We've made it through the grueling months of didactic, rotations & pimp questions, finals, summative courses, graduation, and now PANCE.
We've earned the title of: New Grads, newly minted PA-C's, etc.
Ever wish you could ask recent grads to look back at their experience and give you some rock star advice? That’s exactly what I did.
Below you will find advice that covers everything from the first day of PA school to rotations to PANCE prep. Incredibly lucky to feature all these amazing humans who interestingly enough, I met as students (either in class or IG) and are now friends and colleagues. How amazing is that?!
I often get asked how I kept it together while I simultaneously earned my PA & MPH degree. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. At times, my feed throughout rotations made it seem like I had things figured out...just know that there are aspects of the journey that aren’t easily shared in a picture: struggles to become a confident clinician, anxious thoughts, incorrect diagnoses, missteps during procedures, failures. Know that all these are normal. PA school tested every aspect of my character— study habits, time management skills, determination, commitment to a healthy lifestyle, relationships, friendships...EVERYTHING!! There were moments where I (gulp)…failed, didn’t think it was possible, but always kept going.
My biggest advice for anyone in medicine is to let go of the idea of being perfect. Dr. Kalanithi said it best: You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” That is, put in the work, strive to be the best version of yourself, but also accept the learning process. The expert in anything always starts off as a novice. If you make a mistake—have the courage to accept it, learn where you went wrong, & start anew. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world (aced a test, answered a pimp question), other days you’ll feel like you’re struggling to keep afloat. Drowning. When experiencing either, remember why you’re there, recharge, and get back to it.
Alright, enough of my advice…. here’s some from these amazing people! Enjoy!
1) First day of PA School:Wow! The thought of my first day in PA school still gives me chills to this day. It was hard to concentrate when you feel like you were still in a dream. I'm here! I've made it! I'm IN PA school! But that all quickly changed when you get home from class overwhelmed by the amount of lecture material. It's okay to feel overwhelmed and lost. More than likely, everyone will feel the same way. Do your best to pre-read and keep up with the materials. Find a study technique that works for you (realize that this may need to change for each class).
First OSCE exam:Smile before entering a room! The goal is to make the patient feel like they are being understood, have your attention and make them comfortable! If you're examining multiple systems and need to perform different maneuvers, try to avoid having a patient in different positions (up/down, up/down, bend over..etc). Try to stay calm (think about it this way... how would you like to be treated if you were the patient
--Ngan Lam, ENT PA-C, MPH
On Instagram: @ampersand.pa
2) Rotations: Starting clinical year can be super challenging! You’ve just spent semesters sitting in a classroom getting out of touch with patient care, and suddenly you’re thrown back into seeing patients—and this time you’re supposed to treat them. It’s very important to remember that you’re there for the experience. Making mistakes is allowed and expected, so take advantage of the opportunities and go outside of your comfort zone. You’ll be thankful you did!
--Erin Rachel, EM PA-C
On Instagram: @stethoscopeandsparkle
3) It's quite easy to lose focus during the last few months of clinical year...and rightfully so! You're almost at the finish line! Oftentimes, however, the little distractions can easily turn into laziness. Keep your focus. You are capable, you are diligent, and you WILL cross that finish line. And once you do, get ready to dance your PANCE off!
--Shaggy, soon to be PA-C (studying for PANCE)
On Instagram: @lifeofa_pa
4) Rotations: Keep an organized folder of your shot records(Tb and flu especially), certifications (BCLS, ALS), copy of your DL and health insurance, and malpractice insurance from school.I'm so glad I did this because there's so much credentialing every month because you have a new rotation and new site, and because there's even more credentialing for the hospital when you decide to start working. The process is so much easier when you have a folder of stuff you need!
On Instagram: @whitecoatdreaming
5) So you didn't get accepted into your dream PA program or you failed that exam you've been studying so hard for or you dropped your lasagna on the ground. Sometimes "bad" things happen one after the other that make it hard to keep on going. You might feel like your whole world is tumbling down all at once and there's no escape. As hard as it may be, try to be optimistic and look on the brighter side! When one door closes, another one opens. It might be down the hall, or around the corner, or heck, in an entirely different building but it's there! You just have to expend some energy and time looking for it. Don't be discouraged, don't give up, don't plunge into the depths of despair and defeat. Some of your favorite PA influencers are second or even third time applicants (myself included). We've stumbled and fallen but we did not stay down.
Believe in yourself. You will emerge victorious and stronger than before
--Katie Ngyuyen, PA-C
On Instagram: @cup_keki
6) Didactic: Try and absorb as much of the information as possible. It will most likely be a bit overwhelming (I was overwhelmed at minimum a few times a week), but dedicating time to learning the material will certainly pay off for your exams and for clinical year! Also, don't be afraid to change up your study habits and try to get the information into your brain in as many ways as possible. I used dry erase boards, LOTS of colorful pens/markers/drawings to take and re-take notes, audio lectures on commutes, review books, flash cards, group study sessions, and question banks to study during didactic year. Do what works for you in each individual class and realize when it isn't working as well as you'd hoped so you can move on to another method of learning.
Rotations: you've made it through the toughest part, in my opinion! Clinical rotations are your time to show off all you have learned in didactic year, and to learn even more clinically. Be open to all opportunities, and be excited and willing to learn. Show your preceptors that you're an awesome, smart, motivated, and eager student - that's what they like to see. And don't be afraid to say "I'm not sure, but I will look it up". Also, don't beat yourself up when you don't know something, because you're still a student and still learning! Medicine is not going to be completely mastered by anyone in 1-2 years, so enjoy the experience of learning and growing as a future provider.
--Holly D, PA-C
On Instagram: @xohollyd
7) I thought getting into PA school was one of the most difficult and stressful times of my life (and I still do!) Once I got that acceptance letter I felt so relieved and happy, but little did I know getting into PA school was only half the battle. For me, I had been out of school for a while and in the working force trying to acquire my hours and experience. I was feeling a little rusty and unsure of how I should study. I felt anxious and overwhelmed with how much material we were given each day, yet we were given so little time each day to study. And I guess what I am trying to say is everybody will feel overwhelmed at some point but you will eventually find your own groove and balance. It’s okay if things don’t click immediately, or you don’t feel on top of your game like you did in undergrad. I felt like my study habits continually evolved through my time in PA school, and whatever worked for me I kept doing, and whatever didn’t I stopped. For me, I needed to study on my own first and then I would group study. Don’t be scare to “divorce” your study group as they say in PA school. Do what works for you, simple as that! Anyways, this is a very scary BUT exciting time of yours!
Remember everybody fails at some point, and that’s OKAY,just reflect on why it happened and how you can learn from it. PA school is tough, but if it wasn’t everybody would do it. Good luck friends! --Patti T, PA-C, MPH
8) No matter where you are in the PA process, no matter how big the struggle may seem....celebrate your journey. Take a step back and look at your situation from a wider perspective. Remember how far you've come to get to this point, realize how strong you are now, and be grateful for this specific, unique place in the journey that continues to unfold in your professional and personal life.
Rotations:When you're moving every 6 weeks for rotations, living out of a suitcase, starting "work" in a new setting in a different specialty, only to have to leave just as suddenly as you arrived...celebrate the journey. It may be tiring, it may be stressful, and it may even be lonely, but this is a privilege.You have made it through didactic year and are almost done with school. You have the opportunity to experience different specialties of medicine and learn from the best. You get to live in places you would never have thought you would live, and meet patients from all walks of life with many different conditions. Everyone has something to teach you, and although you might want just want a stable place to call home, try to celebrate this part of your journey and remember that this learning opportunity is a temporary privilege afforded to only the few.
PANCE prep:When you're finally graduating and you pass the PANCE, and life seems uncertain again because you don't know where you're going to work, and what practicing medicine "in real life" is going to be like, and your loans seem too overwhelming....celebrate this part of the journey. You've made it. You're a PA-C. Practicing medicine will always be a journey of learning...
--Melanie C., PA-C, MPH
9) Didactic: One thing that came in handy was making my own cliff notes for challenging topics because when studying for EORs/summative course, I could just compile all my cliff notes/cheat sheets and learn from those …then I’d fill in the gaps with lectures or readings from textbooks.
--Mayra, H, PA-C, MPH
10)Rotations: “I wish for my first day of rotations and throughout I would have just said “yes” to everything even though I had never done it before. Figuring out your preceptor as quickly as possible helps—whether they like to talk/answer questions, and how to best learn from them. Always ask other people about the rotation before you go to learn as much as you can beforehand and be prepared!
--Jordan W, PA-C, MPH
11) There will come a day that you do poorly on an exam fail at something, but it’s how you respond to the failure that will determine your success. Push through, push forward, and don’t forget to have fun!
--Tanya P, PA-C, MPH
12) School-life Balance: Mental health is real and important to your success in PA school! Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy life. Don’t deprive yourself of breaks when you need it. If you’re not being efficient with your studying, go do something fun! Doing non-PA school things is crucial! Don’t be afraid to try out new study methods. I used to be a solo studier who transitioned into study groups during didactics. With the amount of information we were expected to obtain in PA school, you’ll find that accountable study buddies can really help during those late night cram sessions. Find the best (study) method for you.
Rotations: don’t be shy in asking your classmates for their tips, tricks, and opinions on rotations/preceptors, but don’t assume your experience will be the same as theirs. Your experience will be uniquely your own! Don’t let it dissuade you from choosing a particular rotation as well.
Misc: Invest in a solid external hard drive - protect yourself from any computer mishaps!
--Julia, S, OB/GYN PA-C, MPH