When I was accepted to PA school I had a myriad of reactions from friends and family. The usual response was “That’s great!! Let me know when you can write prescriptions for me! Just kidding!” but some of the unexpected responses were the most valuable. I was warned, as many of you have been, that PA school is like trying to drink out of a fire hose that is on full blast. I was advised that I would have to change my expectations for grades and that barely passing still meant I could be a PA. The most valuable advice came from a PA I worked with who told me that I would have to set priorities, take nights off from studying, soak up as much information as I could, and try not to stress about every test. At first hearing this I had a mix of emotions between skepticism (I’d always been a good student in undergrad, involved in a lot and studying thoroughly for every test, why would I stop now?) and fear (What did he mean EVERY test? How many tests are there?). We are now 8 months into school and I think I fully understand the meaning and value behind that advice.
PA school is kind of like training for a 10k or a big game if you’re an athlete. It takes dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, and teamwork. Just like in training there are good days and there are bad days but you have to keep the end goal in mind. Some days are great, the information is ‘clicking’, classmates are encouraging, and you’re only in class for half the day. Other days are hard (I mean awful!). After studying for 2 days you make a bad grade on a test (and yes, there are lots of tests!), the lecture is full of important information, and your mind is home with your family because of something going on there. Friends will ask you if you have fallen off the face of the earth (and sometimes it feels like you have) and family members will be confused about why you don’t have summers off or traditional semesters (get ready to answer this question EVERY break haha). But, then you hear a patient talking about their symptoms as you are working in the clinic and you recall a congenital condition that predisposes them to their ailments. Or, you hear someone mention a medication they are taking and you know what it is used for along with its side effects. In that moment, it’s like making the shot that puts your team in the lead or crossing the half-way mark with plenty of energy to continue.
It is the little victories in PA school that keep you going, that keep you training. On the hard days, try to remember the great days and make sure to take record of the great days because there will be hard days. So here is my advice if you are about to begin a PA program….Try to set priorities from the beginning, worrying and stressing about tests or practicals won’t change your grade so just try your best and be prepared, take time to put things into perspective (for some people that’s spending time with family or friends that are not in PA school and for others that’s going to church or going on a fun hike). Finally, try to enjoy this opportunity for all that it has to offer, you have a class full of people who are interested in medicine, tons of knowledge and information in lecturers to learn from, and holidays off (rare in the medical field).
Lindsay Collins PA-S