Third Semester of PA School

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! I'm finally sitting down to reflect upon and write about our spring semester of didactic year. As you may have seen before, I've written about my first and second semesters after finishing finals. It has crossed my mind several times but I have been avoiding writing about it, mainly because I didn't want to think about how hard spring semester was. I was just glad to be done and never wanted to think about it again. However, I think I have finally recovered enough to be able to sit down and share my experience from the last 4 months.

Classes: we took 27 credit hours again and the work load some how seemed to be heavier then fall semester (and I thought that was hard...). We had Clin Med II, Pharm II (now twice a week), Medical Physiology and Pathophysiology III, Introduction to Surgery (lecture and lab), Clinical Procedures, Clinical practicum (mainly just mini OSCEs), Lab Med II, Radiology, and Clinical Integrations. So it was a mix of some fun hands on classes with and others just lecture based.

OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination. We had four OSCEs last semester: HEENT (head, ears, eyes, nose and throat), cardio, pulm, and GI. For each OSCE we would go in  pairs of 2 students, one as a provider and other as a patient. Our professor would give us a chief complaint and a script to the patient and that was it. The rest included getting a history and doing a focused physical exam. Then we'd have to come up with a differential diagnosis (at least a top 3) and present to our professor. They would ask us what our plan for the patient was, including how we would work them up, treatment plan, and follow up. Then we'd switch roles and start over. It seemed very intimidating at first but I started loving them because I enjoyed the hands on experience and getting immediate feedback about how I did. We have two more in the summer semester but more about that in a future post.

Exams/quizzes: I'm afraid to count up how many assessments we took in the spring. Each week we would have weekly quizzes in our surgery and clinical integrations classes. Then we would also have quizzes in clin med and MPP 3. It was obviously the hardest part of the semester to be able to keep up with the classes and the material. I was so overwhelmed within a month of school that I actually ended up coming home one weekend and having a mini meltdown in my mom's arms. I am not a person who cries much, especially not in front of anyone. But the daunting task ahead of me seemed impossible to get through and come out of it in one piece. A good cry, some words of encouragement, hugs, and a good meal later, I felt so much lighter and relieved.

ACLS/PALS/BLS: towards the end of the semester, we had a 3 day training in life support and it was so nice to be learning in groups actively. Our instructors were so knowledgable and we had a great experience learning from them. We are all now BLS/ACLS/PALS certified!

Sharing the work load: with so many classes and so much material, it was hard to make all the study guides for each lecture in each class. One of my friends and I actively decided to divide and conquer. We split up the responsibility for making study guides and were able to manage our time so much better.

Take home points
  • Even though I knew I can't do this alone, I tried to do just that anyway. Well that caught up to me really fast. I was reminded that it's okay to not be strong and have everything together at all times. It's okay to let your guard down, be vulnerable, and ask for help. You'd be surprised how quickly your stress melts away when you just allow yourself to be helped and loved by your dear ones.
  • Your classmates are an important part of your journey of becoming a PA. Lean on them, learn from them, invest in your friendship with them, and have fun with them while you still can. Didactic year flies by and I'm going to miss seeing those beautiful faces every day once we start rotations. 
  • Taking time off is okay. After my mini-melt down, I allowed myself to come home more often this semester, meet up with my non-PA school friends, and be more social. It helped keep things in balance and it paid off in the end.
  • Always aim to keep up with Clin Med. Even though I tried, the weekly quizzes in surgery and the amount of information we had to cover in MPP 3 took priority and clin med had to take a back seat last semester. That definitely is something I plan on changing this semester. Clin med is a priority and I aim on keeping up with it the best I can.
  • This is the hardest yet most satisfying experience of my life. Even though I have a long way to go and a lot more to learn, things we have learned over the past year are starting to connect and make sense. Take joy in how far you've come and all that you have learned. 
  • We have come a full circle. The class of 2019 had their orientation this week and start their first semester on Tuesday. It was such a surreal experience to go meet them during their orientation and think that not too long ago that was us, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, waiting to meet our bigs. Even the hardest things can be so rewarding and humbling, all you have to do is hang on and enjoy the journey.

Take home point for you all: life is not as put together and perfect as portrayed on social media all the time. Even the people who may have perfect Instagram accounts and blogs to share their journey struggle. I am by no means not bashing anyone. I just never want my readers to think that I am perfect or don't have any struggles in life. I chose to share my vulnerable moments from the last 4 months just for this reason. I stress out and get anxious sometimes just like anyone else. It is harder to share a picture of your messy room or the pile of dishes in your sink that you haven't gotten to because you're busy studying day in and day out. So most of the time, we only share perfectly captured pictures or accomplishments. Just remember that none of us have it all together all the time. Some days are better than others, but bottom line is that we all have ups and downs. 

Thank you for reading and your encouraging emails and messages through this journey. I'm glad I made the right decision by starting this blog and sharing my journey and am looking forward to keep doing just that. Now off to study some and enjoy the long weekend. 

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  1. Really enjoy your blog. I have read every post and it has inspired me to start my own! I start PA school in about 2 months! I am a male, so the fashion advice I can take or leave (j/k lol), but love the rest. Thanks so much for your posts, as it has helped me be more confident that I can do this!

  2. Thanks for reading David, I'm glad you enjoy reading the posts. That's awesome, we need more male bloggers in the community (so you can impart your own fashion advice haha kidding)! Be sure to send me the link when it's up and running, I'd love to follow along your journey. Congratulations on getting accepted and good luck!!!