we want in ourselves. Sometimes we have to take what happens to us in life and learn to see it in a more positive perspective. In the beginning, I had perceived this as a setback but perhaps it’s more of a blessing in disguise. My self-worth as a person, student, immigrant, and future provider is only set by myself. In my heart of hearts, becoming a Physician Assistant is the dream that I had fallen in love with. And even though, it feels like it’s a step backward, it truly is not. In January 2018, I decided to return to MCPHS PA program with a more positive vision that my childhood dream of practicing as a Physician Assistant will be accomplished.
My name is Rezwana Hoque, PA-S. I grew up in Hudson, NY and graduated from Clark University in Worcester, MA. My parents were born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh and they arrived in America at young ages in hope to better their lives as well as the lives for my two brothers and I. Currently, I am attending MCPHS University Physician Assistant program on the Worcester campus. I aspire to work with the underserved populations and I currently enjoy working in a Family Practice setting.
Hi all! I’m Aashna, a second-year PA student about to start my fourth rotation (family medicine) next week. I’m excited to be guest posting for Jourdyn and sharing a few things about my experience as a PA student.
I frequently get emails or messages on Instagram from people asking me questions like how I manage to “do it all”. “How do you keep your blog updated while going to PA school?”,” how do you hang out with friends with so many exams?” or “how do you find the time to go home to visit family?” I was even asked how I “mastered” surviving PA school and how I got so organized in school. Truth be told, I do not have it all together, trust me.
I am no master at being a PA student, and neither am I organized every single day of every week. However, in the last 19 months, I’ve learned a lot about prioritizing and managing my time. While I feel unqualified to do this, today I am going to share with you all what has worked for me in terms of finding balance and staying organized while in PA school. As always, what worked for me may not work for you and vice versa, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I also am not telling anyone what they should be doing with their time, I’m simply sharing what I did/do to keep up with my personal and professional commitments. Let’s jump in.
- Get intentional: It’s very easy to say that we want to get more organized or get more done than to actually do it. If you really want to get something done, you have to want to do it, not just think about it. I still choose to be intentional about my goals (more on than next) rather than just say that I want to do it or will get to it eventually. If you have the correct mindset, you get so much more done in an efficient manner.
- Set realistic goals: I personally believe that if you want to accomplish something, you have to have set goals. Unless you’re a highly motivated and disciplined person, most of us need that extra push to get started. They don’t have to be anything major but just get yourself started somewhere. During didactic year, I used to set goals for every day, the entire school week, and then the weekend in terms of how many and which lectures I want to review and study that day/week, how much time I want to spend on a particular class or studying for a particular test, etc. This way, I knew how to allocate my time on each goal and not spend too much time on just one exam/class. Do a little bit each day for multiple classes, that way you’re not caught in up in class but behind in every other class.
- Make a “to study” list: We used to have multiple quizzes and tests during didactic year and it was challenging (to say the least) to stay on top of it. At the beginning of every weekend, I used to make a list of every lecture I needed to go over for all the classes that had upcoming exams/quizzes. That way I wouldn’t forget to study anything. Then, I used to divide it up and decide which lectures I was going to study on which day of the week. It took some work up front, but that way once I knew what my plan was, it was a lot easier to execute it. It saves time during the busy week and keeps me on task.
- Use a daily planner: This worked hand in hand with my study list. I used to write down which lectures I was planning on studying each day of the week in my planner so I knew my goals for each day. I usually allocated more lectures to the weekend since I had more time and went to bed earlier on weekdays because getting enough sleep was one of my top priorities. You can set your schedule any which way you want as long as it works for you!
- Use a monthly calendar: This is what I used to write down every quiz and test we had for the entire semester at the beginning of each semester. We usually had our quiz and exam dates for each class in our syllabus and for the most part, they remained the same. Once I did that, then I knew which weekends I would be busy studying and which ones I would have more time to play around with. This is how I planned any trips home or elsewhere and my hangout time with friends in or outside of PA school.
- Take a night off at least one day a week for myself: I loved that I lived so close to my family during PA school. While I went home on any free weekends that I had, there were times I chose to stay in Nashville simply to be able to recharge my batteries and relax on my own. As an introvert, I need quality time to myself to be able to feel grounded and to start the next week fresh. I love my friends and family and I tried my best to see them in whatever free time I had, but I always set at least a night to myself each week to relax and do anything but study.
- Find an outlet: Writing relaxes me. It’s when all of my thoughts that usually wander around come together. I tried my best to blog while I was in school because not only was it something I enjoy doing, I knew there were so many students out there like me going through something similar or pre-PAs looking for answers of what to expect when they start PA school in the future. Now there were many weeks I went without posting anything and felt bad for neglecting my blog, but when I did get a chance to do so, knowing that even helping one person by writing a post motivated me to continue writing and take a break from studying. For other classmates, working out, cooking, taking walks outside, etc. were their outlets. Do whatever helps you channel your energy towards something that brings you joy and comfort.
- Let others help out: I may sound like a broken record to you if you’re familiar with my blog and have read my previous posts, but I don’ t believe I can make it through PA school alone. I had a lot of support going through PA school. My parents lived only 45 minutes away from me, so I had a lot of help with food arrangements, help with car issues, sending home laundry on my super packed weekends etc. I know not everyone has this opportunity, but I found it really helpful to let someone help me with small routine things in life. If you have a spouse, a roommate, or a family member in town that’s willing to help you in any which way, it would be a good idea to consider it. It really takes off the added unnecessary stress and lets you focus on studying on days or weeks where you’re really tied up.
- Figure out priorities and stick with the plan: When I studied, that’s all I did. No other tabs open, no talking on the phone/checking my phone, etc. until break time. I tried my best to stay on task and not get distracted so I could study in less amount of time and get to bed on time. Not saying this always worked, but I sure did my best to finish studying by a certain hour so I could get some rest. Getting at least 8 hours of shut-eye was and is still a priority, no matter what exam I have the next day. If I stuck to what I was meant to do, it left me more time to do other things that are equally as important to me. It took some time to discipline myself but it’s definitely doable.
- Allowed myself to feel all the feels but not dwell on any of them for too long: This one is a bit more personal, but I keep it real with myself. I am the kind of a person who does not believe in running away from my feelings or shoving them down in some deep, dark place only to let it backfire later. If I was stressed, anxious, sad, or what have you, I allowed myself to feel it instead of brushing it away thinking it was nothing. Facing my feelings and accepting my reality for what it is allowed me to handle the hardships of PA school in a healthy way. I believe remaining mentally healthy in life is equally as important as remaining physically healthy. But while I did this, I didn’t brood over any of it for too long or have pity parties on the reg. Yes, life is tough, but so are we.
- I made a list of what needed to be done, divided it up into daily tasks, and wrote it in my daily planner.
- I used a monthly calendar to write down all exam/quiz dates to help me plan my study and or fun/downtime.
- Allowed myself to have some downtime at least once a week.
- Make good use of time. Like they say, study smart and not hard.
- If it’s an option, let someone take care of some smaller things in your life for the duration of didactic year. Even the smallest things help tremendously.
- You can always reevaluate your priorities from time to time as school goes on and life changes and make adjustments. This is your time to learn, you decide how you want to spend it
- Take care of yourself, mentally and physically. You cannot take good care of your patients or anyone else in life if you’re not healthy yourself first.
In the end, there is no cookie cutter answer for how to balance life and school. Every person has their own unique set of circumstances and priorities. It’s up to each one of us how we want to spend our time and what’s important to us.
Enjoy this time in PA school, because it flies by so fast. It won’t feel that way while you’re in the midst of it, but in retrospect, didactic year feels like it happened within a blink of an eye.
Thank you for reading and I hope everyone has a blessed and an incredible 2018! You can read more about my PA school journey on my blog or find me on Bloglovin‘ to make sure you never miss a blog post! You can also follow me on Instagram get more frequent updates about my PA school experiences.
Every student during PA school is mentally preparing themselves for the motherload of all PA exams…the PANCE. This 5 hour, 300 question mega exam is the cherry on top of the 500 exams (ok maybe not that many…) you take through your PA student career. This ultimate exam is what crowns you with that coveted “PA-C”.
So how does one even begin to study for this beast? Well, I haven’t started that yet so I can’t exactly tell you, but what I can do is show you the little study schedule I whipped up and will be implemented starting January 1st!
So as promised, here is my study schedule:
And no, it was not a coincidence that “anxiety” landed on the first day of my studying schedule
My schedule is based on my PACKRAT score (basically a practice version of PANCE that tells me what areas I need to work on) + the breakdown % of body systems on the PANCE + the specific diseases that the NCCPA puts out which you can find here.
I also formulated my schedule around a large summative exam in March (why I pushed cards, pulm, & GI to the front of the calendar) and my End of Rotation (EOR) exams I have every 8 weeks.
And the first place I am going to start when studying is to head over to a wonderful PA’s blog page…The PA Platform. Savannah has wonderful advice and tips for studying!
In addition, I will be utilizing PANCE Prep Pearls, A Comprehensive Review For the Certification and Recertification Examinations for Physician Assistants, Picmonic , OnlineMedEd, Kaplan QBank, & Sketchy Medical to name a few!
Happy studying, friends!
Pic compliments of giphy.com
Clinical year is the most anticipated part of PA school (besides graduation of course). It is where all your hard work from didactic year starts to pay off. Instead of having your nose in a book trying to absorb all of its contents, you are finally able to interact with patients, perform procedures, and get a taste of what it is like to be a real PA.
Yet, as fun as clinical year is, there are still a few road bumps you’ll experience along the way. Things like being overwhelmed in a new environment, feeling a little tongue-tied in front of patients, and being in awe (yet a bit intimidated) by your very experienced preceptors are all hurdles that need to be cleared during clinical year.
So let us begin to dive into a few of these bumps and let me tell you how I’ve combated them so far.
Being pimped– This comes with the territory of being a student during clinical rotations. You will be asked tough questions by your preceptor, other doctors/PAs, and even your patients from time to time. And let me tell you, being put on the spot is as tough as it was during your PA school interviews. Starting clinicals is a whole new world to get use to, and your brain is truly put in overdrive when your preceptor asks you questions that can be relevant (or completely irrelevant and random) to the topic at hand. Some things to remember about being pimped is:
- You’re not going to know the answer every time (and that is ok). Sometimes the hardest thing to say is “I don’t know” because it makes you feel ill-prepared and for lack of a better word “dumb” (at least, that’s how it made me feel). The best advice I was told going into clinical rotations was that it was ok to say “I don’t know” but it was never ok to leave at that. What is ok to say is: “I don’t know…but I will make sure to find the answer.” This response shows that you’re proactive with your learning. Preceptors do not expect you to know the answer every time (for goodness sake we are students) but it sounds a lot better when we make an effort to go find the answer to these questions.
- Cut yourself a break. I would get really ticked at myself when I wouldn’t know something my preceptor was asking (regardless if I had learned it before or not). I pride myself on being prepared, but sometimes the amount of info your brain has stored up there does not always process and spit out the info in the 10 seconds you’re given to answer. I don’t know how many times I would have an answer on the tip of my tongue only to say “ugh I knew that” as soon as my preceptor told me the answer or I looked it up. So once more, cut yourself a break and then refer to the bullet point above.
- And to help you retain the most info/prep yourself for a full pimping session I highly recommend buying a book from the series: Deja Review (and preferable you can buy a used version off of Amazon for way cheaper). They have books for any rotation you may encounter and are full of common pimping questions regarding that rotation’s major diseases, procedures, treatments, and much more. I found them extremely helpful to page through during downtime during the day and they prepared me for (almost) any question my preceptor was going to throw at me.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable– this pertains to truly anything during clinical year. You are the new kid on the block for every rotation, and everyone knows it. Depending on your rotation length, you have to re-learn and re-adjust to a new rotation every 4-8 weeks. My family medicine and emergency medicine rotation are both 8 weeks, which makes for a little extra time to adjust and get comfortable in my environment, but for internal medicine, surgery, and my elective I find myself in a new home every 4 weeks. That means new preceptors, new clinics/hospitals, and new staff every month. I found that by the end of my 4-week rotation, I was beginning to get the hang of the procedures, was given more freedom by my preceptors, and was feeling a lot more confident overall…only to be tossed to the next rotation to start all over. You know what though, it gets much easier as the rotations go on. After rotation 1 and 2, you start to get more confident in what the flow of rotations is going to be. You start realizing important things to know, when it is appropriate to do what, and who to turn to when you’re in a bind (aka nurses…be kind to those lovely folks).
In addition, I think it’s so important to “trust in the system” that your PA school has in place. When they say they will get you to where you need to be, they mean it. I cannot even count the number of times during didactic year when I was camped out in the library til the early hours of the morning and was questioning why the heck I was doing all this work and if all this info would actually stick in my brain. Guess what, it did (for the most part)! There have been countless times when I have had my doubts but in the end, my program had a reason for doing what they did and proved me wrong. So I’ve learned to just trust in the process. The sooner you do that, the smoother things will go for you in PA school!
Having patience with patients (and yourself)- You can be smart, you can be charismatic, but sometimes when you get in front of patients you lose your mind and whatever you were about to say.
All through didactic year, we had multiple opportunities to break the ice with patient care starting with classmates as “patients”, then standardized patients, and then monitored real patients. In clinical year…it is nothing but real patients! It can be challenging at first, as you want to seem dignified and intelligent in front of the patient, but once more you’re put on the spot to come up with the right questions to ask in order to guide your patient to lead you to their diagnosis. While asking these questions, you are concurrently trying to think up a differential diagnosis while also determining what tests you want to run to narrow down on a correct diagnosis. This process is an art, and for most students (including myself) it can take a while to get the hang of it. In a perfect world, your patients will be perfect historians, have the classic signs and symptoms of their disease, and will have no underlying co-morbidities that cause complications. I learned in my first week of rotations that this diagnosing thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Thankfully, as students we are not the sole deciders on our patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan (that is where our wonderful and intelligent preceptors come in).
Another thing I learned early on, is it can be hard to get straight answers out of patients. I remember during my family medicine rotation I was trying to get to the bottom of whether my patient’s asthma was controlled or not. The patient informed me that she was having an ok time breathing, did not feel she had to take her medication for shortness of breath, and basically led me down the trail to believe that she was a well controlled and an asymptomatic asthmatic. Of course, I pranced back to my preceptor’s office and reported this to her. Needless to say, my confidence bubble was popped when my preceptor and I went back into the room and after my preceptor asked about 3 questions I realized that this patient was far from controlled and actually needed her medication bumped up to a higher level (epic fail, Jourdyn). I was embarrassed at how off-base I was but my preceptor laughed and said that will happen from time to time where the story changes quite a bit depending on how and what questions are presented to the patient, if the patient remembers their history correctly or leaves stuff out that they remember later, and if the patient just doesn’t want to disclose info to the student vs. the preceptor (who they obviously have more confidence and history with). This is part of the fun of learning how to interact with patients and it taught me a valuable lesson on being more cognizant about my interaction and interviewing of patients. Moral of the story: patient interactions are a fun and critical part of clinical year, but it can take some growing pains to get to where you want to be.
Preceptors- This truly can be luck of the draw when it comes to preceptors and their personalities. You put your faith in the hands of your clinical year coordinator to place you with a wonderful, caring, and naturally gifted preceptors. Sometimes this happens, other times it does not. As a PA student, there are three main groups of preceptors you will be placed with (at least on the official papers): PAs, doctors, and NPs (or a combo of the 3). In reality, you may be spending time with many other experts including x-ray technicians, diabetes educators, nurses, medical assistants, casting/splinting techs, EMTs, and many more. I have also had classmates who have had a main preceptor whom they spent 2-3 days with over the course of a 4 or 8-week rotation, and the rest of their time they rotated with other providers in the clinic/hospital. This may alarm some people, but in reality, if you are feeling like you are learning something each and every day…then you are doing your rotation right!
In addition, you may find some preceptors keep you on a short leash. I’ve had rotations where my time spent was more like a shadowing experience than it was a rotation. If you feel like you’re only shadowing your preceptor, don’t be afraid to ask for a bit more independence. For instance, I had a preceptor where I followed him around for about 2 weeks before I braved up and asked if it was ok if I tried interviewing patients (because at my prior rotation I became accustomed to going into a room and interviewing a patient solo prior to my preceptor coming in). After talking with him, he informed me he had never had a PA student before and wasn’t aware of what I was comfortable with. He happily agreed to let me lead the interview with our following patients and the rest of our rotation went very smoothly. On the flip side, I had another preceptor that had been burned with prior students and did not feel confident letting me or his med student go in solo to talk to patients. Although I felt a little annoyed that I wasn’t able to work on my interview skills, I realized that I could still learn a lot through observation. These preceptors are professionals in their field and if they are chosen to precept, chances are they have been in their job for quite a few years. Pay attention to the questions they ask, how they interact with their patients, and what tests and treatments they order. Even if you feel like you’re not contributing much, remember that you can learn something from everyone and every situation.
On a very serious note: in the rare case that you find yourself with a preceptor who is disrespectful to you, makes you feel uncomfortable, or anything else that you may deem unacceptable (within reason), remember to be in contact with your clinical year coordinator. My coordinator made it abundantly clear that they want to know about the good and the bad (and especially the really bad circumstances) that unfortunately can come up. These coordinators want you to have a good experience and may have a solution to help this happen. So don’t be afraid to reach out to these wonderful folks when you find yourself in a bind!
Lastly, I don’t want to end this blurb on a bad note so I will say most preceptors I have worked with and have heard of through my classmates are incredibly excited to have students and are beyond fabulous at teaching! Even my “shadowing-like” rotation was incredible and I absolutely adored my preceptor. So enjoy your time with these fabulous folks because they really are good at what they do and can teach you a ton!
Other Odds and Ends and a Few More Bummers-
Long commutes- sometimes your rotations won’t be your first choice of location and can end up being up to an hour each way commute. Besides feeling a little drained by the gas money to get to your rotation you can also feel the aches and pains of getting up early, getting home late, and running into nasty weather or traffic that makes your commute even yuckier. Solutions to make it less annoying: 1. Check to see if the rotation has housing. Some places frequently have students and have come up with fairly decent housing options for a small fee (or free if you’re lucky). If you work out the math and find that it’s cheaper to pay rent for a few weeks vs. drive, this may be an option for you! 2. Podcasts are a really good way to study and pass the time to and from your rotation. Some good ones I have enjoyed are: PABoards, thePAPlatform, The Audio PANCE and PANRE by ThePaLife.com, and I’ve also downloaded lecture captures from my didactic year into audio files! Listening while I drive makes me feel that I am being productive during my commute and takes my mind off driving too!
-Feeling Like You’re at the Bottom of the Food Chain- as a PA student, you may find yourself interacting with a variety of other students at different levels of education: med students, residents, NP students, and other PA students. Unfortunately, you may find there is a “pecking order” and that you are closer to the bottom. Once again, you may find you need to adjust your rotation to fit your needs or adjust your expectations to fit the rotation. In surgery and now in my emergency medicine rotation, I found myself sharing schedules with med students and residents. One solution that my EM preceptor found to combat an overcrowded learning environment is to coordinate my schedule opposite of the residents so that we are not “battling” over patient interactions and procedures and I will be able to make the most out of my learning experience. Yet, it isn’t always terrible to work with other students. Like I said before, you can learn something from everyone. The medical student I worked with during surgery was finishing up his 8-week rotation when I was just starting and was happy to give me pointers and tips on how to rock my rotation. Residents have gone through their rotations in med school and are now learning to become experts in their given field. They can also be awesome resources for pointers on how to do a certain procedure or are fabulous to watch interview patients too! Plus, in reality, we are all students and are trying to figure out what the hell is going on, so we can all laugh a bit at that.
Being asked for the millionth time “so what specialty are you leaning towards”- This is a struggle because 1. You may not know what you want to do 2. You may know but don’t want to offend your preceptor/fellow staff members when your answer isn’t their specialty or 3. You literally hate every rotation and are seriously considering dropping out of school (just kidding!! ). I’ve always given the answer: “I’m trying to keep an open mind with every rotation and have not decided yet”, which in reality is my honest answer. I also tell every preceptor at the beginning of my rotation that I want to get as much experience as I can in their specialty so that I can learn the good things and the bad things that come with it. This means I want to be on-call, work full shifts, and see as many patients as I can. Even with a full 8-week rotation, I find time flies by and that there is still so much to learn. So make the most of your rotation and by graduation maybe you will confidently know what specialty is calling you!
Being busy all the time– during rotations you’re constantly running around, find yourself missing meals, and your feet hurt from standing or walking around (especially during your surgery and ED rotations). Make sure you always have a spare set of clothing, comfy shoes, and a snack packed with you. You will soooo thank yourself later!
So these are a few of my (not) so favorite things and a few hurdles you may find yourself encountering during clinical year. I will end this post on a good note by saying without a doubt clinical year has been a thousand times better than didactic year and it is for sure the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to your education. Every day is a new and interesting experience during clinical year: new patients, new procedures, and variety all through the day. No two patient experiences are the same. In addition, you are finally doing what you set out to do when you applied to PA school: helping patients become their best selves. Even as a student, you are improving these patients lives by offering education, providing a fresh take on information and patient care to preceptors, and most importantly: having fun! So enjoy your clinical year, because if you thought didactic year went fast (and in retrospect, it totally does even if it doesn’t feel like it during the year) clinical year goes a million times faster!
Clinical year is truly where the fun happens! And before you know it, you’re going to be a PA-C!
Pics compliments of giphy.com
So a little-known fact about me is…I love Medelita (for about a million reasons) but one of them is that they know what is really important in life: honoring those that go out of their way to make other’s lives better. So when Medelita asked me to write a piece about what inspired me to become a PA, I was delighted! So today I wanted to share my post from their website with you!
Growing up, I knew Bryan as my Dad’s best friend. He was smart, kind, and always willing to help anyone in need. Besides being my Dad’s best friend, Bryan is also a PA. Growing up, he was the first person I really knew whom I associated the PA profession with. A lot of the time, he would make a house call when one of my siblings and I got sick with an ear infection, sore throats, or various other sicknesses.
Fast forward to high school and early college days. I was (vaguely) trying to decide the direction I wanted my life to take, so I decided to shadow Bryan. Bryan works in Urgent Care, and my experience shadowing him really sparked my interest in becoming a PA. The way he connected with his patients and really listened to what they had to say was beyond impressive, a skill that many other health professionals I shadowed did not have. Many people (including myself before I was educated) did not fully understand the role a PA had in a healthcare team. Bryan saw patients independently, did procedures, reviewed x-rays and other scans, prescribed medication, and did about a million other things that I had no idea PAs did. Believe me, when I walked out of that shadowing experience, Bryan sold me on the PA profession.
Bryan continued to be there for me through the PA application process and into PA school. He wrote me letters of recommendation, was there to check in and see how school was going and has given me advice on numerous other ins and outs of the profession. He really is someone I look up to not only as a PA, but also as a person. If I can connect with patients, be as wise, and be as passionate about my career as Bryan…well I know I will make one heck of a PA!
Original article found at: https://www.medelita.com/community/pa-inspiration-mentorship/
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have a passion for international medical missions (most recently I was in Belize for a week helping impoverished individuals with little to no healthcare access) and I recently found an amazing organization that I just have to share with you all! In fact, on top of introducing you to them, this holiday season I am embarking on a mission of my own: to raise funds for Ovi and Violet International!
Every year the holiday season brings me joy, gratitude, and reminds me to reflect on the good things this life has given me: family, friends, and health.
With every holiday season, I always think about how important it is to give back to the world. This year, I was blessed to become an ambassador for an amazing organization called Ovi and Violet International. (Please check them out at this link: Ovi & Violet International) This organization is special for many reasons, the biggest one being their passion and mission to deliver health care to orphans with terminal illnesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. This organization is near and dear to my heart because it was founded by 2 incredible PAs who were inspired to make a difference in these children’s lives. The O.V.I. Children’s Hospital offers the 34 million orphans of Sub-Saharan Africa access to free 24/7 medical care and hope. Children who would otherwise face cancer, AIDS, severe malnourishment, and other life-threatening illnesses alone without any access to care are now able to find healing and rest.
So my mission is to raise funds to help support this amazing cause. No donation is too small! If everyone donated even $1 to the cause it would make such a huge impact on these children’s lives. Your donations will be put towards purchasing medical supplies, supporting the medical facility, and purchasing many other vital supplies that will continue to help this organization provide critical medical care to these kiddos!
You can check them out further and donate here at Hope for the Holidays
If you cannot contribute a monetary gift but would like to still get involved, follow this link to their How You Can Help page.
Thanks so much in advance and blessings to you all!
Today marks exactly the halfway point of my clinical year. I have officially conquered 2 1/2 rotations and in only 6 months I will be an official graduate of PA school with credentialing to come shortly after! It is hard to believe this journey of PA school has an end in sight, as when I began I felt like school would never end. Everyone says it but you don’t believe it at the beginning…time really does pass by in a blink of an eye!
As I have ventured through my rotations, I have recognized one thing I am not thrilled about. Yes, 9/10 times I cannot express how excited and privileged I am to be a PA student and a future PA…and today won’t be that 1/10 time I am not. No, my problem does not stand with the PA profession in itself, but how people react to it.
The demeaning comments of my career choice began even before I started PA school. I remember taking a biochemistry exam my senior year of college and being the first student in the class to hand it in. My professor was a pretty awesome dude but was clearly shocked I had finished his exam so quickly so he decided to grade it right there on the spot. After grading it and realizing how I did, he looked up at me at asked what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t hesitate and responded, “I’m going to be a PA”. I remember the frown wash across his face and he responded “you’re far too smart to waste your brains on PA school. You should really go to medical school”. As a young student in the midsts of interviewing for PA schools and thrilled for my next educational step, this comment stung. It stung bad. For a good week, this comment made me re-think what I was doing with life, especially since I had debated long and hard before applying to PA school as to which route I wanted to follow: PA school or medical school. Was I really limiting myself by attending PA school? Did I make the wrong choice? Am I going to be happy as a PA?
Fast forward to May of 2016. I began PA school and was absolutely thrilled and excited and a ball of nervous energy. Anyone that has conquered didactic year of PA school knows there’s nothing quite like it. All through didactic year I busted my butt to soak up as much information as I could. I set up shop in the library for most of the year, watched endless medical YouTube videos and read countless books to try and cram the info in my brain, and I sacrificed a lot of my time away from loved ones for the good of my education. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the endless studying because it felt amazing to know the information I put in my brain today would influence my patient care in the future. Yet, I still found people questioning my career choice through my first year of school. “Oh so this is like “pre-school” before you go on to medical school?”, “so did you not get into medical school…is that why you’re going to be a PA?”, and “why do you want to be the doctor’s assistant”? all were comments made to me. Yikes! Not exactly the things I wanted to hear when I was busting my butt with the books.
As clinical year started, the comments continued to roll in. I overheard some of the nurses I worked with describe me to a patient as “the doctor’s personal assistant”. Other doctor’s I worked with informed me “I didn’t have to learn that because I’m “just” the PA”, or introduced me as the “Physician’s Assistant”, and over and over again I continue to hear “you’re just too smart to be a PA…you should really go to medical school”. By this point, it truly takes all my willpower not to roll my eyes when I hear that.
As frustrating as this has come to be, I’ve realized one thing: there needs to be more education about a PA’s role in the healthcare system. We are the new kids on the block, and don’t get me wrong, the rest of the healthcare world has come a long ways in accepting who we are in the last 50 years, but there is still a long ways to go. And as PA’s, that is on us.
Another lesson I have had to learn along the way is to be confident. As PAs we are very intelligent individuals (if you doubt that, check all the rigorous academic requirements that need to be achieved to get into school or take a look at the fast-paced first year curriculum). As individuals who are educated, you know our reasons to go the PA route are valid. Whether it be the lifestyle balance, lateral mobility, less debt, style of work, or about a zillion other reasons why the PA route is appealing…we picked this awesome career for a reason. Don’t let anyone take that away from you or let you feel less than for picking a career that best suits you.
In addition to the above reasons, as PAs we go into the profession to help our patients and our curriculum makes us incredibly able to do that. This is what I remind myself every time I hear a comment made about my profession that is not positive…it’s the patient that matters at the end of the day and quite honestly, I can set my ego aside for that reason alone.
Now, this blog post makes you think I hear these comments daily…and thankfully I do not! For every one negative comment, I hear about 20 more positive comments about PAs! Patients who interact with PAs love us. Just yesterday one patient lit up when I told him I was a PA student and said “wow, good for you! PAs are the best!” When I was with my family medicine preceptor (who is a PA) her patients could not say enough about how wonderful and smart she was. You could tell they were 100% confident in her ability to treat and care for them. It’s brave and intelligent PAs that have gone before me that have paved the way for my success as a new PA. So thank you for that!
As for me, I proudly wear my name badge that states “Jourdyn PA Student” every day. And as a soon to be PA-C, I couldn’t be more excited to share my profession with the world!
(Internal feeling of being a future PA)
P.S. Med school still rocks if you decide to go that route (my fiancé is currently rocking out his first year of it), but you really do have to do some soul searching as to what you want. Like anything in life, you do you, and don’t let the haters stop you!
It seems like such a long time ago, but its only been a year since I began PA school. I remember walking in the first day petrified of what was to come. I was excited to be starting a new chapter in my education while simultaneously dreading the year to come knowing how rigorous and challenging the material was going to be. I remember the first day being a whirlwind of information and the faculty preparing us that this was going to be one of the most challenging things we will accomplish. I remember in the first couple weeks my friend and I would always go and change into our scrubs before anatomy lab and give each other pep talks. We used to say, “yes, we COULD do this for 1 year. 1 year of hard learning and then we will be ok”. Yet, both of us were nervous about what was to come in the next 12 months.
Fast forward 12 months and here I am…officially done with my didactic year of PA school. And guess what…I survived!! There were so many things I have learned over the course of this year, both medically relevant and also about life. So in honor of my completion of the first part of my education…I wanted to write a post for all your PA students that are about to kick off the start of your didactic year. Looking back, there are so many things I wish I could have told myself when I was in your shoes. So in honor of you beginning your didactic year…here are my words of wisdom for you!
- Laugh often– you’re a student, you’re going to make mistakes. I know I’ve spoken about this in previous posts but it just shows how important I think it is. PA school requires you to jam a LOT of information in your brain, which can inevitably lead to mistakes and wrong answers every once in a while. IT’S OK. You are a human being…and you’re not expected to know everything. So cut yourself a break, and even better…laugh at yourself! This past semester we learned how to do pelvic exams. Obviously, that is a little stressful and something I’m not used to doing at all. Between trying to remember what the heck I was looking at, juggling the speculum, and just trying to calm my nerves…something had to give. I’m typically a pretty casual and easy-going individual…and sometimes I need to remember to use professional terminology. I was in the moment and wasn’t thinking so instead of saying what I should have (like a professional term)…I decided to phrase it “Ok now I’m going to sneak a peek now” OH MY GOOD LORD. Of all the things to say during a gyn exam…I think that takes one of the top places for things NOT to say. Oops. Thank goodness it was a “practice patient” (aka a standardized patient)…and I clearly have learned from my mistake. In retrospect, it is pretty funny. So give yourself a break…learn from your mistakes and don’t take yourself too seriously! Trust in the process that you will get to where you need to be.
- Don’t neglect the things you love. I know when I began school I was worried I was going to lose so many pieces of my life. I wouldn’t be able to work out, I wouldn’t be able to see friends or family, and I would simply have to put life on hold while I plunged into the unknowns of PA school. Don’t get me wrong, there are sacrifices you are going to have to make time-wise…but you learn how to live life in moderation. Yes, you are going to commit plenty of hours to studying…but you also need to give yourself some time every day to be a human. Whether that means giving yourself an hour to go for a run/walk, calling your mom or dad to check in and see how they are doing, or just scrolling through social media for a 1/2 hour to unwind from a long day at class…know that it is ok! Whenever I got home from class, I gave myself a full hour to decompress from school. Even though an hour doesn’t seem like a long time or you may even feel like that hour is a huge waste of time away from studying…I would venture to say that hour gave me enough of a mental break to be able to conquer school. I love being outside and being active, so I would often go to our local state park and go for a nice long walk in the woods. It was simple, but it was so relaxing and really rejuvenated my brain before kicking off my nighttime studying. As much as we’d like to use our brains all day long, they need a break too! So avoid burnout, give yourself a break, and do something you love!
- Don’t compare yourself to others. When I got to school, I was blown away by how intelligent and accomplished all my peers were. Many had thousands of hours of healthcare experience, while others graduated from prestigious universities. I was amazed how I had fooled the admissions committee into accepting me into their program. At first, it was hard not to compare myself to everyone else. We kicked off PA school with an anatomy course and many of classmates sailed through it…naming off body parts that I had never even heard of or cutting structures perfectly. I was completely out of my comfort zone. Looking back, it’s funny because there are so many components to your education…and there are going to be things you rock at, and things you don’t excel at (at first). Your classmates will find the same thing happen to them too. I found out I was really good at pharmacology, where many others struggled with it. PA school is a journey, both educationally and emotionally. Be patient with yourself. You will find your groove and become comfortable with your own studying habits, what you like/don’t like, and how to best tackle that crazy thing called PA school you signed up for!
- Drop the competition at the door. We are all “Type A” in one sense or another, specifically, we have a competitive spirit and have worked hard for our admissions ticket into school. The hardest thing to remember is that you don’t need to compete to be at the top of your class any longer, and you can now embrace the wonderfulness of group studying! As stated in point 3 above, everyone is good at something or another, meaning collaboration is the key to success in PA school. They say PA school is like drinking out of a fire hose (which is pretty accurate). You get a ton of info in a short period of time, and let me tell you if you try and conquer all that info by yourself it’s going to suck and be super stressful! Don’t do that to yourself! Find yourself some study buddies early on and formulate the best way to tackle the info. I found it was best if you had 3-4 students in a group, that way you could let ideas flow, but not be overwhelmed by too many minds! I cannot tell you how many answers I ended up getting right on my exam just because one of my classmates had a wacky way of remembering it that stuck in my head. So embrace your fellow classmates and learn to love what everyone can bring to the table. And when you finally ace that exam…you guys can all have a little celebration as your classmates come out of the exam and you all passed (seriously, we would all give each other high fives and be super pumped when we all passed…best feeling ever!)
- Remember why you’re doing this. Everyone has a reason for going to PA school. My inspiration for taking the path that I did was the healthcare teams I experienced growing up. My pediatrician was the most amazing woman I had ever met (besides my mom). She was smart, passionate, and funny. Unlike most kiddos, I actually looked forward to going in for a check-up! As I grew up, I had various family members bounce in and out of hospitals and medical facilities. I began to gravitate towards the buzz of the healthcare field from these experiences. My career path was set ablaze though when I shadowed my first PA in high school and in college. He worked in the walk-in clinic, and his intelligence and passion to help people really made me think that this could be a career for me. He was so in-love with his job, and couldn’t imagine doing anything besides what he did. That really struck a chord with me, I wanted a career that I was just as excited about every single day! So from here, I went on to gather up patient care hours. I did this in the form of being a CNA. I worked in a nursing home but switched to in-home care. Specifically, I was placed in the homes of patients who had suffered spinal cord injuries. One patient really changed my outlook on healthcare. This patient was friendly, caring, intelligent, and has such a passion for life, even after his injury! I spent many hours with this patient, and a lot of our time together involved talking about his healthcare experience and what he hoped would happen for spinal injury patients in the future. He was my favorite patient, and although I was excited to start PA school it, was extremely bittersweet to leave my job and the amazing patients that came with it. It is bonds with patients like him that remind me of why I’m going to PA school. He was so incredibly excited when I told him I got into my dream school! On some of those days of school when I’m feeling exhausted and burned out from studying…I remember the encouragement and support I received from that patient. I know that there will be more patients to come like him, and it is these wonderful individuals that inspire me to work just a little bit harder to make it through. Yes, PA school can take a toll on your free time (and sometimes your sanity), but when you have a reason and passion of why you started your PA career in the first place, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to push through to the finish line!
So yes, didactic year is a whirlwind of knowledge and learning…but you can do it! Remember, every single year hundreds of PA students graduate from schools across the nation. If they can do it, so can you! Just remember, it’s best to just do you…and believe in yourself! If you put in the time and energy and enlist the help of your classmates…didactic year will be over before you know it! And then you get to move onto the real fun….
EXCITING NEWS TO SHARE!!
I have recently started a YouTube Channel where I will be posting additional helpful PA advice for you all!
Check out my channel, and check out my video here:
Now, go knock them dead on interview day 🙂