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PA school has to be one of the most difficult things I have taken on in my 25 years of life thus far. There are definitely moments when I’ve questioned whether or not I have what it takes to learn everything I need to, deal with all of the stress of PA school, and manage to keep my sanity. In addition to these trying moments when I wonder what I was thinking when I decided to start this crazy 27-month journey, there are the times when I realize this is my passion and what I was put on this earth to do.

As PA students at Elon, we are given the opportunity to volunteer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Open Door Clinic of Alamance County. The Open Door Clinic provides healthcare to the uninsured and underserved population in Alamance County. We have the opportunity to interact with the patients by writing down their chief complaint, past medical history, and medications. We take all of their vital signs and triage the patients as well.

Volunteering at Open Door Clinic is a great opportunity and helps me realize just how much I’ve learned in my 10 months at Elon. I recognize the medications the patients bring with them and I know what condition the medications are being used to treat. I know what pertinent history questions to ask the patient based on their chief complaint. The healthcare providers will also pull us into the patient rooms when they see something that is a good teaching point. They’ll ask us questions about what certain physical exam findings indicate and what diagnosis it points towards. I know this alone is great practice before next year when we get “pimped” on clinical rotations. “Pimping” is pretty much a round of questions asked by your supervising physician. They keep asking you questions regarding the diagnosis until you get a question wrong. It definitely keeps you on your toes.

One of my favorite memories from volunteering at Open Door Clinic was when a patient came in with a chief complaint of abdominal pain and tightness. It was a wonderful moment for me as a student because I knew where to go with my questions. It was great to know that I was able to connect her chief complaint and responses to history questions. I was able to develop a differential diagnosis in my head, something that we work on throughout our entire time in the program. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and helped me realize that I can do this!

It’s so satisfying to see how much of an impact we can have on these people’s lives. It’s moments like this, when I’m able to put what I’ve learned to use and help someone, that remind me it’s worth all of the stress and late nights. I cannot wait to start my dream job!

Jessica Stevenson PA-S1