Today, I finished up my 5th semester of PA school. My program is only 24 months or 6 semesters long, so I’m (way) more than half way done. It’s crazy to think that in exactly 5 months, I will be at my long white coat ceremony, with my official graduation from my PA program only 2 short days later. I only have three rotations left – Emergency Medicine, Women’s Health, and Surgery – and I’m in the process of deciding what I want to do for the beginning of my career.
A lot has changed since I started PA school in June of 2016, and here are some of my reflections of my time for far in school, and what I hope to accomplish before graduation.
I actually know medicine now.
I just finished up taking two OSCEs, which are Objective Structured Clinical Examinations. These are requirements of any nationally accredited Physician Assistant Program, and give the faculty a chance to observe the student preforming a physical exam and interacting with patients. We’ve had standardized patients before (actors who come in to allow us to “exam” patients in a more realistic environment) but this was our first set of official graded OSCEs. And you know what? I walked out of both of my encounters completely happy with the way I preformed. I was able to formulate a differential diagnoses based on the patient’s presenting complaint, and preform a focused physical exam, and devise a management plan based on that patient’s presentation. Sure, there were questions I wish I would have asked in hindsight, but for the most part I rocked it. And this is something that I NEVER could have done at the beginning of PA school. I would have felt overwhelmed and unprepared to just go in and “see” a patient. I would have spent the days before stressing out and trying to cram for possible conditions. But I didn’t experience all of those feelings before these OSCEs. And that’s because,
I feel confident in my abilities.
At this point, I’ve finished up most of clinical year. I’ve done an elective in Dermatology, seen a plethora of patients in Primary Care, examined unhappy kiddos in Pediatrics, managed multiple co-morbidities in Internal Medicine, and dived deeper in the human psyche in Behavioral Medicine. I’ve gotten experience in the “real” world and it’s made me realize how much I do actually know! And how effective I am at history taking and physical examinations!
This is a huge change even from just a few short months ago. So much of didactic year I felt less than adequate. I struggled with test taking and let the views of others impact the way I thought and felt about myself. Going out on clinical year was a huge step for me – because it gave me the opportunity to blossom into my self and gain confidence in my abilities as a future provider. Looking back now, I realize how much I actually did learn during Didactic year, and how well I was able to synthesize that knowledge rather than just memorize it. This was actually one of my biggest fears entering Clinical year, that I wouldn’t be able to utilize all of that information I learned during Didactic year. So it’s a huge relief for me to know that this was (mostly) unfounded.
Even the beginning of Clinical year, I felt lost. I went from having an amazing experience with a wonderful preceptor, to having a not so great experience with a not so wonderful preceptor – which made me lose a lot of the confidence I had gained during the previous rotation. This made it really hard for me to want to push forward, and I honestly considered dropping out. That’s how crazy of an experience that rotation was. Even after I (my mom) forced me to stay, I ended up going on to the next rotation and having a rough start. My preceptor there flat out told me that I needed to suck it up and have some confidence in myself. They told me how silly I was being to let the words and actions of one person continue to affect me after I left his site. And while their method of telling me this might not have been the most…gentle, it really forced me to look at myself. So I sucked it up, let myself have one more day of feeling inadequate, and then moved forward. And I went on to get raving evaluations from every one of my following preceptors, even getting awarded “Student of the Block” by my school – something I previously had NEVER thought would happen to me.
PA school has really be a chaotic adventure for me, and while I am so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to school where I do, and obtain the education I have, it has not been without moments of disappointment. I’ve learned the kind of person I am, and the kind of person that I want to be for others. But I’m definitely hoping to ride out my final semester with more calm and less chaos.
So where am I going from here?
I’ve decided that I want to pursue a path in Emergency Medicine. I absolutely love the hospital setting, and while I enjoyed every minute of my Internal Medicine rotation, I’m looking for something a little more fast-paced and critically thinking oriented. I feel like Emergency Medicine will offer me that mix of hospital setting that I love, with the critical thinking challenges I crave.
At this point, I’m deciding between finding an Emergency Medicine Fellowship or just heading straight into a new graduate position. I’ve decided to apply to some of these fellowships, because realistically a very small number of individuals are accepted, and after speaking to graduates, I think that I would appreciate the continued educational options I could receive from pursuing a fellowship. And if I end up not getting accepted, I’ll apply to jobs.
No matter what, I know that I am going to rock it as a PA, and that my experiences during school have made me that much stronger.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post, and thank you all so much for all of your kind words and thoughts during my adventure through PA school as I try to survive life with a stethoscope and some sparkle. I truly can say that I don’t think I would have made it through school is one piece without all of your support.