PA School Spotlight: Marquette University Physician Assistant Program

On The Pre-PA Club Podcast_Mock Interview with @jamienicole_pa.s2 (2).png

PA Program: Marquette University

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: At Marquette University, our program is 2.5 years or eight semesters long I just started my first year this past August, and just started my second semester this January.

Class size: At Marquette University, our class size is currently 55 students. Half of our class are “internal” Marquette students, meaning that they attended Marquette for undergrad, or currently attend Marquette. The other half of the class are “external” students meaning that they received a bachelor’s degree from a different university. Currently, Marquette is a “3-3” program meaning that undergrad students can apply early from Marquette to start their first year of PA school their junior or senior year, doing three years of undergrad and three years of PA school. However, lots is changing at Marquette. The previous interview cycle accepted 80 students, with what was rumored to be the last year of the 3-3 program. Currently Marquette is looking to expand the PA program size with our new building on campus as well as move towards only accepting those with previous bachelor’s degrees. For my cycle, over 1,400 people externally applied for the 27 seats.

Why did you apply to your program?: Marquette was a school that I didn’t have on my application list originally. I was encouraged to apply to the school from a PA that I shadowed, as it was her alma mater. She had also attended Creighton for undergrad, and I saw many similarities between herself and me. Investigating the school a bit more, I was further inclined to apply after seeing Marquette’s statistics.

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: I chose to attend Marquette because of its high PANCE pass rates, the urban Midwest location and larger class size. Marquette is one of only 30 schools in the US that has had 100% PANCE pass rates first try since the start of the program over 20 years ago. Although the program is slightly longer than the average, I know that I will feel prepared to work as a PA, as some of this third year offers more time for clinical electives.

Is there anything unique about your program?: Marquette is currently a 3-3 program as I explained above, but this is going to be discontinued due to the demand for PA school seats. We are also getting a brand new 18.5-million-dollar PA building that will be completed at the end of the summer!

What is your favorite study resource?: Hands down my favorite study resource is my iPad and Apple pen. (Affiliate links). Although my iPad doesn’t really qualify to be a “study resource”, it has quickly become my life line in PA school. I purchased my iPad junior year of undergrad and have never looked back. It is great for taking notes, making flashcards and is my portable white board. My brain learns best when I can write and draw material and then re-write and re-draw until I feel confident. Apps, such as Notability, make this very easy! Additionally, I enjoy having any textbooks needed on my Kindle or Amazon app.

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: The most difficult part of PA school was moving to a new city, living alone and making friends. People often think that PA school is entirely about academics and trying not to fail, but a huge part of PA school is about your personal health and happiness. You need good friends and a network of PA students regardless of if you are attending school at home or in a new city. I thought that Facetiming and calling friends from college and home would be enough but found myself lonely those first few weeks. Having now found a great group of friends, attending class and other school events is more fun.

What advice would you give to other PA students?: Don’t talk about how stressed you are amongst your peers. Just don’t do it. There are people that will only ever spill negative energy about how much they have to do and how little time they have to do it in. If you don’t let yourself talk about your workload or stress, you won’t feel as anxious about your week. Additionally, nobody enjoys the PA student that always makes you feel that you’re behind. Understand how you deal with stress and prepare for busy weeks in advance as best you can.

Where can we find you?  I started a blog with my good friend Mikayla from Creighton called the PA Prescription. You can find us on Instagram @thepaprescription as well as a link to our blog: thepaprescription.squarespace.com. We are a unique blog in that we discuss the path to PA in a dual perspective (gap year vs. no gap year).


If you are a current PA student and would like to share more about your program, email us at savanna@thepaplatform.com

Interview with Ngan - ENT Physician Assistant, PA Advocate, and Interview Coach

Copy of Interview Post.png

Ngan is one of our rockstar coaches, and I’m excited to share some of the insights she provided on her job and role with AAPA. She has an interesting educational background and some insights into how legislation works in advocating for the PA profession.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Ngan, and I am a fairly new PA working in ENT. I was part of the inaugural PA class from Florida International University in Miami, and graduated December 2017. Prior to PA school, I received my Masters in Public Health, and worked with a local health department as an epidemiologist investigating infectious diseases. I have also worked as a medical assistant at an HIV clinic.

Do you feel like having a background in public health helped you with getting into PA school or has helped you as a PA?

I would say that my Masters in Public Health did not necessarily get me any more interviews, but it definitely was a conversation starter while I was in the interviews. As a PA, I really do believe that it has changed my thought process to looking more to socio-economic status or factors that affect patient care. So because of that, I do believe that it does make me a better healthcare provider.

I definitely recommend that if you can, or anyone really, should take a few courses in public health. But as far as obtaining a second masters degree, I would say do it only if you are truly interested in working with the underserved population or contributing to greater health in public health.

You went to Florida International University and you were in the inaugural class – did you apply when it was provisional? Did you have any reservations about going to a provisional program? Or did you see any benefits of being in a provisional program?

Correct! I did apply when it was provisional and I am the first graduating class.

I think I was a little reserved applying without knowing much about it, but having been through the whole process, actually sitting in and being interviewed by the ARC-PA (accrediting committee for PA schools), I was confident. It takes a lot for a PA school to become accredited. And to new PA students out there, I definitely encourage you to look into it. One of the great things, I would say, about being in a brand new program, you have the opportunity to provide feedback and kind of mold the program and really make an impact for future PA students. If that is something you are interested in, to make an impact and leave a legacy, then I do encourage students to also look at provisionally accredited programs.

When it came time to apply to PA school, what did that process look like for you and how did you come to the decision of wanting to be a PA?

I will be honest, I did not do my research well. My journey to PA school was challenging, and I would even say that one of the hardest things to me was the whole application. At that time, I didn’t really know anyone going through this process so I had to do this process on my own. What really got me interested was working as an epidemiologist, and I was just frustrated. At that time, I was working on this specific project interviewing young adults that recently tested positive for hepatitis C. During these interviews, I would call the patients and notify them of their test results – here they are crying thinking this is like a life sentence, it was awful, and I was frustrated that these providers were the first ones to get into contact with these patients to notify them. I felt like I wanted to be the voice for these patients, do more and be there for them. And so that’s what trickled into wanting to be a PA.

When it came time to apply, how many schools did you apply to and what did that look like?

I applied in total to 10 schools, and like I said, I didn’t do my research - this is not something that I recommend to other students, so learn from my mistakes – I just pretty much applied to schools based on locations I thought I would want to live in. Majority of them, I wanted to stay locally, so I did apply to mostly Florida schools. Really, it was just that I compared my GPA to see what the schools requirements were and if I met them, typically that is where I would apply. Moving forward, I think for students that are out there, it‘s really important to do your research and also look into the program’s missions and values, I feel that it’s just as important. You are spending two or more years in these programs, you’re investing yourself into your career as well. I think with that you have to do your research and make sure the school is a good fit for you and not just go because it’s in easy reach.

Because of my lack of preparation and failing to really do the research, I was only offered the one interview at FIU, and fortunately, that was the only one school that I needed.

What advice do you have for somebody going into an interview?

I would say the most important thing, or the easiest thing really, is just to be yourself. Be genuine, don’t make up answers that you think the the interviewers would want to know. Speak from the heart and that will translate so much better. What I do notice with a lot of these applicants’ interviews, don’t discredit yourself. Every little thing you do, I think, brings a lot to the table and your weaknesses or strengths, play that up. Like for me, I will be honest, I didn’t have a strong GPA and that is probably what limited me in most my interviews. Yes, like I said, I have my Masters, but the schools really didn’t care. They looked at my undergrad GPA and they were like, yeah we don’t know. For me, I played up my public health strength a lot and I think that’s what ultimately what got me through the interview. So if there is any particular thing that you have that you think is unique, play that to your advantage and I think that will take you far. Speak from the heart and smile!

What was most difficult during PA school?

Early on, I struggled a lot with mental, like personal blocks. What I mean is early on, you are comparing yourself to others. I think that is something easier said than done, but you really just have to work on it. The only competition is yourself, to be a better version of yourself from the person you were yesterday. That was challenging. Of course, I think the volume overload with information that is provided - you hear often that PA school is like drinking water from a water hydrant. It is just challenging. Just trust yourself and trust the process. Whatever it is at the end of the day, everyone is in the same boat. Be your own cheerleader and motivate yourself to continue to study and not be so hard on yourself.

How did you end up in ENT (ear, nose and throat/otolaryngology)?

During PA school, when we had our ENT block, we had a great professor, Jose Mercado, and he was just really amazing. He was someone that was so passionate about ENT. I think I just fed off of that. He introduced us to the ENT conferences that I attended as a student. So that is ultimately how I got my interview and landed my job where I am at now. I just recalled going, as a student, and one of the doctors jokingly told me if you’re someone who likes to play with toys, ENT field is the way to go. That was another reason that caused me to pursue ENT.

Did you have trouble finding a job, or was that pretty easy?

I applied for jobs about 3 months prior to the end of PA school. I would say it was challenging at the time because a lot of the places wanted to see that you were certified. I think it all depends on when you apply, but still would encourage the students out there that are near the end of school to consider looking early. I ended up with two interviews prior to graduation and both of these opportunities came from networking, whether through a conference or just being involved with the state academy.

How has that adjustment been as a new grad? Did you feel prepared coming out of school? At this point, do you feel like you have a handle on things?

Not at all! I feel like there are good days and bad days. It is rough. The feeling walking across the stage knowing that you are now a PA graduate is amazing, but unfortunately, that does not translate well to you getting a job. It is going to be very similar to starting a new clinical rotation. You’re going to feel lost. It has definitely been a challenge. I think I’ve gone through one hurdle, but there is still so much to learn. Kind of what I said earlier about not comparing yourself to others, I have to remind myself frequently, it is not fair for compare my knowledge to my attendings -  someone who’s had seven years of residency training on top of medical school, plus years of experience. Again, that’s something that I will have to continue reminding myself and just continue to push myself to learn and grow each day. But I am hanging in there!

What does a typical day at your job look like?

My current position is interesting. We are affiliated with an academic center and I work closely with our residents and our attendings. Also, I would say, my ENT practice is different from others in the fact that we are very subspecialized – we have a specialist that works in otology, who is only dealing with the ears, rhinology, such as dealing with the nose, pediatric clinic and also, plastics/reconstruction provider. I feel like we are so spread out, whereas if you talk to most ENT providers, they are like, “Oh I am only an otologist and I only deal with ear issues.” Each day is different. I work Monday to Friday, 8- 5. Depending on my assignment, I may work with our ear doctor in the morning and then switch to a different clinic in the afternoon. As far as autonomy, I am still in the process of learning how to do the nasal endoscopies. At this time, as part of our training, the goal or what is expected, is for me to see every new or extended return patient, get a full history, perform the physical exam, maybe perform ear debridement if necessary, come up and discuss with my attending, come up with a plan, and then together we’ll go back to the patients room and discuss. The goal once the training phase is over, I’m expected to see patients on my own, then discharge them out, and ultimately have my own set of patients.

How did you first get involved with AAPA, and why was that something you wanted to do?

I was pretty involved as a student leader at FIU. I was diversity chair for my class. That also led me to work with our state academy. Really, just trying to get involved more as a leader. I got my start in lobbying years ago in college when I lobbied with Planned Parenthood for women’s reproductive rights. After getting my Masters in Public Health, I kind of needed a goal to use my PA title as a platform to advocate for patients health. Sure enough, I was browsing around on Facebook one day and I saw that the AAPA was looking for students to apply to become a delegate for the student academy. Typically, if selected, you will serve for a whole year – that begins in August/September and those duties will end at the conference.

If you are a delegate, what does that mean? What do you do?

As part of a delegate, you have the authority on behalf of the AAPA, to enact policies and principles for the PA profession. To kind of give you some background, there are 57 chapters representing 50 states, 26 recognized specialty organizations, such as dermatology and otolaryngology, and 8 organizations that share a common goal or interest in healthcare delivery. For us as the student academy, we have the largest voting body and have 16 seats, or in other words, 16 voting privileges. Every year, we meet at the AAPA conference for about 3 days – for the first 2 days we are discussing the different policies that are presented, ways that these policies may affect healthcare delivery, whether there is Medicare coverage, PA privileges, health promoting, and disease prevention. The final day is when we vote on these issues.

What are some current hot topics for physician assistants?

I would say one of the hottest topics right now, still is changing the professional title of physician assistants. I will agree where most people feel that the name change isn’t necessary and that it is silly that the AAPA is spending so much money investigating this issue. But in a way, do feel like the title or word the assistant does hinder our practice and confuses the general population. What this policy says is that it’s not necessary to vote whether or not we’ll go with the name change, but to kind of further investigate it and see what the general consensus is on whether a title change would be appropriate.

We voted to not necessarily change the name at this time, just to see what everyone thinks about changing the name and offer suggestions. Whether Physician Associate would be appropriate, or whatever it is. They are just investigating this at the moment. But I feel, at the end of the day, you just have to educate, not just your patients, but everyone - even if it is someone you meet on the street or on the elevator – just educate on who and what it is. Whether a name change will truly change that, I don’t know. We just have to do more work to get the general public to know who we are.

Another hot debate in the house this year was the standards requiring in person instruction. The original policy pretty much stated AAPA supports standards to requiring that PA training programs provide at least 80% of didactic instruction as in person or live lectures. I think it was a great topic started and may have been targeting Yale’s online program, as they are the only online program currently. At the end of the day, what it really boils down to is whether or not there will be a flood market available with online programs popping everywhere. Maybe the title or the way the policy was written didn’t clearly state that, but that is really what the underlying issue is. Unfortunately, that policy did get rejected in the house and down the line this is something we will need to talk about. Yes, I do believe that with technology advances that online components can be great for students, but I think we’d have to kind of light fires for the accrediting bodies, the PAEA, those that are in charge of PA education to really make sure there is a policy in place that not every university can create their own online PA program.

As far as any other major recommendations, there are two that will affect students in a way. One of them got passed this year, and this was an initiative started by the student academy, increasing PA diversity. That did get passed and what that policy states is that there needs to be an initiative for increased funding for development and operation for PA programs at historically black colleges and universities, predominantly black institutions, Hispanic serving institutions, and rural serving institutions. The last one here, support for PA federal loan limits. I see now that with the increasing challenges or competitiveness to get into PA school, there will be more students that come in with a Masters beforehand, and sometimes these loan limitations can affect these students. That is something I think will benefit future PA students.

PA School Spotlight: University of St. Francis

On The Pre-PA Club Podcast_Mock Interview with @jamienicole_pa.s2 (41).png

PA Program: University of St. Francis in Albuquerque, NM

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: The program is 27 months. I am currently in my 4th rotation (General Surgery), and I have 4 six-week rotations left!

Class size: 40 students

Why did you apply to your program?: I am originally from a small town in rural New Mexico, so I mostly applied to schools close to home.

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: USF was my first interview and my first acceptance. I was offered a few other interviews, but I turned them down. I took my first acceptance because I was eager to get started and I loved the location!

Is there anything unique about your program?: The campus is located in a commercial office complex, and it only has a PA program! There’s a main campus in Illinois with other degrees, but in New Mexico, USF is only for PAs. I like that all the school’s efforts and resources go towards PA education.

What is your favorite study resource?: I mostly studied from my professors’ slides and Quizlets made by my classmates and me. I just bought PANCE Prep Pearls and I plan to use it for PANCE studying! (Affiliate link)

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: Didactic year as a whole is so difficult. It’s true when they say it’s like drinking water from a fire hydrant. So much information and so many exams in so little time!

What advice would you give to other PA students?: Study early and often! I usually did a quick review of the slides after every lecture, and then went over them at least 2 more times before it was time to buckle down before a test. Repetition is key! Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help if you are struggling.

Where can we find you? Instagram: @_erinleanne 

Attached is a picture of me with my pup, Melo, who I have had with me throughout school. My other advice to students is don't be afraid to have a pet during PA school! She's been a wonderful source of stress relief and keeps me active. She also has an Instagram: @corgmelo 


If you are a current PA student and would like to share more about your program, email us at savanna@thepaplatform.com

PA School Spotlight: University of Oklahoma

On The Pre-PA Club Podcast_Mock Interview with @jamienicole_pa.s2 (34).png

PA Program: University of Oklahoma—Health Sciences Center (OKC) Class of 2020

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: 

The program is 28 months total. We started in early June 2018 with Anatomy and we are in our second term (Fall). We will start rotations in October 2019 and graduate October 2020!

Class size: 51 

Why did you apply to your program?: 

I applied to my program for several reasons. It has been around since 1970, so the longevity of the program alone is outstanding. Until 2010 it was the only PA program in the state when OU-Tulsa formed its program and there are 2 other OK programs that have started in the last couple years. The first-time pass rate for the PANCE at my program has always been very high and everyone I spoke to about my program had only great things to say about it. I also just love the campus and all of the opportunities for rotations. The added super bonus was that I had already been living in OKC for a few years so I wouldn’t have to move. I just knew that this is where I wanted to go. 

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: 

I applied to 3 programs, but was accepted into 2. There were other factors, but honestly, I just knew the other option was not the right choice for me. So, I took a risk and officially declined the “sure thing” before finding out if I even had an interview at my first choice. Thankfully it all worked out! I don’t necessarily recommend this move to everyone because there’s always that risk of it not working out. I was just fortunate enough that it did and I’m extremely grateful that for that. 

Is there anything unique about your program?: 

Yes! While some schools are doing away with cadaver Anatomy, it is the first thing you do at my program. It is a 7-hour credit course taught over 6 weeks so it was an incredibly busy start. We did 2 hours of lecture almost every day and 2 hours of lab Monday-Thursday with a practical every Friday on that week’s material. After the practical quiz and even after exams we would still have lecture to get started on the new stuff. 

Along with Anatomy, we also had another 2-hour credit course, “Foundations of Medical Sciences”. This class is a review of the basic sciences to help get everyone caught up, knowing the same information. We studied biochemistry/metabolism, genetics, and microbiology for 2 weeks each over the Summer in conjunction with Anatomy and it was great. It’s been 5 years since I took some of these courses in undergrad so it has been very beneficial for me. The 2019 class had a different layout to the Summer courses, so the program is always changing to improve the program. 

Also, when it comes to rotations OUHSC has just about any elective available on campus. There are so many learning opportunities and I am really excited to see what I get to do next year when I start my rotations.  

What is your favorite study resource?: 

I mostly use just the slides provided. If there is a concept I don’t quite understand or if I need a different explanation I will often use AK Lectures, CrashCourse, or Osmosis.org on YouTube. I often rent the course books, but how much I actually use them is variable. For Anatomy, I recommend getting an atlas (affiliate link) and/or textbook to keep at home because you will probably end up using it well after anatomy has ended. 

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: 

The weird thing about PA school is that you truly don’t know what it will be like for you until you’re there. Some people come in, have their study strategy down, and are able to do extremely well early on. But honestly, I struggled with my first semester because I never really needed to study in my undergrad or graduate programs. It’s been crazy to go from studying maybe 3 hours per week to 30 hours per week outside of class time. I’m still fine-tuning and working to be more efficient with my time; but it’s getting there. If you are not sure how to keep up or if you find yourself overwhelmed with the volume of material, I truly encourage you to meet with your advisor, professor, tutor, counselor, or whoever you feel can help you. Take every opportunity to learn. And that includes learning how to learn, learning how to study, learning how to listen and take effective notes. 

What advice would you give to other PA students?: 

PA school is hard. It’s supposed to be. But even in the craziness make time for FUN! Even though you will be on campus more than at home, even though you will spend more time in class/studying than with your family/friends, make time for yourself. If you like to work out, read something besides a text book, play music, go out; whatever it is that you like doing, make sure you continue doing it. 

Also, you will study your butt off, work harder than you ever have before, and still get at least 1 really crappy grade. You may even fail a test in the most spectacular way possible. It’s OK! Meet with your professor to see what you could be doing better. Chances are they’ve been where you are and they made it. I love hearing about my professors’ experiences in PA school because knowing that it was hard for them, too makes everything better. They’ve been through it; some did it without the Internet, others had small children, others were newly married, or completely single. No matter the circumstance they understand how hard it is, and they sincerely want you to succeed. 

Find a good group to study with. I usually study with 2 other girls (my program besties) just a couple times per week. Studying alone the majority of the time is best for me, but group study helps you know what you don’t know and you can work together. If you just want to study in silence with a couple people for the sake of studying alone together, that works too. 

It’s truly amazing how much you can learn in such a short amount of time. Do your best, don’t get discouraged, and remember why you chose to go for it. It’s not easy but it will be worth it.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Instagram! Feel free to follow, ask questions, or just say hey!

@SamiRD2PA (PA School-focused blog)

@RD2PA (Personal blog)


If you are a current PA student and would like to share more about your program, email us at savanna@thepaplatform.com


PA School Spotlight: University of Nebraska Medical Center

love is love.png

PA Program: University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: My program is 28 months. I am a third year PA student, and will graduate this coming December!

Class size: 60 (50 on my campus, 10 at a satellite campus)

Why did you apply to your program?: I had a friend go to the med center and she had highly recommended it. It was also a program that was close enough to my family and now-husband, which I really liked as well. UNMC is also a top ten ranked PA program in the nation which I thought was pretty impressive.

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: I ended up choosing my program for a lot of the same reasons I applied. However, I felt like UNMC was the right fit for me after my interview on campus. I really liked Omaha and the location to my family, I had heard positive feedback from people about the program, and it was a top ranked program in the nation. All these things were things that got me to apply, but after I was on campus I knew it was more than just that. Things just sort of clicked and felt right when I was on campus; the facilities, the faculty and staff that I got to interact with. It was easy after that.

Is there anything unique about your program?: We have 15 months of clinical rotations, which is so great. What’s even greater is that you actually get to choose 6 electives!! I know so programs only get 1-3, so having 6 is so amazing! You really get to broaden your horizon and maybe choose something you wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do so. So yeah, I think that’s pretty unique.

What is your favorite study resource?: Google Docs! I know that’s probably an unexpected answer, but my friends and I made medicine study guides on google docs during didactic, and we constantly are going back to these as a resource to study, or to make new study guides off of. Hands down the best thing we ever did. But, I also love me some PANCE Prep Pearls!

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?:  The volume of information you are expected to know. It’s not always that it’s super difficult information to comprehend, it’s just that there is SO much more than undergrad. It can definitely be overwhelming, especially if you don’t stay on top of if.

What advice would you give to other PA students?: 

  • School wise- I would say the most important thing to learn early on is to not compare yourself to your classmates. How they study, how much they study, when they study, etc. Do NOT compare yourself! What works for them may not work for you, what takes them 5 hours, may only take you 3 hours. Whatever works for you focus on that, and focus on doing it well.

  • Outside life wise- Definitely still have a life and don’t think you need to study 24/7. Your life is not over when you start PA school. You need to make time to take breaks doing things you enjoy- whether it’s watching Netflix, working out, or cooking, do whatever you need for a mental health break. That’s just as important as cramming an extra half hour of studying in.

Where can we find you? - Instagram - @kellieg.denhartog

Ultimate Physician Assistant Gift Guide - 2018

Ultimate Physician Assistant Gift Guide.png

Wondering what to get for all of the PAs in your life? Whether Pre-PA, current students, or practicing PAs, we’ve got you covered with this 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. We’ve broken it down by category and you’ll find more practical options to go with some of the more fun choices. Feel free to pass this guide along to your family and friends to give them some hints about what’s on your shopping list. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means we get a small percentage if you make a purchase as no extra cost to you. This list is just in time for Black Friday so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for deals!

To Wear

uwJHqEfGRcuGgd8auy271Q.jpg

Looking professional is a staple as a physician assistant! Medelita is my go-to brand for medical wear in clinic. A gift card will provide a choice between the various scrubs, white coats, or scrub jackets, but I’ll share some of my favorites.

Medelita offers free shipping, the option of embroidery, a 1-year warranty, and at-home try-on. What more could you ask for? I recommend any of the scrubs, and my favorite white coats are the Ellody or the Rebecca. If you’ve never bought anything from Medelita, you can set up a new account and get $20 off your first purchase over $70. Use the code PAPLATFORM4 for a 20% discount.

DSC_8065.JPG
DSC_8108.JPG

If you’re looking for something more casual, check out Medthusiast for the cutest and comfiest T-shirts and sweatshirts. Both Medelita and Medthusiast are companies that were created by PAs, which makes them even cooler!

BvgGQUGmRa2eXHoUlo7tlw.jpg
IMG_5094.JPG

To Read

pasig-SP-3D.png

For the Pre-PA Student - To help future PA students reach their goals, there are some must have resources out there to make the process much easier. The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs provides information about all of the current PA programs. This is a huge time saver because it can be difficult to track down that info. After applying, the interview is the next step, so the Physician Assistant School Interview Guide is a great present for anyone in the application process.

For the current or soon-to-be PA Student - There were 2 books that were extremely helpful to me while I was in PA school - the “green” book and Lange Q&A. I used these the entire time and particularly when studying for boards. I’ve also heard great things about PANCE Prep Pearls.

For anyone and everyone - Dr. Atul Gawande is my favorite non-fiction/medical author. His books should be mandatory reading for anyone in medicine. Better and Complications would be welcome stocking stuffers for any PA!

For School

IMG_5142.JPG

While PA school is thankfully a somewhat distant memory for me, there are a few things I couldn’t have survived without.

A great computer. If you really love your PA student (or soon-to-be student), make sure they have a functioning laptop. I’ve heard great things about the iPad Pro and Notability for taking notes, so that’s a good option too. I started school with a MacBook Pro and ended with a Microsoft Surface. I wish I had my Surface at the beginning of my program so I could have taken notes directly on our never ending PowerPoints. I’m back to a MacBook now, but the Surface was great for studying for boards.

A functioning printer. Even though everything is online these days, I’m still a pen and paper type of person at times. I like to write things out and take notes by hand, particularly for last minute studying before a test. I have the HP Envy, and it’s wireless, and does the job.

A water bottle. I’m the first to admit I’m the worst at staying hydrated. At work I use one of the large Tervis tumblers to keep my drinks cold or a good Yeti cup. I love this water bottle that helps to remind you to drink frequently by glowing to help increase water intake.

Amazon Prime. Having 2-day shipping was a lifesaver during PA school and clinical year. When my feet and back were so sore during my surgery rotation, I was able to get some compression socks and better shoes on the way ASAP because by the time I got off work nothing was open and I just wanted to sleep.

For Clinic

dunoon-glencoe-the-brain-13_750x.jpg

If you’re in the market for a new stethoscope, and want one that functions excellently and looks sharp, check out the ERKA stethoscopes from Medelita. I don’t use a stethoscope frequently in dermatology, but my husband has claimed by ERKA as his own and uses it daily at the hospital. There are plenty of color options, and the tubing holds up nicely even with frequent use.

For a coffee drinker, Medthusiast has amazing ceramic coffee mugs with gorgeous artwork on them. These mugs will be the envy of everyone else in the office!

For CME

While I wouldn’t recommend booking a full CME trip for someone else, travel essentials are always a great gift. After going to a few conferences this year, I’ve realized I don’t have great luggage or carry-ons, so those are at the top of my list this Christmas.

Lecture halls at conferences are always freezing for some reason. While I dress business casual and professional when I go to CME events, I’ve been carrying my Medelita Ionic scrub jacket with me to keep me warm. It’s a great weight and still looks professional, so I’ll just leave it at my seat in between sessions. Mine is embroidered so I don’t worry about it going missing. These are available for men and women, and they fit true to size. This is also my husband’s favorite jacket to wear at the hospital, even more than his white coat. (And don’t tell, but even all of the non-medical people in my family are getting these jackets this year!)

fullsizeoutput_1e81.jpeg
DSC_8142.JPG

At conference, I always take a good size purse or bookbag to lectures, and I have my trusty Lilly Pulitzer notebook and a ton of pens. You could create a little conference survival kit and that would be an awesome present. Don’t forget the candy and snacks!

For Fun

fullsizeoutput_3151.jpeg

Makeup and skincare are always a nice present because who doesn’t love a little pampering. Put together a basket with some bath bombs, sunscreen, and skincare kit for someone who needs to relax a little bit. I’m the first to admit that I’m a product junkie, but most recently, I’ve been using the FRÉ Skincare line. Being a dermatology PA, I’m very picky about products, but these are easy to use, gentle, and leave my skin feeling fresh. The choices aren’t overwhelming and I love that I only have to leave the Detox mask on for a few minutes. You can use the code SAVANNA1 for 15% off, and make sure you’re following me on social media for extra deals (and there’s a really good one coming for Black Friday!)

For more of my recommendations and favorites, check out my Amazon list.

PA School Spotlight: Wayne State University

On The Pre-PA Club Podcast_Mock Interview with @jamienicole_pa.s2 (13).png

PA Program: Wayne State University Class of 2020, Detroit Mi 

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?:

My program is 24 months long. I just started my second semester! 

Class size: 50 

Why did you apply to your program?: 

I applied to my program because I went to WSU for undergrad which allowed me to really integrate into the community. The program is also in the center of Detroit’s the medical campus and utilizes the resources of WSU SOM such as the clinical skills testing center and the human cadaver dissection lab. Additionally our program is what I like to call one with a “working resume”, we are able to apply our skills through tons of volunteer opportunities that allow us to help the underserved areas of Detroit. Lastly Wayne State University’s PA program has been nationally ranked #1 in the state of Michigan. 

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?:

Although I interviewed and was accepted to other programs, I ended up choosing my program for a variety of reasons. I chose WSU because it was my number one choice, it was the first school I really researched after deciding to pursue the PA profession. I attended a couple of the informational meetings and really felt like it was a great fit for my personal and career goals. I wanted to attend a program in Michigan, served those in need, had a access to great resources (the medical campus and medical school) and was able to serve me once I became a PA (great clinical sites and relationships with PA’s all over the metro-Detroit area). WSU really met all of my needs and it was an immediate yes once I got the email of acceptance! (I still don’t believe it and I am so grateful for this journey) 

Is there anything unique about your program?:

The one thing that a lot of people find unique about my program is the cost of tuition. Currently, the WSU PA program is significantly lower compared to the ones in Michigan and across the nation. Besides the cost, WSU program is centrally located in a huge medical campus in the heart of Detroit. There is a Women’s, Children’s and Heart Hospital in our backyard and because of this our lectures are taught from experts in their fields, sometimes they come to teach us straight from clinic. Also, one of my favorite things about my program are the site visits, starting first semester we see real patients in the hospital, take their history and physical and after we write a H&P. This really makes it feel more “real” and a good reminder of the end goal, PA-C! 

What is your favorite study resource?:

PA school is NOTHING that I could have imagined in my wildest dreams, although it is super challenging, I am loving it. I would say my favorite study resource besides my awesome classmates would be Pance Prep Pearls, First Aid books and Rosh Review (I know this is more than one but they truly help me in different ways). (Affiliate Links) PPP is great because it has all the high-yield diseases and their hallmarks together in one resource. I use First Aid when I want to go a little deeper into a system or disease, it presents dense information in a really organized and simplified way and I use Rosh Review at the end of studying mainly to test my level of understanding and it solidify concepts. 

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?:

Oh gosh, the most difficult thing about PA school is the amount of class room time and workload. In undergrad, I might have had classes 5 days a week but each class was, say only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so on the other days I was not in class I could catch up on the material covered. However, in my program we have lecturers Monday – Friday and I would say on average we are in the classroom from 8 am – 3 pm. Having class every day and then going home to organize/learn the material was a bit challenging and something I am still working on. Besides the amount of time in the classroom, the amount of material covered is unimaginable and I still in shock that I can get through it all and do well on exams. Our brains are amazing guys, and yes you can do it! 

What advice would you give to other PA students?:

If I could go back in time before starting this challenging, but amazing, journey I would tell myself, do not compare yourself to others. This is so hard to do, TRUST ME! I am still working on it, it is so hard not to compare your study habits to your classmates because FOMO is real and it can get overwhelming. Do what has worked for you in the past, of course it will need to be tweaked because of the amount of material you are covering is extensive, but do not lose the foundation of your study methods! One last  little “pearl”, do not try to know every little detail about every little thing, learn the hallmarks of the disease and most importantly have confidence in yourself! (It’s okay to cry too!) 

Where can we find you?

My Instagram is @Vitangela and you can email me at Stramagliav@gmail.com

PA School Spotlight: High Point University

On The Pre-PA Club Podcast_Mock Interview with @jamienicole_pa.s2.png

PA Program: High Point University

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in? My program is 27 months. I am about to start my very first clinical rotation next week! I'm starting with Family Med. 

Didactic year is 15 months (June-following August)

Clinical year is 12 months (August-following August)

 Class size: 35 students

Why did you apply to your program? I went to undergrad at High Point University and I could not imagine going to another university for PA school. I valued my undergraduate experience so highly that attending this PA school was my top choice.

We have a brand-new building that houses all of the graduate health professional programs. We have a SIM center with more than 13 high fidelity mannequins equipped for very real-life simulation experiences. Our main class is clinical decision making and is primarily problem based learning, however we have supporting lecture based classes in pathophysiology, pharmacology, clinical methods and procedures, and history and physical examination. We also have a brand-new cadaver lab for anatomy!

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program? I knew as soon as I interviewed with the faculty that this was my top choice. Also, the campus is breathtaking if you haven’t seen it!

Is there anything unique about your program? I am in the 3rd PA class at HPU. The application cycle is currently in progress for the 5th class.

We are a program with 15 months of didactic. This allows us to go from 9AM-3PM most days, which allows plenty of extra time to study each day.

We have mini clinical experiences during our 3rd semester of didactic year where we get to shadow various providers in the community.

We are located in North Carolina, which is a very PA friendly state (The first PA Program was started at Duke!).

We have at least a week-long break in between every semester which is so nice to spend time going home or going on vacation. It’s a great time to relax and mentally prepare for the next semester.  

What is your favorite study resource? (Affiliate Links)

Pance Prep Pearls

A Comprehensive Review for Certification and Recertification Examinations for Physician Assistants- AKA “The green book”

Up To Date

Medscape

Step Up to Medicine- and other books in this series

Blueprints series

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school? 

Difficult- PA school needs to be a top priority; your schedule literally revolves around what you are doing with your program. It’s very difficult to make plans in advance, but that’s the nature of dedicating 27 months of your life to your future career. However, most PA programs realize that life doesn’t stop and you are very capable of missing time and making time up for weddings, funerals, etc.

Surprising- For me, it was not as hard as everyone made me fear going in. As long as you go in with the mindset of this is your top priority, you will be okay. Spend the time you need studying and make sure to learn the necessary material for both didactic and clinical years, and you will make it through and become a great provider.

What advice would you give to other PA students?

Take time for yourself!! This is the most important advice I have, and it is everything I stand for in PA school. There is plenty of time for friends and family on top of studying. Your entire life does not need to be consumed with studying while in PA school, you have extra time to do the fun things that matter to you.

Take things one day at a time. When you have 5 exams coming up in a week, you need to focus on each one as they come first. Focusing on all at once will stress you out, and you will burn out.

Eat healthy! A lot of time will be spent sitting down and studying, don’t get trapped into snacking and eating out every day. Spend the extra time to cook healthy things. Some people in my class have meal prepped, and others have used meal delivery services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.  

Find a group of friends to study with, they will help you so much and they will be some of your greatest friends in life.

Where can we find you? (websites, Instagram, etc.) 

@ConqueringPA on Instagram!

conqueringPA.com -  Blog coming VERY soon!! :) 


If you’re a current PA student and would like to share your experience, please email savanna@thePAplatform.com

PA School Spotlight: USF Morsani School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program

love is love (1).png

Program: USF Morsani College of Medicine PA Program

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: 24 months. Im currently in my second semester

Class size: 40

Why did you apply to your program?: USF is in my blood because I'm a 3rd generation Bull! My husband and I both grew up in Tampa and went to USF as undergrads as well (Go Bulls!!) 

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: USF PA program was always a top choice for me because of the location near my husband's work and our family. The hype of my alma mater finally opening a PA program was a big push for me too and MCOM moving downtown in the next 1-2 years means more job opportunities in the best hospitals of my home town!

Is there anything unique about your program?: USF MCOM is moving to downtown Tampa and is a huge part of the downtown expansion project. This means we have strong ties with TGH and other teaching facilities in our city which makes both rotations and job opportunities appealing. Our PA program has many rotation sites within a 10 mile radius (most of which are on USF property) including 5 rotations (Moffitt, Morsani, VA, Shriners, and Florida Hospital) which are all in walking distance. Since this is only the second year of our program we have a chance to influence the program and our feedback is welcomed by our staff. There are a few of us who hold leadership positions and meet with faculty every few weeks to discuss things we want to change or do to improve our program. 

What is your favorite study resource?: I use so many different resources that its hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites include Osmosis, Smarty PANCE, PANCE Prep Pearls (affiliate link), and other review/recertification books. 

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: You really can't understand the amount of material and the analogy of “drinking from a fire hose” until you’re in it. You really do study 24/7 and there is no way around it, but at least you’re learning something you love! 

What advice would you give to other PA students?: Stress is your #1 enemy!! Yes, you will be stressed and exam weeks are the worse but you have to try to fight it! Find something that is a stress reliever and really try to give yourself breaks. Take mental and social breaks because its a long journey full of hard work and you deserve it! 

Where can we find you? Instagram: @thereallife_pa, Website: thereallifepa.com (WARNING: I have been very bad at keeping up with my website since starting school but am always available via instagram!!) 

nwc edited-13 copy.jpg

If you're a current PA student and would like to share about your program in a PA School Spotlight post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

PA School Spotlight: University of Manitoba Physician Assistant Program

love is love (1).jpg

PA Program: MPAS (Manitoba physician assistant studies) 

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?: 26 months and I am just starting out first semester!

Class size: 15

Why did you apply to your program?: It's close to home, it's the only masters program available in Canada and it has a 100% pass rate on the national certification exam!

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: It was the only program I was interested in and the only one I applied to. In Canada, there are only 3 programs so far and I didn't want to apply to the states since the tuition costs are much higher than here.

Is there anything unique about your program?: I would say our class size makes us unique, with only 15 of us we get to know each other and become a little family. We also get more time one on one with skills and in the lab. 

What is your favorite study resource?: I like watching videos on YouTube to explain topics. The animations make things much easier to understand and visualize than reading notes.

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: Since I just finished week one, I anticipate the most difficult part to be balancing all my classes and making sure not to neglect any while studying. It's easy to immerse your self in one topic until you understand it completely, but you might not always have the time for that when you have multiple exams coming up.

What advice would you give to other PA students?: To those just starting (or even mid way through) doubting they will be able to get through didactic year just remember you were selected for a reason and the admissions committee knows what they're doing, you can do it!

Where can we find you?: My Instagram page is @carmenashley_pa 

IMG_5434.jpeg

If you're a current PA student and would like to share about your program in a PA School Spotlight post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

Guest Post from XO Hollyd. - Preparing for Life After PA School Graduation

Advice from Current PA Students - From White Coat Dreaming.png

So, you’ve finally made it through didactic year, and are starting to get the hang of clinical rotations – I am so happy for you! But now what can you do to start preparing for after graduation, you know that thing you thought might never happen (or is it just me?!)? Here is a list I compiled of things to consider as you move toward graduation and becoming a PA-C. Keep in mind that this is non-comprehensive, but covers the big things that I found important to do or know about in the process of myself becoming a new PA-C.

6 months before graduation

Start determining how and when you will be studying for the PANCE. Decide if you are going to attend a board review course. I did, and got a lot out of it, but several of my friends did not and still passed their boards. It really is a personal decision. I decided it was the right choice for me because I wanted a little more confidence and a little less anxiety going into the exam. I used CME Resources, which was $750 for a 5-day course, and I thought it was totally worth it! Don’t forget to add in the cost of the binder ($50) if you want it, as well as the hotel/flight if you are traveling to attend, and money for dinners every night (breakfast and lunch were provided, but double check with your specific review course). Each course might also be a little bit different, so be sure to check out the specific itinerary and details on their website.

6 months before graduation (or later)

Start looking for jobs! There is quite a lot of variance among when students begin to look for positions, but most in my experience tend to have a job lined up prior to graduation or around graduation. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have a job before you graduate! Some students I knew waited until after graduation to start applying for positions. There are so many jobs for PAs in my experience, so you can really take as long or as short of a time finding and accepting positions. However, if you have a specific specialty, location, or any other perks that you are adamant about having in your first PA position, I’d say jump on them because the position may or may not be there when you decide you are ready to apply. Again, it’s a completely personal decision. I applied about 5 months before graduation, had my interview about 3 months before, and accepted the position 2 months before I graduated. Once you accept a position, there is a bunch of credentialing paperwork that your specific employer will send you, in my experience it comes in increments because of the massive amount of information they need. Be prepared to provide a lot of information that you would typically need for any job you’ve had in the past, as well as completing background checks, drug screens, and a check/update on your immunization status.

3 months before graduation

You are now eligible to register for the PANCE exam, or your certifying exam. Your program has to authorize you to be able to do this, but once they do you can register for a location, day, and time to take your PANCE. The cost was $500 when I took it in June 2018. You are eligible to take the PANCE 7 days after graduation and can decide to do it a week after graduating or wait a few weeks like I did. Again, a personal decision, and I waited so I could attend a board review course prior to my exam. It takes about 1-2 weeks to receive your scores back after taking the PANCE, so relax and enjoy your time until then! No need to stress about scores until you see how you did. Here is the link to the description of how many times you can take your PANCE: http://www.nccpa.net/pance-registration  This is the website where your register to take your boards and pay for them, as well as where you will keep track of your CME credits and certification in the future. 

Received Your PANCE Pass E-Mail?

After you’re officially certified (YAY!), now you can start submitting your state board licensing application(s) which allow you to practice as a physician assistant in that particular state. For me, I applied to the State Board of Medicine and the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine because I will be working under both MDs and DOs. Depending on your position, you might only need one or the other, or both like I did. The website you will visit depends on the state in which you plan on practicing in. You can find a list of state boards on AAPA’s website through this link: https://www.aapa.org/advocacy-central/state-advocacy/state-licensing/list-of-licensing-boards/ . This process can take quite a while to both submit and obtain approval for your license depending on the state you plan to practice in, so you should try to do this as quickly as possible without compromising your application. Some suggestions: if you find it is taking longer than expected and you need your license in order to start your new job, try calling your personal state representative and explain to them that you are trying to get your licensing process moving along. I’ve heard many success stories of new PAs waiting for months to have their license approved, but as soon as they contacted their state representatives, they had their license shortly after! I personally contacted my representative after about 6-7 weeks of my application being submitted and having no updates coming in from the state.

You may also need to obtain your National Practitioner Data Bank Self Query for state licensing, which can be found here: https://www.npdb.hrsa.gov/ .

At this time, you can also apply for your National Provider Index number, or NPI number. This number is specific to you and allows you to be identified as a healthcare provider in the United States. Attached is a document providing additional information on the NPI number: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/MedicareProviderSupEnroll/downloads/EnrollmentSheet_WWWWH.pdf

After obtaining your state license

Now it is time to obtain any additional licenses you may need. Typically, your employer/credentialing specialist will inform you of anything you might need in order to work for them. For me, I had to obtain my DEA license. This license cost me $731, and you must renew it every 2 years. Some employers will pay for it, so make sure to double check! Prior to receiving your DEA license, your employer will also have to submit a Written Agreement to the state, which basically states the physician you will be working under, your provider insurance, and what you will be allowed to do under this provider. This Written Agreement must be approved, which then gives you an Mx number, which links your DEA license to your supervising physician and allows you to prescribe the scheduled drugs that have been agreed upon by your supervising physician and yourself. This portion was a little confusing for me, so I could be unintentionally omitting or confusing information, but the general process and materials that you need to submit are accurate.

The process of obtaining all of the necessary licensing and credentialing documentation is definitely a lot, but remember that most company employers will have a licensing and credentialing specialist that will be assigned to your work load. Typically, you can contact them with any additional questions you might have.

If you’ve got some extra time to kill before starting your new position

Relax, do something for YOU (you deserve it after these past few years!), read up on the specialty you’ll be working in (in the most leisurely way possible – don’t stress too much because you’ll be learning a bunch on the job as well!), or you can start to aquire some CME credits. I personally used Medscape and linked them to my NCCPA account once I read journal articles and answered questions, but you can really use any website that is approved for CME credits. Just make sure that you register your credits as soon as you complete the activities so you don’t forget about them! CME credits need to be completed every 2 years, and you need at least 50 category 1 CME. Most online journals count as category 2 CME, but you can earn up to 50 this way, and why not get a head start if you’re feeling up to it! 

I hope this helps to ease some of the confusion and anxiety surrounding becoming a PA-C with all of the appropriate licenses and paperwork. Good luck in your new job! Go show the world what an amazing PA you are going to be!

download.png

Holly is a newly graduated PA just starting in Neurology. She graduated from Marywood University. Prior to attending PA school, Holly graduated from Temple University Honors Program in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and minor in Psychology. She then worked for two years as a mental health worker, direct service professional in an autism center, and as an emergency department scribe. You can find Holly on Instagram at @xohollyd and on her blog XOhollyd for more PA tips!

PA School Spotlight: Pace University-Lenox Hill Hospital Physician Assistant Program

love is love.jpg

Huge thanks to Kat for kicking off our new blog series. These PA School Spotlights will give you some insight into what PA school looks like at different programs. 

PA Program:  Pace University-Lenox Hill Hospital Physician Assistant Program

How long is your program and what quarter/semester are you in?:  26 months from July to end of August

  • 4 semesters of didactic (1st summer, fall, spring, 2nd summer)
  • 3 semesters of clinical (fall, spring, 3rd summer)

I'm just starting my 5th semester: my first rotation is Behavioral Medicine

Class size:  ~75

Why did you apply to your program?:  

  • Wanted to branch out of my comfort zone (small town, little exposure to diversity, etc.) and knew I would get that in NYC
  • Association with a great hospital (Lenox Hill Hospital) and great rotation sites (besides Lenox Hill: NYU, Columbia, NYP, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mount Sinai, etc.)
  • Fit with my stats well and no rolling admissions: when I applied this program had a low requirement for PCE, which was conducive with where I was with my clinical experience at the time of my application; the lack of rolling admissions meant I could keep gaining experience but didn't make me sink in the applicant pool since they review all applications starting September 1st

Why did you end up choosing to attend your program?: 

  • Felt the "vibes" at my interview: many students are on the younger side, which I could relate to, and the atmosphere at the interview was very relaxed
  • We get some clinical experience in the didactic year at Lenox Hill Hospital (LHH)
  • Great sim labs and standardized patients are very good at acting since it's NYC!
  • Though NYC was foreign to me, the area where my school is is very safe!

Is there anything unique about your program?: 

  • The opportunity to go to LHH during didactic a couple times
  • 100% PANCE pass rate for the past 8 years!
  • Great access to amazing medical institutions

What is your favorite study resource?: 

For didactic:

What is the most difficult or surprising part of PA school?: 

  • VERY different workload compared to undergrad, but more enjoyable, since every class is very important and is conducive to caring for your future patients - you're motivated to pay attention when everything is in the perspective of another human being
  • 2-3 exams a week were overwhelming at first (enter "Sucktober" in the Fall), but I was surprised how well I acclimated to the same crazy schedule as soon as Spring semester started

What advice would you give to other PA students?: 

Stethoscope.Kat (2).JPG
  • Take it ONE EXAM AT A TIME!
  • Make time for what you make a priority - for me this was health and fitness, so I meal prepped on the weekends and made 45 mins-1 hr a day x 5-6x/wk to exercise
  • Believe that YOU can do this! Remember: PA school is only temporary, so work hard and enjoy it the most you can :)

Where can we find you?:

The best place to find me is: @stethoscope.kat on Instagram!


If you're a current PA student and would like to share about your program in a PA School Spotlight post, send an email to savanna@thePAplatform.com or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

Dear PA School: A Letter For PA Students

Dear PA School_A Letter for PA Students.png

Hi everyone! Thanks for reading! My name is Tiffany Andrade and I am a new graduate of Northeastern University's Physician Assistant Program. Prior to PA School, I obtained my Bachelors of Arts degree in biology from Hamilton College. After taking my PANCE this summer, I hope to practice at a large academic medical center in Boston. I am looking forward to building longstanding relationships with patients and helping them achieve their healthcare goals. I am always looking for opportunities to connect with other PAs and would love any comments about this piece! 


Dear PA School,

Did you know that everyone agrees that the time spent with you is the worst time of our lives? You constantly challenged my endurance, patience, and stamina. Keeping up with you was more than intense, it was insurmountable at times. Despite the number of times that I felt defeated and overwhelmed, I always reminded myself that I chose to have you in my life. Although you were accompanied by the worst of emotions including anxiety and what DSMV would definitely classify as depression, I still find you to be one of the best challenges of my life. With you, I learned the true meaning of endurance and achievement. Within 2 years, I learned over 300 diagnoses, passed over 60 exams, treated over 1,000 patients, met over 30 clinicians, assisted in over 20 surgeries, and learned to perform over 15 procedures. But I didn’t do this alone, I was accompanied by 38 other people who also endured on this journey to getting to know you. Without them, the journey would have been quite traumatic. I always sought comfort in knowing that there were 38 other people alongside me who were equally scared, yet motivated to stay on this rocky road with the hopes of climbing this mountain. Upon deep reflection, I wanted to let you know that you’ve taught me lessons that no other life event taught me. This letter is addressed to you with the deepest gratitude because without you, I am unsure of when I would have learned the following lessons: 

Lesson learned #1: You know more than you think you do; Trust yourself!

There were numerous encounters where I was asked a question and was somehow able to produce the correct answer within seconds! It was often the first thought that appeared in my head and it was correct! I can tell you that I impressed many of my preceptors with this but had no idea that I possessed the answer! I’ve always struggled with my confidence as a clinician and these moments served as a thoughtful reminder that I am prepared and know more than I think I know. Was this a result of a well-built curriculum? I would say so and the dedication of the volunteers and administration that share their clinical insight and experience with us. So thank you PA school for restoring the inner confidence I know I always had, but needed a boost to unveil.

Lesson learned #2: Know your limits and always ask! There are no stupid questions.

I’m not sure what it was, but I have a fear of asking questions. I think it may be a combination of fearing the perception of being stupid or embarrassment. News flash! If you do not ask questions, you don’t learn and you will likely make a mistake that might potentially compromise the safety of your patient. This point was made clear to me by a surgeon at Faulkner and I thank him to this day for making me realize that ignorance does not equal bliss. Humility is what makes us great clinicians. The ability to identify what your limits are is far more insightful then ignorantly approaching a clinical situation with a fear of asking for help. After all, it is a team sport right? I vow to ask questions no matter how ridiculous they may seem with the intention of learning. Thank you PA school for this life lesson. 

Lesson learned #3: “Success is a journey, not a destination”

I cannot count the number of times that I questioned whether this career was appropriate for me.  I often thought that I could fall back on some amateur talent of mine if this didn’t work out. But then I realized that my worries rested on the end destination: becoming a PA-C. I wanted to hurry up and reach the finish line without facing all of the challenges in between. But I’ve come to learn that there is beauty in fear, disappointment, and anger. Once I realized that these experiences are collectively part of the journey, I enjoyed every bump in between. Every rotation offered an item that I could add to my toolbox and skillset. Each encounter offered a new friendship and meaning to what makes this career so worth-while. 

IMG_2139.JPG

In closing, you were essential to my growth over the last 2 years. You have truly made a positive imprint in my life and I want to thank you for all that you offered me. I will deposit our relationship into my memory bank and reflect upon them throughout my entire career as a PA. I look forward to recalling these memories and using them as frequent reminders of why and how I became a PA. 

Sincerely,

Tiffany Andrade


PANCE Blueprint Breakdown: Normal Physiology of the Heart

Jamie's back with a very basic overview of normal heart anatomy and physiology to serve as the basis for pathology like cardiac murmurs, hypertension and heart failure. Check out her video, and you can get the notes and powerpoint below. If you're viewing this as an email, here's a link to the video


Guest Post from Jamie: How to Prepare for End of Rotation (EOR) Exams for PA School

Jamie has been a huge contributor to the Pre-PA section of The PA Platform, but now she's giving us some tips on PA school with this post and through the PANCE Blueprint Breakdown video series. This is a very thorough post, which should help immensely with your study plans for EORs. Some of the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means Jamie gets a small percentage if you take her recommendations. 


Hello all, it’s so nice to have you all reading my words again!

First and foremost: if you haven’t already visited Dose of PA’s blog about clinical rotations and end of rotation (EOR) exams, I suggest you start there. Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay Jamie, you’re just going to send us to Paul’s blog? Why do I even need you? I can Google that.” That’s fair, but my man Paul’s blog was last updated August 2016. As you know, we are in 2018. That means there are roughly two years worth of updates to share with you here. So read the above and then we’ll catch up together!

Now most importantly, there have been updates to PAEA’s exam content. The core end of rotation (EOR) exams are still the same: emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry & behavioral health, and women’s health. The blueprints and topic lists can be found here. A blueprint is the exam breakdown – it tells you the subtopics (e.g. cardiology, gastrointestinal) and what percentage of the exam that topic takes up. The topic list is self-explanatory; it’s the topics covered on the exam – an outline of every disorder/disease covered. With these tools, there is some strategy when it comes to studying for these exams.

Your primary focus should be to study the most high-yield information. For most of these exams, that means cardiology, pulmonology, and orthopedics (which mimics the physician assistant national certification exam (PANCE) as well). One notable exception is surgery which focuses 50% on gastrointestinal. Using this information to your advantage, you know that by studying GI for surg, you’re ready for half the exam.

In my opinion, the best way to do this is to cover the details of each item on the topic list in whatever method works for you. I always suggest podcasts for passive studying (car rides, cleaning, taking a walk) and outlines or flashcards for active studying. I cover the presentation, diagnostic testing/imaging needed, treatment, and “misc notes” which is typically epidemiology and occasionally pathophysiology. I’ve found that knowing the epidemiology is helpful to recognize a case study based on the patient’s profile – it can help you narrow the diagnosis by considering the question is about a middle-aged man, for example, or a post-menopausal woman. Otherwise, the best bang for your buck is signs and symptoms (buzzwords), labs, imaging, and treatment. You don’t need to stress about second-line, third-line treatments. Don’t spend three days trying to understand idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura when it’s only 1 topic out of 10 in the hematology category and hematology is only 3% of the exam! This again goes back to strategy.

There are many different podcasts available which I like to listen to on my commutes; I made playlists ahead of time to lump high-yield topics together so they’d auto-play on my rides. For most rotations, that was Brian Wallace’s Physician Assistant Exam Review Podcast. I like to edit his MP3s in iTunes to have the tracks auto-start after the 3-5 minutes of “updates” regarding his other activities (book and website stuff) – because frankly, I don’t care about that stuff. For emergency medicine, I listened to EM Basic Podcast by Steve Carroll, DO, which is actually geared toward clerkship and residency for medical students/physicians. He frequently has guest lecturers and sometimes that person is a PA-C which is awesome. His episodes feature commonly seen ER complaints (and can be sped up and understood at 1.5 speed). 

There are several books I bounce between to study from; I shared most of these in my guest blog “Clinical Medicine Study Tips." 

To understand the pathology:

For buzzwords/pearls/mnemonics: 

Lastly, SmartyPANCE (by The PA Life) is becoming more and more worth the membership cost. Not only are there tons of topics, flashcards, videos, and practice questions, there is an all new section for EOREs. He is slowly, but surely, adding practice exams for the end of rotation exams. So far this includes surgery, women’s health, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine. Trust me when I say these are VERY reflective of the PAEA EOR Exams. Sometimes it seems like the questions might even come from the same bank, if you catch my drift. These are an awesome way to spend your last week of the rotation. Study throughout, take the practice test, and go to your exam feeling confident and ready. If you’re more into printed pages and physical books, there is a decent PANCE question book by Lange (Lange Q&A Physician Assistant Examination) as well as a question book by Dwayne Williams, the author of PANCE Prep Pearls (PANCE PANRE Question Book). Lange is split up by topic (cardiology, GI, pulm, etc.) while the PPP companion is more general PANCE practice questions. 

I think that about covers it; end of rotation exams are a good way to prepare you for the PANCE so learning some strategy to study for them is an important piece of PA school. Best of luck studying and enjoy your clinical rotations!


Introducing the PANCE Blueprint Breakdown Video Series

We're so excited at The PA Platform to introduce a new study tool for PA students. Jamie Murawski is a current PA student at Detroit Mercy, and she will be facilitating a series of YouTube videos as she prepares to take the PANCE this fall. 

For the first video, here is an introduction and general overview of the PANCE and what will be included in these videos. 

General PANCE information, how to navigate the NCCPA's website, and where to find a sample study schedule. - Thanks so much for watching!

Guest Post from The PA Cafe: Motherhood + PA School

Guest Post from The PA Cafe.png

Motherhood and PA school …. As crazy as it sounds, it’s totally possible. But it requires dedication, planning and a strong support system. 

My name is Jennifer, I’m a divorced single mom, Army veteran and 1st year PA student. Like many other women I desired a career in medicine but hesitated out of fear and doubt. I didn’t think it was possible to balance family life while in grad school. Millions of questions flooded my mind, Could I afford it? How would the time away affect my daughter? Could I commit to the schedule?... The list goes on. Then it hit me, I will always be a mom and there will never be a “right time”, so just jump in and get it done. After much prayer and finally finding the confidence within myself, I did just that… I jumped right in. Now I’m wrapping up my 1st year of PA school and preparing for clinical rotations. It’s been a bumpy road and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are some tips and advice to help other parents embarking on their PA journeys. 

  1. Have a plan - Pull up an up-to-date resume and your college transcripts, now compare it to the pre-requisites for the schools you wish to apply. What are you missing? Why are/aren’t you a competitive applicant? Take note of which areas you are lacking in then map out a plan to address/fix those areas.

  2. Have a support system- Not only to help with your children but to provide emotional and moral support. The PA program can take its toll on you mentally, physically and emotionally. Having a trusted inner circle that is reliable and rooting for you throughout this journey will make it run more smoothly.

  3. Make time for family – there will rarely be a moment when you’re not studying, but quality time with the significant other and kids is crucial. Use this time to just relax, decompress, catch up on life and express your gratitude for their support.

  4. Save money – Life doesn’t stop while you’re in the program (even thought it may feel like it). Those bills still need to be paid and the unexpected emergencies will come up. Be ready for those rainy days because they will come.

  5. Prepare - Brush up on basic medical terminology, anatomy and physiology … especially if it’s been a while. That “drinking from a fire hose” analogy is very true about PA school. You don’t want to be playing catch up while trying to keep up with the material.

  6. Have Faith – be proud of yourself for taking the steps to accomplish your goals. You have the desire and the capabilities, now just take the process one day at a time. It will all come together. Your children will be so proud of you when it’s all over.

IMG_0279.jpeg

Parents, It’s not too late to chase that PA dream. Anything worth having requires some level of sacrifice. For a temporary amount of time, life will feel like you stepped into a twilight zone. I’m still in the twilight zone but I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Check out my blog The PA Café where moms spill the tea about PA school. We share our real experiences while in PA school in the hopes it will not only motivate but guide you on your journey. 

Interview with @caasapa - Future Palliative Care PA

mark your calendars.png

Catherine Anna reached out on Instagram to share her interest in the field of palliative care as a PA. I can't say that I personally know any PAs who work in palliative care, so I actually learned a good bit from this interview as well. If you have any questions about UAB or Catherine Anna's plans feel free to reach out to her on Instagram by following @caasapa


IMG_8378 edit web.jpeg

Give me a quick introduction and a little bit on your background (name, undergrad, where you're at in PA school, etc). 

My name is Catherine Anna McCarty. I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for undergrad, my Master's in Public Health, and currently for PA school. Go Blazers! I am currently in my first semester of didactic. 

 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a specialty that focuses on improving the quality of life for those with serious or terminal illness. Usually, a team made up of not only clinicians but other specialists such as physical therapists, massage therapists, chaplains, dietitians, and psychologists takes care of patients together. The interdisciplinary team works to treat symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety as well as assist in advanced care planning. 

 

How did you become interested in palliative care? 

I accepted a position within a palliative care department working with breast cancer patients. At the same time that I was starting that job and really discovering what palliative care was, I was also experiencing the health care system for the first time as someone with a chronic condition. I realized the necessity of a specialty that focused on improving quality of life and allowed patients to define what that meant. It’s empowering as a patient to be listened to and to take back control from illnesses that directly impact how you experience life. I wanted to be a part of a specialty that had the ability to do so much good in people’s lives.

 

Why is it difficult to find PAs in specific specialties?

In regards to palliative care, I think it comes down to the history of the profession and exposure. The history of the PA profession is that of clinicians that practice curative as well as procedure-driven medicine; that which palliative care is not. The most recent literature I have found notes there are only 15 PAs practicing in the field of palliative medicine. Therefore, there are limited opportunities for exposure for pre-PA or PA students. I hope to increase the visibility of PAs in palliative medicine throughout my career and see a huge growth of practicing palliative PAs during my lifetime. 

 

What advice would you give to an applicant who is very interested in a specific specialty?

It is great to have a passion for a specific field of medicine, but it's important not to discount the value of other specialties. Most of your clinical rotations will take place outside of the specialty you’re passionate about. It’s important to be open to absorbing as much knowledge and skills as you can from as many specialties as you can. 

 

What has been most challenging about PA school so far? 

Reframing how I think about learning. During my undergraduate career, I was able to study the night before and make an A on an exam. All of my efforts were focused on obtaining a certain letter grade whereas in PA school, my efforts have shifted to learning the material I need to be a competent and capable clinician. 

 

What is your one best tip for Pre-PA students?

Invest the time, effort, and grit it takes to master your prerequisite courses so you have a strong foundation to start from once you begin a PA program. It will make the adjustment to PA school a little easier. 


80 Study Tips for PA School

A while back on Instagram, I asked for your best study tips, and you guys delivered. I compiled them into a list so if you're feeling stuck, unmotivated, or just need a new study idea to get the juices flowing you'll be able to refer back and find some inspiration. These are great study tips no matter if you are in undergrad or PA school. If you have another study tip to add, comment below to share with others! You may find some Amazon affiliate links in these tips!

  1. Study in groups

  2. Draw out material and make diagrams to visualize it

  3. Rewrite notes on material you don’t understand

  4. White boards!

  5. Use colorful highlighters and pens

  6. Quizlet

  7. Study in the morning

  8. Study after a workout to help clear your head

  9. Study alone first

  10. Make up mnemonics for material retention

  11. Study in a library

  12. Start studying before the night before the test

  13. Make flashcards

  14. Choose a location with no distractions

  15. Talk concepts out

  16. Make visual study guides with colors and pictures

  17. Find videos on YouTube to explain things differently

  18. Highlight your notes for important buzzwords

  19. Take turns teaching the material to someone else

  20. When you feel distracted write down what is distracting your mind on a piece of paper and then come back to it later

  21. Write the material over and over

  22. Practice taking exams in a setting that is similar to your actual testing environment

  23. Take a break when you feel burnt out

  24. Share your resources with your study group and see what they use

  25. If you can’t get motivated, just start and then you’ll get momentum to keep going

  26. Change up your environment to freshen your mind and keep from getting stale

  27. Unplug from all distractions = phone off

  28. Tell your friends and family the periods of time when you’ll be busy studying

  29. Limit your time on social media to designated break times

  30. Use “Focus Keeper” app on your phone or laptop to track your study session and tell you when it’s time for a break

  31. Evaluate whether studying in groups is the best option for you

  32. Snacks!

  33. Find a quiet location

  34. Take breaks every 20 minutes or so

  35. Make a chart so you can compare similar topics

  36. Use different color post-its to keep track of what you understand and what you need to review more

  37. Block time in your planner for studying

  38. Make sure you get good sleep

  39. Eat healthy

  40. Teach the material - even if it’s to an empty room

  41. Use friends to keep you accountable

  42. Record lectures and listen to them again

  43. Review the material each night to keep up the workload

  44. Focus on the material that you don’t know instead of covering what you’re familiar with

  45. Go on a walk to exercise and think through the material

  46. Listen to classical music

  47. Make a summary sheet of the main topics

  48. Listen to podcasts

  49. Use the Pomodoro technique - set a timer and divide your work into intervals with small breaks in between

  50. Make a last minute review sheet for the morning of the test to have a quick review

  51. Study for a shorter amount of time, but more often

  52. Actually pay attention in class instead of having to try to learn it afterwards

  53. Keep snacks and drinks nearby

  54. Drink lots of water

  55. Drink a specific drink or chew a specific gum when studying and do the same thing before the exam to help you recall the material more effectively

  56. Coffee!

  57. Use Google Excel to keep track of important facts

  58. Go over practice questions to practice applying your knowledge

  59. Quiz each other

  60. Take a nap if you are feeling tired

  61. Make up your own questions as you study

  62. Study at a stand up desk

  63. Take mental health breaks

  64. Buy cute study supplies so you want to use them

  65. Remember why you’re studying. What’s the end goal?

  66. Get rid of the computer or internet if it’s distracting you too much

  67. Read about the topic before going to the class or lecture

  68. Figure out your study methods and stick to them

  69. If you’re bilingual, try to think about the material in another language and translate it so you are studying it twice

  70. Use flash card apps if you don’t want to use index cards

  71. Don’t give up!

  72. If all else fails, cram.

  73. Put candy on your notes so when you make it to the next section, you get a treat

  74. Have confidence in yourself and your study skills

  75. Go study outside to get some fresh air

  76. Use Google docs to collaborate with others to make a study guide

  77. Don’t study where you sleep

  78. Link a difficult concept with an interesting story or life event

  79. Use ear plugs

  80. Don’t forget that you got this!


Guest Post from PA Cents: Should You Do a PA Residency?

Guest Post from PA Cents.png

You’re in the final stretch of Physician Assistant school: graduation, PANCE, new job, it’s in your sights. You’ve been looking online at job openings and are not sure if you’re ready to join the workforce and be a full-fledged certified PA, practicing real medicine on real patients; so you think maybe a residency might be a good choice.

Possibly you’ve been looking for a job in a competitive area and can’t find a job in the specialty that you want so you want to gain more experience. There is a lot to consider if you’re thinking about applying to a residency.

I went to PA school in Southern California where there are a number of PA schools and a large pool of PA graduates to choose from to fill positions. The hospital where my orthopedics rotation was at had a lot of medical students, residents, PA students and PA residents. I asked one of them why they chose to do the residency and she said she was not able to find a job in that location in orthopedics.

If you’re tied to a certain area and really want to be in a specific specialty then more training in that area could be helpful and might help you find a job in that specialty. You will get a lot more training and might feel more competent after a residency.

A residency is by no means a necessity to get a job in any specialty. After I graduated from PA school I had multiple job offers that were all in different specialties. I interviewed for jobs in orthopedics, neurosurgery, and endocrinology. I ended up accepting a job in general surgery.

Surgeons all use different techniques and they all think the way they do it is the best way. My first job was with a surgeon who was getting older, there were four surgeons in the practice and only one used a PA at the time.

The surgeon I worked with saw the value of having a PA in the OR, as well as in the office, and with hospital rounds and wanted to hire one too. By the time I left the practice the PA that was working there before me had already left and one of the other surgeons also hired a PA. All of the PAs they hired, including the one that replaced me, were new graduates.

An advantage of hiring a new PA rather than one that has been doing it for a while is that they could train them to do things how they wanted it done. They did not have to teach old dogs new tricks. If someone else has trained you then you might have “bad habits” or just do things differently than they are used to.

More education is never a bad thing and doing a residency does let you learn more. If you know you never want to do another specialty than taking a year to learn more in that specific specialty can help you learn a lot and possibly be a better clinician.

The first year out of PA school is like PA school part II - PA school prepares you to take the board exam and the first year of being a PA teaches you how to be a PA. When you’re looking at a first job you should look for something that is still going to help you along in your education and where there is a good learning environment.

This does not need to be a residency. There are plenty of jobs that provide a good learning environment without having to do a residency. The job that I currently work at allows new Primary Care PAs to rotate through different clinics and with different specialties before they start seeing their own patients.

Learning is also somewhat dependent on your supervising physician. The surgeon I worked with for my first job didn’t mind teaching/explaining things, but I had to ask questions a lot of the time to get him going.

There was another surgeon in our practice who was recently out of fellowship and did a better job of naturally explaining things. I think a part of this was he was just in the habit of doing it as he was used to working with residents and students at a teaching hospital, whereas the further out from training you get the less you’re in that thought process.

As a PA we have been trained as generalist and one of the beauties of being a PA is that you can change specialties without having to do more training. My first job was in general surgery and when I was ready to move on I had offers from other places in all different specialties. I was not stuck working in general surgery forever. If some people are doing residencies that may soon become the norm and with residency training for PAs if that becomes the standard we will no longer be generalist and the benefit of being able to switch specialties without more training will go away.

If you feel like residency is your only option as you’re not able to find a regular position as a PA, it’s good to know that you’ll probably have to take less money as residencies usually pay less than a regular position.

At the 2017 AAPA conference I did talk to a residency for general surgery and they were offering $75,000 which is better than the $40,000 I’ve seen in the past but it is much less than what you could get in a regular position.

Whenever you’re looking at a job you always have to weigh the pros and cons. There are some benefits, such as more training and ability to network while you’re in the residency. If you can afford to take less and invest the time to do the extra training it may help you with your skills before taking a regular position. If you’re looking at a first job and have decided to take a regular position be sure that it is a place that supports learning and is going to help you as grow as a new PA.


This article was written by the author of PA-Cents a personal finance blog for PAs; to contact the author or for information on PA personal finance visit www.pacents.com.