It’s hard to imagine that 10 months have flown by so quickly and we are approaching the end of our didactic year. I can’t even count the amount of hours we’ve endured studying and in class, but somehow, we’ve made it through them all. For all the future Elon University PAs, there is honestly nothing I can say here to prepare you. Everyone has to figure things out for themselves, as we are all unique in our strengths and weaknesses. That being said, here is my best shot at offering one piece of advice for each month I have been in school.

  1. Don’t Give Up. Ever: If you feel like you are drowning, it’s safe to say you are not the only one. There is always something hanging over your head. Some weeks you will have 3-4 exams, and just when they are over and you feel yourself nearing the surface for air, you get dunked under again.
  2. Stay Organized and Manage Your Time: I always got annoyed hearing this piece of advice throughout my schooling, but if you are ever going to institute this into your life – now is that time. Establishing these skills will take you from surviving to thriving.  If you succeed, I can promise that “drowning” feeling I described above will be manageable!
  3. Try Your Best to Keep Up With the Material: This is always easier said than done, but you will be much less anxious when you can study for a test as opposed to cram for it. (I wish I could say I actually did this :P)
  4. Prepare to Question Yourself Why You Are Here: Especially in the first month. I remember coming home from school every day and having to take a nap from pure exhaustion. It certainly is a major adjustment from anything else you’ve done before. Remember that YOU were chosen to make this adjustment in your life. If you’re struggling and beginning to doubt yourself, just think about the fact that YOU possess unique qualities that will make you a great clinician. Everything else will fall in to place.
  5. Get Involved: Classes, studying, and exams are only part of the equation of getting through this didactic year. Whether it is Open Door Clinic or intramurals, getting out of the classroom and interacting with others is a great break from all the stress. Yes, you may lose valuable study time, but it will get you closer to the actual goal of becoming a good clinician. It may also remind you why you are going through this all. I left my family and friends 600 miles north of Elon and getting involved helped keep me sane (well, mostly).
  6. This next piece of advice has a couple different parts. First, get to know your fellow classmates. Everyone in the program has a different background in medicine as well as different strengths and weaknesses as students, so use them as resources! If you have an area of “expertise”, help your fellow classmates… this is NOT a competition! Second, get to know the second years (us!). And ask us advice. Believe me, we asked our second years plenty of questions about what to expect and they were a wealth of information. Lastly, get to know the faculty and don’t be afraid to ask for help. They are here to support us (and push us J). They want to see us all succeed. Whomever you look to for support is great, as long as you do not try to face this challenge alone.
  7. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes: If we were all experts, we wouldn’t be here. You are bound to say something you didn’t mean to a standardized patient. While testing his peripheral vision, I told one of our male SP’s to pick any part of me and stare at it (embarrassing!). Lets just say you do learn from your mistakes.
  8. Make Time for Yourself, It’s Easy to Forget: When faced with the obstacles of PA school and while seemingly confined within the walls of the Gerald Francis Center, it doesn’t seem possible that a life outside of PA school exists. No matter what your passion, don’t give it up. Yes, prioritizing my studies was of upmost importance, but I love to work out, and therefore it was not something I gave up while in school, I just had to work in.
  9. Don’t Ignore Your Physical or Mental Health: You sit A LOT of the day and your normal daily routine will get interrupted. If you don’t take it upon yourself to maintain your well-being, it’s hard to get it back.
  10. Finally, don’t put ALL of your focus into your grades; the end goal is to be good and compassionate clinicians. Interacting with the concepts you learn will give you the most benefit and prepare you to care for patients.