Having a wife and daughters who are five and three, it is safe to assume that my life as a Physician Assistant student is different than your typical student. Although my family brings me joy and satisfaction that I cannot put into words, it does create some challenges that cannot be taken lightly. However, with careful planning, hard work, and a very patient spouse, becoming a P.A. is within the grasp of anyone with enough determination. The test of managing school and family started before entering the Elon P.A. program. My decision to go to PA school was while my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. I was working as a medical equipment sales representative in Colorado. Although I enjoyed my job, I often found myself wishing that I could be involved with diagnosing and treating patients. Not knowing if it could be possible to return to school with a family, I met a few friends that went through medical and dental school while having two and three children. It helped me realize that where there is a will, there is a way. I decided that I was going to make this dream work, of course only after getting the green light from my wife.
Getting into P.A. school was at least half of my battle to becoming a Physician Assistant. It was the true test to determine if my family and I could handle an intense PA program. For the next two years, I took 51 credits of prerequisites just to apply. I also worked part-time as a CNA in a surgery department of a local hospital. In addition, I spent two days per week taking care of my kids while my wife worked at the same hospital (she is an occupational therapist). I was also very involved with my church had weekly responsibilities. Balancing these tasks would have been much easier if I was only trying to get passing grades. Getting exceptional grades required me to sacrifice most of my leisure time. On top of my busy schedule, I spent many late nights applying to several P.A. programs throughout the country.
Although our lives were extremely busy, we still enjoyed our lives and found satisfaction in working towards a dream. My wife and I even scheduled date night every Friday. It proved to ourselves that we could handle P.A. school if I was given the opportunity. A little more than two years after pursuing my goal, Elon University gave me the chance I had been hoping for. We were very excited to start a new adventure for the next 27 months in North Carolina. Neither of us had ever lived in the eastern United States.
Balancing school and family has required careful planning and many sacrifices. We have set time slots where I am committed to family, and other slots where I am focused on school. Although I wish I could spend even more time with my family, we understand that this is a temporary sacrifice that will pay off in the long run. Because family time always feels too short, I make the most of each moment and thoughts of school are pushed aside until my scheduled study time. Being unable to relieve my wife from the kids for long periods of time has been as exhausting for her as P.A. school has been for me. She watches them all day, works part-time from home, and does the majority of tasks required to manage a house and family. Because of that, during my last school break, I watched the kids for four days and let my wife travel to New York City and hang out with some of her old friends. Although it may not have been my idea of a vacation, I was able to make up for lost time with my kids. Also, I have learned from experience that “a happy wife is a happy life.” The remainder of our vacation was spent camping as an entire family in the Pisgah National Forrest. Although the school breaks are relatively short, they have been very refreshing. Anytime that school is difficult and discouragement tries to creep in, I remind myself of all that I have been blessed with- I have a beautiful family who support me and my goal, I am in a program that I once only dreamed of, and I will be in a rewarding profession that will improve the lives of thousands. When I complete my education, although only my name will be on the degree, my wife deserves half of the credit because I could not have done it without her.
Aaron, Elon PA student, Class of 2016