Second Semester of PA School

Saturday, January 7, 2017




Happy new year everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season :) I surely have been enjoying my 3 weeks off from school and had so much fun seeing family and friends over break that I almost didn't want to come back from India ;). As much as I miss seeing my classmates, this break was much needed. Nevertheless, all good things come to an end and we start Spring semester on Monday, the 9th! I am finally willing to reflect on our last semester and share my experiences with you all.


It's hard to believe that we are half way through our didactic year. I am honestly still surprised at how I made it this far. Our own faculty called our fall semester "the beast" so you can imagine how difficult it must have been to survive. Here are a few reasons why fall semester was so challenging and what I did not only to survive but also thrive during this season:

The work load increased by let's just say A LOT. We had 8 classes last semester adding up to 27 credit hours, in comparison to the 15 credit hours in the summer. Yes, you read that right, 27 credit hours. The most I've ever taken is 18 credit hours in undergrad and I was definitely not prepared to take so many credit hours at once. There's nothing I can say or do to prepare you for this kind of workload. It's something that we all have to learn as it comes. I tried my best to keep up with the material but honestly there were a handful of exams by the end of the semester that I purely had to cram for, an art that I have only ever practiced and mastered in PA school. I do not and will not ever suggest making this a habit but sometimes it's inevitable.

We were in class from 8:30 - 4:30 most days and then we had to go home and study. This was the most difficult part for me. It's exhausting to sit in the same spot all day, every day and still pay attention in every single class. For me, it was impossible to pay attention throughout the day. I learn better when I read things over on my own pace so I allowed myself to not pay as close of attention in some classes. However,  I always made the hours of sitting in class count by making my study guides for the lecture we were going over. That way, when I'm out of class, all I have to do is read the material and then use my study guide to learn it.

At least 2 exams were given each week, not to forget quizzes and verbal exams. For our medical communications class, we learned how to take a medical history, conduct a full patient interview including learning all of the review of systems, and also did a "presenting to the preceptor" verbal assignment. For our Intro to Psychiatry class, we had to do the entire Mental Status Exam from the top of our head. These are all things that we had to memorize and roll off our tongues without looking at any notes. In physical assessment lab, we had a practical midterm and final where we had to know all the physical exams by regions (HEENT, Lungs/Cardio, Abdomen, Musculoskeletal, Neuro, etc.)  and be ready to perform any exam on a surrogate patient when presented with a case on the spot. These are the moments that made sitting in a classroom and studying for countless hours all worth it. I looked forward to practical exams so I could see what I was good at and also because it helped me visualize what the rest of my career is going to look like.

Now that I'm at the halfway point and have enough experience as a PA student under my belt, I thought I'd share my take on what stays and what goes for next semester:

I do better when I don't study ALL the time. Here's the harsh reality that I'm going to admit even though I don't want to. At some point towards the end of the fall semester, I started to feel burnt out and felt like I would never remember everything I'm being taught. I felt afraid that I was starting to care less and become a robot, studying for one exam after another and found little joy in it. That also had to do with the fact that the block we were going over wasn't my favorite. As a result, I started to study without aiming for an excellent grade, thinking that I just needed to make it to the end of the semester. Now it's important to note that I didn't study any less, but as soon as I took away the pressure and fear of making a bad grade, I noticed that I actually started to do better on my exams. Not only that, but I also seemed to retain the information just as well as when I studied constantly and in fear.

  • Take home point: I am going to start off on the right foot this semester and try my best to study without the added stress of making a good grade. 
Study guides are my golden ticket to passing exams. I really love how our class is not cut throat at all. Instead, we all share the study guides we make on Sharepoint with the rest of the class. I cannot express how grateful I am to my classmates for making this learning experience so much easier.  They always have helpful mnemonics or stories to remember the drugs for Pharm. or the different kinds of microbes that cause a certain disease for clinical medicine. 
  • Take home point: I shall continue to make my study guides as it's worth investing the time that goes into making them.
Meal planning and taking better care of myself has to become a priority. I really started to slack in this department (again, towards the middle/end of the semester) and I need to get better about having regular meals and pushing myself to be physically active this upcoming semester. 
  • Take home point: make the time to meal prep as I did before no matter how much studying I have left to do on Sundays.
Use more outside resources to solidify information. A lot of my classmates use PANCE prep books and other helpful resources to study. While our PowerPoints are very detailed, sometimes it's helpful to read a condensed version of a particular topic in a different format.
  • Take home point: find other ways and be open to learn the material presented in lecture in different ways.
Make condensed study guides for material heavy topics throughout the semester. One of my classmates was really good at this and did it all along the semester. I started using her condensed study guides and it was so helpful to tie things together and look at the big picture. 
  • Take home point: learn to recognize what's most important and make study guides with the main topics only (on top of detailed study guides) for a quick review. This is especially helpful for classes where we have cumulative finals. 
Regardless of how physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing PA school is, I have to say it's one of the best experiences I've had in life so far. I'm grateful for the things I've learned, the friends I've made, and the professors who dedicate their life to teaching us what one day will save so many lives. No matter how hard it gets, remember that the opportunity to impact someone's health and life is a blessing you prayed for with all your might and a blessing someone might give up anything to receive. 

Here's a to a fabulous 2017 and I wish continued success, love, and joy to you all!

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