Dear PA School: A Letter For PA Students

Dear PA School_A Letter for PA Students.png

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

Dear PA School,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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