PA School Spotlight: University of Nebraska Medical Center

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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

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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


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 PAPLATFORM1 for a 20% discount.


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!


To Read


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


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


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!


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!)


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


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: High Point University

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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


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! -  Blog coming VERY soon!! :) 

If you’re a current PA student and would like to share your experience, please email

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

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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: (WARNING: I have been very bad at keeping up with my website since starting school but am always available via instagram!!) 

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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 or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

PA School Spotlight: University of Manitoba Physician Assistant Program

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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 


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 or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

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

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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:  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: . 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: .

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:

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!


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

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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?: 

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  • 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 or use this link to contact us at The PA Platform now.

Dear PA School: A Letter For PA Students

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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. 


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. 


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!

Guest Post from The PA Cafe: Motherhood + PA School

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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. 

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

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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

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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?

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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

Guest Post from Jamie: So You Failed an Exam, Now What?

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Jamie has some great advice today about what happens if you fail an exam in PA school. This will vary based from program to program, but the one thing that's for sure is that PA school is difficult and it's not uncommon to struggle at times. Personally, I failed my very first pharmacology exam. Talk about a reality shock! After remediating, that was thankfully the only exam I didn't pass. Make sure you're following Jamie on Instagram (@jamienicole_pa.s) to get more of her awesome tips. 

Full disclaimer that while I am a student at the University of Detroit Mercy’s PA Program, I am not affiliated with the university and my views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect Detroit Mercy’s. 

First semester of PA school kicked my butt. I did not pass two out of our four clinical medicine exams. Yes, you read that right – only made it through 50% of the exams first semester (and somehow they let me keep going… Kidding!) Failing, for me, meant missing both exams by 1 point. So, then what? That’s what this blog is about: what happens after you fail.

First of all, no one is immune. Second of all, it’s OKAY to fail.

What??? Did I just say it’s OKAY TO FAIL? Yes, yes I did. Because it’s better to fail and truly recognize that you don’t know the material than to memorize/dump it on the exam while never truly learning it. It’s not just Sociology 101 anymore – the content you learn in PA school could be as serious as life or death for your patient. So, if you don’t know it, but you pass anyways, you’re only doing your patients a disservice.

Failing means you have a second chance to relearn and understand the content, to strengthen your weaknesses and become the best provider you can be. There are four things you should do following a failed exam.

  1. Take a deep breath and eat a bowl of ice cream.
    I am not responsible for any lactose-intolerance related side effects that may occur following the consumption of large quantities of Ben & Jerry’s.
  2. Go to your professor’s office hours and discuss your options.
    We will talk about Detroit Mercy’s remediation process below. Some schools do remediation exams, some schools do not require a specific grade per exam and instead do a semester average. This is a great interview question to evaluate your prospective school: “What process is in place if a student does not pass an exam?”
  3. Try techniques to reduce your anxiety during tests.
    Some people need a snack, some people need to wear earplugs, some meditate or pray before the exams, and some have such bad performance anxiety that they do best when they take a beta blocker (but leave this one up to your healthcare provider, please).
  4. Don’t lose your confidence.
    It’s easy to get lost in one bad grade. There is a lot of guilt and self-loathing that comes along with that first score where you don’t meet the mark. I cried both times, even though I knew we had a process for remediation. It’s a scary thing because it means you are one step closer to potentially being dismissed from your career. But if you let this shake you, if you let it ruin your confidence, it WILL affect your study habits for the next one and it WILL cause you to lose focus and potentially even fail again. That’s how I failed exam #2. I failed back-to-back.

Remediating Exams: Detroit Mercy’s Approach

We have a very unique exam remediation policy here at Detroit Mercy. It is a big reason I accepted my seat to this program. Detroit Mercy makes it very clear that it truly caters to student success, from their 3-year, part-time program option to their one-on-one attention from faculty to students. When your program supports you as fully as possible, it creates an incredible platform to learn and grow. So when students do not pass an exam with an 80% or better, Detroit Mercy has a very specific remediation policy and should a student not pass remediation, there is also a very specific appeals process to continue the education.

If you don’t care about how Detroit Mercy runs their remediations, feel free to stop here. Reread the above advice. 

First is remediation. We have a faculty member assigned to meet with students weekly for a remediation course. It is typically about an hour. There, the content from the exam is reviewed again. This goes on throughout the entire remainder of the semester. The Monday after finals week, remediation exams take place. If you do not pass the final, you have one extra day to study because that remediation is Tuesday. You are given a focused review to help guide your studying. This is crunch time; the most important studying of your life. No pressure. You study like crazy until the night before, get a good night’s sleep, and then take the remediation exam.

If you don’t pass remediation, you receive an email from the program administrator informing you of an “adverse determination regarding academic progression”. In this phase, you are considered “dismissal pending”. This means you have received your appeal letter and can set up a meeting with the appeal committee. To do so, one must write a letter to the program administrator describing the basis or circumstances for the appeal within 5 business days of the email. Once this hearing is established, you are expected to demonstrate why the decision should be overturned. The committee is described below.


Refer to the College of Health Professions academic appeals policy and procedure at this link.  

Composition of the Appeal Committee: The program chair will appoint an Appeal Committee as a sub-committee of the Promotion and Progress Committee and designate the chairperson. The Committee shall consist of: PA faculty members (1-2), the public member of the promotion and progress committee, the medical director and one CHP faculty member who is not a PA. Any person selected for the Committee may decline to participate due to perceived or real conflict of interest in the proceedings. A simple majority of the invited members of the Committee will constitute a quorum. Decisions must be approved by a majority of the members in attendance.

This hearing includes a full assessment of the grades from the course, clinical performance, advisor notes, compliance with previous conditions of probation and external conditions impeding success. The committee then sends a “recommendation” to the program administrator based on the student’s potential for success. The program administrator makes the ultimate decision and sends that information to the Dean, who can affirm or conduct a further appeal. If the decision is overturned, the student re-enters the program on academic probation. They must then meet certain criteria throughout the following semester. 

Typically, if the student was full-time initially, they will continue on as a 3-year, part-time student, finishing the courses like pharmacology, anatomy & physiology, and the online courses. The following year, they finish the didactic year PA core classes like clinical medicine, diagnostic & therapeutic techniques, and physical exam practicum. If the person was instead part time to begin with, they typically will have already taken the non-PA classes the year prior (it’s clinical medicine that gets most students). In this case, they repeat that second didactic year. It also highly depends on which semester and the circumstances of the specific student; some repeat all courses, some repeat only clinical medicine. Some don’t have to repeat first semester, but do repeat second semester. 99% of our students will be approved after their appeals process and have a second chance. Ultimately, the program strives to help the student succeed in any way they can.

I passed both of my remediation exams, so I did not have to pursue the appeals process. I referred to my student manual to make this post. I had to remediate cardiology, which is one of the specialties I am considering working in after graduation. After remediation, I feel strong in cardiology and I honestly enjoy all things cardiac muscle, pacemaker and ECG. I really expected to feel scarred from the whole experience, but it honestly helped me grow as both a student and a person. And with that, I will end this blog with a quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

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Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!

Guest Post from Jamie: Clinical Medicine Study Tips

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Jamie's back guys! Today, she is sharing some of her Clinical Medicine Study Tips to help you succeed during didactic year of PA school.  You may remember her previous posts, but check them out if you haven't already! - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School, Letters of Recommendation: How Do You Ask? and How Do You Get a Good One? and What's in My Medical Bag? Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means Jamie will get a few cents from Amazon if you purchase one of her recommendations! 

For Clinical Medicine:

I always read the relevant chapter of Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Easy before we start a unit. 

Then I take notes from the PowerPoints. I reformat my professor’s PowerPoint slides into a format that suits my study technique. For me, that means creating a new PowerPoint document organized the same way as the book. 

 I try to keep each disease or disorder to one page, but sometimes they spill over. I typically start with epidemiology and pathophysiology, followed by clinical presentation, relevant labs or imaging, treatment and then complications.

Some of my classmates make charts instead in Microsoft Word. They’ll do diseases down the first column and then the columns following will be:

  • “Etiology” (who gets the disease)
  • “Pathophysiology” (why the disease happens)
  • “Signs and Symptoms” (what brings them in)
  • “Diagnosis” (labs and imaging needed to confirm)
  • “Treatment”
  • “Complications”.

I spend about a week creating this document and then I print it. Everything typed is guaranteed to be from the lectures, which makes it easy to reference when I study. 

These are the books I use to supplement my notes as I go: 

  • PANCE Prep Pearls (the 2nd edition just came out and I love that sweet, sweet index). If you’re a PA student and you don’t own PPP, you’re doing something wrong. It’s like a super condensed version of everything you need to know. Great review before an exam, great way to highlight your own notes with the absolute most important stuff. 
  • Step-Up to Medicine (worth buying new to get the physical copy AND the eBook). I love this book, very well organized and just the right amount of depth. It’s technically a USMLE Step 2 Prep Book but it’s perfect clinical medicine! This book has more pathophysiology and epidemiology than PPP. 

Once my notes are printed, I go through with multiple pens and highlighters. I highlight the top of the slide based on its importance level on the NCCPA’s PANCE Blueprint. Then I handwrite in additional notes from the books I recommended above. They’re color-coded by source so I know where I got each piece from (everything typed is always from my professor’s notes, and then handwritten comes from Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment (the course text, in dark blue), Step Up (green), and PANCE Prep Pearls (pink). I usually don’t add any written notes from Patho Made Easy, but I do read it before a unit starts and again the night before an exam. This takes me about one full hardcore day of studying. Anywhere from 10-12 hours. I usually will take two or three days to do it, unless I’ve done a lot of procrastinating, and then I’ll sit down and do the entire thing in one day instead. 

I spend about a week creating the typed study guide, about a week adding notes, and then a week studying what I’ve created and taking practice exams. For practice exams, I like the following:

Lange Q&A Physician Assistant Examination. This technically goes with the course book, but there are a lot of mistakes in treatments and labs. It seems outdated for about 10% of the questions. For this reason, it’s usually the last test I take. It does have full explanations for each answer at the back of each section, though, and the added bonus that it’s a physical book. I like real paper. All of our exams are online, though, which brings me to my next recommendation: 

SmartyPANCE! I LOVE their practice tests. They are broken down by subject, so you can use them before an exam to see how you’re doing. It also has a review by subject with “pearls”. 

The other review site I recommend is HippoEd. Same thing, they have study materials and videos, and practice exams broken down by subject. I find them to be a little more challenging than SmartyPANCE and usually take these closer to the unit exam. 

Finally, a lot of people really like Rosh Review, but I consistently score 55-60% on every exam I make for myself, which is terrible for my self-esteem. I did not purchase after my free trial expired. Some of my classmates don’t mind the difficulty because of how amazing the answer breakdown is. I love that it tells you how you compared to other people taking the exams, so you can see, “Okay, well I got this wrong, but so did 72% of the other people” or “Well, I’m the only 1% that answered this question this way, so clearly I need work on this.” It’s helpful for sure, but like I said, proceed with caution in terms of confidence before an exam! 

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Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!

How To Get Married During Physician Assistant School

I question I'm sometimes asked about, and one I feel like people don't want to ask is how to handle relationships in PA school. It's not the easiest, but it can be done! I applied to PA school with a boyfriend, went in with a fiance, and came out a wife! I can't say that was necessarily encouraged, but it was important to me. 

I know this may not be of interest to some readers, but I think it's still important to address. PA school is very time intensive and can take a toll on relationships at any stage. It takes understanding on both sides to come out successful.  My particular program very strongly encouraged students to wait until after school to plan any big events like weddings.  At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be a PA, I wanted to marry my best friend. 

My (now) husband and I had been dating for 5 years at this point (yes, we met in high school), and we were going to both be in grad school.  If you've followed along for a while, you probably know that while I was in PA school, my husband was in medical school.  So double stress.

I lived at home with my parents for the first year and he had 2 roommates.  Basically the only time we saw each other was to study or grab a quick bite to eat.  Wedding planning was put on the back burner, and if it wasn't for my mom, I'm not sure what my wedding would have turned out like.  

All this to say, we made it work, and if you have concerns about being able to maintain a relationship or take the next step while in PA school, know that it's possible. My wedding was during the break between the spring and summer semester at the end of didactic year, and I had classmates who got married during clinical year.  Some even met their future spouses while in PA school! I'm always happy to answer questions about how I was able to make it work, and if you want to hear more about my story, check out the video below, or at this link.  

Advice From Current PA Students - From White Coat Dreaming

I recently connected with Alex on Instagram (@whitecoatdreaming), and she introduced me to her awesome PA blog - White Coat Dreaming. Apart from sharing her own awesome advice, Alex has also interviewed her fellow classmates in PA school to get their advice as well.  In this post, I'm going to share some of the best points to help you succeed in PA school! If you want to see more, make sure you head over to her blog to see the interviews in their entirety. 

Interview Tips:

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

I think that schools like to see that you have other interests besides medicine and that you make time for the things you care about.  - Megan

I would really recommend going on a mission trip before PA school starts because it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the medical field and prepares you for PA school. Not to mention, it shows the interview committee that you are well rounded and more than just your grades. -Norin

Career change?  Be totally honest with yourself about who you are deep down, what you like, what all of your motivations are, whether you could get what it is you think you’re looking for while staying in your current spot or with a less drastic change. -Craig

The number one tip I can give you is to just be yourself! And I know that probably sounds super cliché, but it’s so true. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to put on an act, or memorize all the right answers to ace an interview or personal statement.
— Giftson from White Coat Dreaming

I didn’t do anything to practice so I just showed up thinking I could charm some people. And then they were tough and I bawled in my car after 2 or 3 of them. - Megan

I would truly recommend helping out the community as much as you can. During interviews, they look at more than just your grades. They want to see that you are a caring individual that does more than just study.  -Norin

There is a lot of competition for spots in PA school for good reasons, you’ve got to show that you are the cream of the crop and are a good bet for the school in terms of being able to one day be a skillful, practicing PA. -Craig 

It is so easy to compare to others and feel like you fall short, but it is so not true. We are all worth so much more than how we perform or measure up to the world’s standards. Finding my worth in Christ and knowing that He loves me no matter how small I feel was the biggest game changer. -Michelle

Applying Tips: 

Don’t get discouraged if you are waitlisted! I know plenty of people who were waitlisted and got in as late as April. -Megan

I took a year off before starting PA school because there were still some pre-requisites that I needed to complete and volunteer hours that I needed to add into my application. This really helped me focus on my application and make it stronger. -Norin

While getting into school and becoming a PA might seem like the most important thing in your life right now, don’t fall into the belief that whether you become a PA or not determines your value. You are so much more than your career! Work hard, but rest in the idea that you are going to end up exactly where you are meant to be. You are no more valuable as a PA or less valuable as something else! -Jill

Find yourself a good group of friends who will provide you with love, tissues and wine nights. They will be your backbone throughout the ‘process.’ - Alexa

People are afraid to major in something non traditional (like English, Poli Sci or philosophy), but I think it’s best to follow your own passions and interests. That will show that you are true to yourself, and are not just trying to do what you think you are ‘supposed’ to do.
— Erica from White Coat Dreaming

For me the hardest thing about applying was the cost.  - Erica

I’ve tried to make the best out of every situation. I know right now school is kind of rough, and you have to give up a lot of things that you used to have, but in the end it’ll all be worth it. -Giftson

 It is good to always have a plan B after you apply and focus on areas that you need to work on before you know if you got in that cycle or not! -Norin

The hardest part of applying was sorting through all the various requirements and prerequisites for each program. -Jill

Also, I would recommend a strong personal statement. It summarizes who you are as a person and your purpose for wanting to pursue medicine. Every part of the application is important, however, the personal statements gives them insight into your life so make sure it is strong. -Norin

I feel like location was a big factor in my decision. I knew I wanted to be in an area where I could still be around family, and having a support group nearby definitely influenced that decision but I also was excited to be out of my comfort zone. -Giftson

When the competition is so steep, you want to have as good of chances as you can, and applying to multiple programs is one way to do that! - Jill

PA School Tips: 

Know what you are getting into before you come to PA school. I was not mentally prepared for the amount of dedication that it would take to be a PA student, and it took me about 2-3 months to truly grasp how much my life was going to revolve around studying. - Erica

If your heart is not in it and this is not something you truly want to do, then stop yourself before it gets too late. PA school is hard, and honestly the pressures of the program is going to take a huge toll on you…physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you’re not doing it for yourself, then you’re going to crack under pressure. - Giftson

Once you get accepted, stop trying to ‘better yourself’ academically or otherwise– and just relax and enjoy yourself, as much as logistically and financially possible. If you can take a vacation beforehand or some time off, definitely do- you will be so glad later. - Erica

PA school ends up taking all of your time, so you don’t really get a chance to think about how much time you’re not spending with family and friends.  -Giftson

I faced some of my darkest moments in PA school, because, surprise…it’s hard.  And the thing that kept me going above all else was having compassion for where these long nights of studying would take me.
— Silas from White Coat Dreaming

It helped to have a running schedule that I would try my best to stick to. That forced me to workout most days after class even when I didn’t feel like it. -Michelle

Being professional and acting in a way that shows respect to others is honestly far more important than the number of years you have under your belt. I was always worried that patients or even other classmates wouldn’t take me seriously because I was so young, but over time I’ve learned not to worry about things I can’t change. -Giftson

Also, make efforts to stay balanced while in school. So many people seem to put everything aside for their grades- mental health, relationships, exercise, sleep– but those things are necessary to be successful. -Erica

We all are starting at different parts of our life, and just because you don’t have experience doesn’t mean you can’t do well. You have to understand your limitations, and strive to push those limits every day! You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them, and keep pushing forward so you can be the best PA you can be! -Giftson

I realized when I ate healthy, it definitely helped my energy level and helped me focus better and not get so tired studying. -Michelle

Self-doubt was a huge problem for me. I would always see other people that knew so much, and wonder if I would ever get there (still haven’t got there by the way). -Giftson

Sometimes it can be challenging when you compare and think how far ahead your kiddo classmates are in terms of being about to start their career when you would have still been waking up at noon on a Wednesday to go do a half-shift of bagging liquor- but hey, whatever path you take, you are bound to have learned something that someone on another path hasn’t. - Craig

You learn quickly that your classmates are in the trenches there with you, and you depend on each other far more than for just explaining a concept you didn’t understand in lecture.  -Silas

5 (More) Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School


A while back, I did a post for Brittany at PA Fanatic on 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting PA School.  When I was working on that article, I found it difficult to come up with only 5, so here are 5 more! 

  1. Don’t worry about loans, but be aware of them.

    For the majority of PA students, loans are a fact of life (unfortunately).  There's no need to dwell on your loans while you're in school because there's really nothing you can do about them at that time because most PA programs do not allow working while in school. And honestly, I think you would be crazy to try because PA school is a full time job. While you don't want to let your impending debt weigh on your shoulders too much, don't go crazy.  I had classmates who ate out for every single meal (using loan money), and then promptly bought a new car after PA school. If you've read my story, you'll know that I worked as hard as possible to pay off my loans after I graduated, but I also tried to be frugal throughout school.  Here's some tips to help you save money while in PA school! 
  2. Don’t be afraid of your teachers or preceptors

    The faculty of your program should be part of your support system.  Whether it's an advisor, teacher, director, or preceptor, find that person you can go to if you're struggling. And be honest about any challenges you may be facing.  If you're finding a particular section difficult or not sure how to study most effectively, ask for help! This goes for undergrad too. Your teachers and preceptors are the people who will be able to help you get a job in the future and they'll be your best references. I would frequently visit my advisor for advice or even just to decompress and talk about how stressed I was, and it was nice to talk to someone who had been there and understood what I was going through. You'll also want to keep in touch with these people after school. 
  3. Make time for yourself. 

    This is something I was terrible at when I first started PA school. I would go to school, study constantly, and basically never do anything else. I was living at home for the first year, and even if my parents asked me to go grab a quick dinner, I refused and stayed hoe to study. I was also supposed to be planning a wedding at that time. About halfway through didactic year, I loosened up a bit. I started going out to eat and doing some fun things (like going to see Taylor Swift with my classmates), and my grades actually improved while my stress decreased. The lesson I learned is that 30 extra minutes of studying when I'm tired or hungry won't make a huge impact on my grade. I also never read a book for fun while I was in PA school, and I love reading! Why did I do that?
  4. Be honest about what you want to do. 

    Somewhere during clinical year, I decided that to get a job, I needed to tell every preceptor that I wanted to work in their field. Basically, I was trying to suck up. In my heart, I knew that I had a passion for surgery or dermatology. Once I started being honest about that with my teachers and preceptors, I actually started hearing about the open jobs in the area and getting more valuable information that would actually help me find the job I wanted. If I could do it again, I would have taken this approach from the very beginning of school. 
  5. Always be professional. 

    I feel like this should go without saying, but as a PA student and future PA just always carry yourself in a way that exhibits professionalism.  Whether that's in class, on campus, when you're having fun on the weekends, or certainly on rotations. Just always keep in mind that you are representing your school and the PA profession. 
 That's my girl Taylor Swift back there!  Last minute floor seats can't ever be passed up! 

That's my girl Taylor Swift back there!  Last minute floor seats can't ever be passed up! 

What tips do you wish you knew before starting PA school? Comment below to share! 

Guest Post from Jamie - What's in my Medical Bag?


I'm really excited to share this post today from Jamie, which was first published on Reddit.  It does contain some affiliate links, which means if you purchase any of the products from Amazon, Jamie will get a small cut. You may remember her previous post - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School

What’s in my medical bag?

Firstly, I carry two bags. The salmon colored bag is a little backpack by Dickies and the black bag is actually a diaper bag from Eddie Bauer. The Dickies bag was ~$23 at Sears and the Eddie Bauer bag was $39.99 at Target, but I used a 10% off coupon. On the outside of the backpack, I have a hand sanitizer (just Purell). I also carry a water bottle (Contigo brand because I hate having to bite the straw) and an umbrella. Because it’s a diaper bag, these pockets are actually insulated, which I think is funny, but awesome.

I don’t actually plan to carry both bags every day. I just don’t carry a purse and the med bag has stuff that I don’t really need on days like today or Wednesday when I only have one lecture. I do need the med bag on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though.


Medical Bag: Front Pocket(s) from left to right

Medical Bag: Inside View of Main Pocket

Laid out so you can see contents left to right

I am horrendously guilty of forgetting to put on deodorant, so I keep a little one in my bag along with some Kleenex!!

Backpack Front Pocket

Backpack Main Pocket

  • Microsoft Surface 3, 128GB Internal Storage, 4GB RAM ($399.99 from Best Buy) – this for me is an absolute MUST. It is lightweight, so I can carry it easily in my bag, it can be charged with an external USB power bank if the classroom doesn’t have outlets on the table, and it has the full functional Windows 10 operating system, including Microsoft Office. I live by OneNote for my notes. I use the cloud to store everything (with hard backups, of course), but it’s SO nice to be able to pull up my lectures from my phone or tablet, or my laptop at home. I can’t suggest this enough. I just hate that you have to buy the keyboard separate, and $400 is the cheapest I’ve ever seen it. I’ve had a Surface since the initial RT, though, and I’m a fan.
  • Microsoft Surface Type Cover - $116
  • Microsoft Surface Pen - $44.72 – I love this puppy, but you don’t need it if you prefer typing. I like being able to handwrite things easily, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
  • Tablet sleeve - $14.99
  • Bare Bones Anatomy textbook by Dr. Tracey Bee - $213
  • Flashcards for Unit 1: Intro and Back (came with textbook)
  • Folder - $1
  • Planner (MY LIFE) - $10
  • Pencil case - $1
  • Pilot G2 Pens - $10
  • Chargers, extra headphones
  • Glasses

And again, super forgetful with deodorant, so my backpack gets one, too – remember, I said I don’t always have both bags? And hey… sometimes I go to the gym… Also lip balms and a prescription topical steroid cream for my hands – I have contact dermatitis that gets bad with excess glove usage.

What’s in my pockets?? I just wore scrubs today, but this is the contents of my lab coat pockets!

  • Bath and Body Works lotion - $3
  • Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer - $1.50
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Pilot pen
  • NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Antwerp - $6
  • $2 for possible snacking needs
  • My locker combination

Not pictured:

  • Lab goggles - $1
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich, peppers and carrots with hummus, grapes, cantaloupe, and strawberries, Goldfish crackers.

Grand total: roughly $1600

Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!