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4:45pm It was a hot, thigh-sticking day in the southern town of Elon, NC during early September. The smell of linens and cigarette smoke laced the air as a 25 yo white female ascends the stairs to her third floor apartment. The day had been filled with nausea, shell shock, and relief. Any PA student would know this day well; practical exam day. Conveniently all our practical exams are in the afternoon, after a full day of classes. The horror of the later events loomed over the students like foul-smelling flatulence. Once the standardized patients arrive, it is time for the show to begin. The students that go early in the process are the lucky ones. They have been spared this time, but there is no telling where their names will end up next practical. Waiting in the classroom, heart-racing wondering if your sweat is showing through your lab coat asking yourself  “should I try to urinate again? Or just hold it?” Some choose to regress back to their childhood and draw pretty pictures on the board but this 25yo white female with a family history of breast cancer chooses to pace quietly. Maybe a bad joke will break up the air.  She says, “Guys, what if I walk in there and pee just starts dripping down my leg?!” A nervous laughter fills the too quiet air.

2:20pm It’s your turn. No papers, no pencils, nothing but your brain and your equipment. Hope you studied hard enough. Hope you got enough sleep. Hope you prayed that your mind wouldn’t go blank. She smiled, held her head high and entered the room….

3:25pm With wobbly legs, she exited the blue sheet room and immediately wanted to run back in to add something…but it was too late. The papers and pencils have been collected and it was a done deal. What a relief to be done for the rest of the day!  The world seemed brighter as she walked out of the Francis Center with pep in her step. She felt lighter, like she would float away with the slightest breeze. She was exhausted, dripped with sweat, and her feet hurt but she was free…at least for the day.

Tessa Conte PA-S