So this is kind of a more serious subject.
I know a lot of you have struggled with the journey of getting to Physician Assistant school, and I wish I could tell you that once you get in, everything is magic and sunshine. And truthfully, being there was the most amazing feeling ever and it did feel like every dream I ever had was within my grasp.
But it was still hard. And I still struggled. Classes are intense, we’re in school all day and then go home and study, people sometimes aren’t the most supportive, and it cumulates with feeling like we’re facing this huge, impossible challenge (or at least I did). One day I cried because I spilt water on my backpack and it didn’t totally dry prior to going to school the next day. Looking back it’s completely silly and I can laugh at my being so distraught at simple water, but in the moment it was a big deal.
That’s what I want you guys to realize: is that even though something can seem like a big deal in the moment, and like something you’re not going to be able to overcome, that’s not reality. Our lives are filled with so much promise and hope and for every obstacle we overcome, we turn in to such better humans.
So while many of you may be concerned about how you’ll ever make it to PA school, take a step back. Look at how much you have learned and grown as a person and remember that. Look at all of the experiences that have shaped you and find something to be thankful about each one. And then remember, even if you’re not the smartest person in the world, or testing is something you struggle with, you can still make an amazing clinician based on your experience and ability to interact with a person.
I read an article during school about the rude awakening many medical and PA students face once they leave the program. It explained how we spend SO much time memorizing and learning all of this material, and then we get to the real world and realize not all of it is actually things that help us treat a patient. That our memorization doesn’t help with clinical knowledge and many of the things we learn can, and will, be looked up as we go. I felt a lot of this during PA school, when faced with learning for a test and ultimately just memorizing (even though technically I shouldn’t be regurgitating the material but learning how to apply it) things I that I couldn’t imagine being able to remember in my clinical practice. And it made me question how well prepared I would be.
But then I would try to remember all of the life experience I have that came just from applying to PA school. The thousands of hours I spent working in a hospital under RNs, PAs, and MDs/DOs. The experiences I got to witness, from patients dying to holding babies less than a day old. The techniques I learned because I was that PCA who asked questions constantly. The shadowing hours. The interviews. The explaining what a PA is to family members. And I realized I was prepared. I did deserve to be there. And I would make a great clinician.
As someone who is now three years out as a practicing PA, I can tell you that all of this is true. The experiences that led me to PA school ended up being a lot more helpful than the organic chemistry class I withdrew from. The growth I had from interacting with those patients and learning that what I thought was important was not as important as what the patient needed, made me into a much better student. My clinical year experiences, even the ones I hated, taught me something that I could apply to my practice as a PA-C.
Even though this daunting and challenging and stressful and sometimes we just need to cry over spilt [water], it all comes together. The great part of becoming a physician assistant is the fact there is emphasis on your experience. The admissions committee wants you to have experience. They want you to know how to interact with patients. They want you to have grown as a person from some event in your life. They want you to have overcome challenges.
Having a stumble is not a bad thing.
Instead, think of each stumble as an opportunity. What are you going to take away from it? How will it make you into a better person? How have you changed from it? All of that will leave you prepared for essentially any question the AdCom member could ask you.
So I want you to keep this in mind the next time you feel like you can’t accomplish this. We have all been there (I know I certainly have) and it is something we overcome. And without it, I truly don’t feel we will as be as good of clinicians. So appreciate your challenges.