I just recently realized that I've officially been a graduate for 1 full year, and it was about this time last year where I was nervously awaiting PANCE results. It's been somewhat of a whirlwind year, and I wanted to reflect and share some advice to you guys as I look back. It's amazing how time flies in PA school, and then it still goes as fast when you're busy working. I went to a pharmaceutical dinner last night for PAs, and some of my past professors, and now colleagues, were there. It was so funny because one of the teachers couldn't even remember when I graduated! And she wanted me to call her by her first name, which just still seems weird to me. It's amazing what a difference a year can make.
This time last year, I had officially graduated, taken PANCE, and was training at my dermatology job. I was almost as nervous to check my board results as I was to actually take the test. I was at work that day and as soon as I got the e-mail that scores were posted, I went outside of the building to check them. I had pretty much decided that if I failed, I would just leave and not go back. Luckily, I didn't have to do that, but passing boards is what made it feel real, like I had finally made it. I'm dreading retaking them in 10 years, but I just won't think about that for now.
Some advice to Pre-PA students - Being a PA is a great job, and I definitely recommend it, but look at all of your options closely and decide why being a PA will be a good job for you personally. Although in many fields, you do most of what the physician does, PAs are not physicians, and some people will never be happy in that role. It takes hard work to become a PA and you have to decide that it's worth it you. While you're doing all of the prerequisites for PA school, have some fun. Looking back, I had a great college experience, but I was almost too goal focused and I do wish I was a little more laid back at times. The stress and tears weren't really worth it.
Advice to current PA students - Eventually, you will be done with classes and rotations and boards and you will be a PA too! It does end, so just remember that during the weeks that you think you might just not make it. There are still about 2 weeks that I remember as just being terrible, but we all made it through. I would encourage you to still take care of yourself and your passions. It can be easy to lose those things when you're so microfocused on school all the time. I don't think I read a single book for fun while I was in PA school, instead I would read study material until I fell asleep. Was that necessary? Probably not. Also take time to invest in your friendships and family. The first 2 semesters of PA school, I wouldn't even go out to eat with my family because I "had to study." Looking back, it would have taken probably 30 min- 1 hour, given my brain a rest, and given me nourishment and fellowship. Maybe I got 1 point higher on the test by skipping dinner? But I think I would have rather gone to dinner. So don't be so uptight that you let things slip away. Become friends with your classmates too, and hang out with them outside of school! Some of my best friends are girls I met in PA school, and most of the things we did were unplanned and random, but just what we needed to survive. Like buying last minute floor seats to see Taylor Swift 2 days before the show, with multiple tests the next week...maybe not the best plan, but exactly what we needed at the time. (And it was so worth it.) One last thing, you will find a job. So no need to cry over that like I did either. Your first job probably will not be your last job, but there are plenty to go around. While job searching, I would recommend not discussing specifics of jobs with your friends or close classmates because it can get a little uncomfortable if you and your best friend are interviewing for the same job. So just make a plan to hold off until you've signed the contract.
Advice to new grads - Congrats, you made it! Welcome to the real world! Vacation is something different now, and if you're working in a clinic with a set schedule, be prepared to ask off months in advance because they really don't like having to move 20-30 patients when you decide you're ready to go to the beach. Be wise with your money. I had a great plan right out of school that I would just buy whatever I want and then whatever was left would go to my student loans. Yeah, that's a terrible plan. Look into paying off your loans early and investing as soon as possible. (A great resource - White Coat Investor). While being wise with your money, don't be afraid to have some fun too. You've deserved it! Like if you want to plan a random trip to Las Vegas with your spouse or buddies, do it! And keep up with your classmates. It takes a family to get through PA school, and now that you have a bunch of new colleagues, use those resources to make each other better PAs. If you hate your current job, look for a new one. I once heard that you should never stop looking for a job, and there are tons out there so don't stay somewhere that you are unhappy. Don't forget to give back to your program either, and not necessarily financially. If you are able to lecture or be a preceptor for students, that's a huge help to the program and even more to the students.
Overall, I'm extremely happy with my decision to become a PA and I love my job. There are still some days when I feel overly stressed and exhausted, but there are far less than when I first started working. I'm excited to see where our profession is heading, and how it will change and evolve. I'm still figuring everything out, but it's getting much easier. And I'm just happy to not be studying for the PANCE right now.