PA school is just one step on the long journey on the road to becoming a Physician Assistant. How can you master learning while also juggling your other personal and professional responsibilities? Here are the top pieces of advice that can help you perform your best in and out of classes and rotations.
Know What Study Method Works For You
It’s true, studying is a skill, a skill that must be honed and used appropriately. We spent 4+ years in undergrad taking general and advanced science courses while we developed study skills. However, it’s important to realize that PA School is a different ball game. The ability to adjust to the curriculum and change up your study methods to accommodate your extremely busy schedule is important. Keep in mind that you’ll be studying with other classmates and that everyone has their own approach. Stick to the approach that works for you and be flexible when you have to adjust your study methods for a particular class.
Organize Your Notes
If you take notes to study, then I highly recommend keeping them organized in a space where they’ll be accessible to you with ease. I kept all of my anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology noted from the 1st two semesters of PA School and it was a game changer for me. It’s so easy to forget things while you’re continuously learning new material. Being able to go back and re-read your notes allows you to make mental connection that help you understand and remember thing so much better. It also saves you so much time, which is a scarce resource in PA School.
Take Breaks and Embrace Emotional Support
After getting accepted to 8 PA programs, I ended up choosing to stay home and go to a school in Brooklyn, New York. One of the reasons that guided my decision is having my family and friends near me for mental and emotional support. I can’t begin to tell you how important mental support is in PA School. It’s a challenging, stressful environment that is constantly demanding time and energy from you.
Taking breaks, listening to your favorite music, going on walks, hitting the gym, and even going to the movies with your friends on a Friday night is absolutely necessary. During my second semester of PA School, I completely neglected my physical health. I stopped going to the gym and had a poor diet. I felt burnt out, exhausted, and stressed. Then, during my third semester, I started to incorporate study breaks, exercise, and a better diet into my routine. These changes drastically improved my overall mental and physical health, which enhanced my academic performance.
Focus on High-Yield Information
The good old expression, “learning in PA School is like drinking from a fire hydrant,” stands true. The amount of information that will be delivered to you is overwhelming. This, coupled with 3-4 exams a week, is a difficult combination. One of my biggest pieces of advice for PA school? Don’t overthink things.
More often than not, you simply won’t have the time to know every single detail about a particular disease. Knowing the key features of diseases and their respective diagnosis and first-line treatments is sufficient to pass the exam and move forward in the curriculum.
Punctuality is Key
Being on time is truly one of the keys to success. This is especially important for clinical year. Coming in late makes you look irresponsible and careless. It is also disrespectful towards the team you work with. You team depends on you, even if you are only taking care of one patient.
Read the Room
As a student, you’ll be interacting with so many healthcare professionals with different personalities throughout your academic career. Knowing how to handle these personalities is vital. You have to maintain professionalism, know when to ask question, when to stay quiet, and when to answer questions. This is especially true during your general surgery rotation. The OR is a different world with super strong personalities. You may encounter things that may be deemed unpleasant or rude. Don’t let this deter you. Just be mindful of your actions, know how to read the room, be nice to everyone, and maintain professionalism.
Introduce Yourself to the Nurses
I consider this to be an important step. Being nice and introducing yourself to the nurses at the nurses station on your first day of your rotation goes a long way. These nurses will teach you things, guide you, and help you out when you need something. They may also let you practice IVs and other clinical skills, which is super important and can give you an edge.
Keep this advice for PA school in the back of your mind as you navigate through your classes. Your hard work will pay off!
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