A Day in the Life of a Clinical Year Student!

I liked last month’s post so much that I decided to take a page from Mariah and outline the (not so) average day of a clinical year student at Elon PA!

It’s a little difficult because the didactic and clinical years are about as different as you can get, and more than that they’re different for each student. The schedule is constantly shifting even within each individual rotation and then every six weeks you get the unparalleled joy of orienting to a new job all over again! Right now I’m smack-dab in the middle of my Emergency Medicine rotation, which is a bit crazier even than the rest, so it will be split by event instead of time. Without further ado, a day in my life!


Wake up!: The time this happens changes depending on the day. I live in Durham and am rotating through the E.D. in Greensboro, so I like to wake up early to have plenty of time to commute. Most of my shifts have started at 6 a.m. so I am up at around 3:30 a.m. However, the shift start times vary and this E.D. requires a week of night shifts which start at 10 p.m. I do not set alarms on days when I don’t work and let nature take its course.

(Frantically) Get ready!: Since I set my alarm at the latest possible moment I generally dash through the house like a whirlwind, throwing on scrubs, throwing bread in the toaster and getting my lunch from the fridge to head out the door.

Commute: My drive is about an hour give or take the traffic. I generally ride in silence for most, if not all, of the “morning” ride. I like to plan my upcoming day and week, pray and think about what I learned on my previous shift or most recent study session that I can apply to what I am going to do that day.

Arrive & Settle in: I get to the E.D. early so I can stash my lunch in the staff break-room and find my area. I like to be there before the preceptor if possible to pick a computer and introduce myself to the nurses and techs. I always go out of my way to ask them to grab me for any procedures they are going to do if they have time.

Hit the ground running: In general the E.D. picks up speed quickly and stops for no one. I am mainly seeing patients on my own and I try to make a plan and present it when I present my assessment and exam. I then will go with them when they do their assessment and exam and we talk about it afterward. I am often wrong. And I have come to grips with that (emoji) While I wish I knew everything, being wrong actually gives me many more opportunities to learn throughout my day. Encouragingly, I am not often completely wrong, instead it’s usually just that I am missing some element that would make my assessment or treatment more thorough.

Lunch: This is kind of a fend-for-yourself rotation in this aspect! Most of the providers will just eat in front of their computers when they get a spare moment. I will also do this sometimes, but generally I try to take at least 10-15 minutes to eat in the break room and have a moment to synthesize what I’ve been doing in the morning. The preceptors won’t begrudge you the time if you want it, but often they aren’t thinking about it so you have to speak up. 

Back to the ol’ grind: Finishing out the second half of the shift is much like the morning. See patient, talk to preceptor, repeat. The E.D. is a great place to go out of my way to put in IVs, do sutures and generally help the nurses and other providers do any procedures they’ll let me get my hands on. The providers generally stop taking patients an hour before the end of shift so they can finish up charts and dispositions. 

Lunch the 2nd (Sometimes): Some shifts overlap two meals so completely that I can’t avoid eating twice. If at all possible I try to just wait it out until I get home but if I can’t I usually try to pack at least a hearty snack because this brain does not work when it is hangry.*

Commute: My drive home is my time to play catch up on calls to the family. I talk to my husband to plan our evening, call my mom and siblings and make plans for my breaks. I often will listen to a podcast episode if I’m all caught up on calls or just feeling talked out for the day.

Home!: I get home, immediately change out of my scrubs and crash for at least an hour. Brain-dead zombie style. I cuddle my dogs and my husband and either watch a netflix episode or just talk because I feel like I hardly see him right now! I often do a few EOR practice questions or spend 15-20 minutes looking up something from that day’s shift, but I generally don’t study hard on days that I have worked. On some of the rotations where the shifts were shorter I was able to do that, but with 10 hour shifts and 2 hours of commuting my studying is just not as effective. Instead I start fresh and study hard on my days off. After my brain-dead time I will generally pack myself a lunch for the next day, take care of the dogs and then get ready for bed.

Sleep: This varies depending on when my shift starts the next day. On days that I work I try to get to bed as early as possible, but life happens. I just do the best I can! When I don’t work I’ll sleep in to try and catch up on my sleep deficit (that’s how it works, right?) 

*On a related note-please take care of yourself on your rotations! Sleep well, eat well and stay hydrated! It is so important for your learning!


There is a day in my life for this rotation! My days have looked vastly different in my other rotations, but I have honestly enjoyed every minute of it! This year has been a daunting but exhilarating glimpse into the future that comes for the class of 2020 in just 7 short months!

Take care till next time! Naomi Landry PA-S

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