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PA Student Starting in January 2014 - Any Words of Wisdom?


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Hey all,

 

I am starting PA school as a member of the first class of students at the University of Missouri -Kansas City in Spring 2014. I am moving "mid-life" from the legal field to healthcare, but do have experience in emergency medicine (EMT) and inpatient mental health through the military, so I'm not completely removed from healthcare. I am exceptionally nervous about starting school and am trying to keep an open mind on what sort of specialty I'd like to go into. Anyone who is in PA school currently, residency/fellowship, or just graduating, please throw out opinions on any of the following:

 

* words of wisdom

* advice on school/residencies/etc.

* starting salaries you are seeing

* up-and-coming specialties to take note of

* irritations or issues you have found along the way

* your view on autonomy (for instance, in Missouri they just passed legislation that PAs are allowed ~95% autonomy, up from ~66%)

* just all-in-all discussing your experience on your path to being a PA.

 

I know, that was a lot of requests...

 

As an aside, please do not troll my post and make rude and unnecessary comments or nit-pick my choice of profession. You'd be surprised at how often I see people doing that on here, and it makes very little sense as to why. Thanks to everyone!

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Good luck! Many of us came up through EMS and changed careers to do what you'll be doing.

 

As far as advice, I agree with Corpsman. When you get to school, work when you have to work, but take some time for yourself and your family. I described what life was like for me at my particular school in the book noted below, if you're interested.

 

Good luck!

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I enjoy it. Interesting and important organ with electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical aspects. Interesting tests and interventions. Wide range of pharmaceutical tools. Very nice patients. A chance to make a difference.

 

I did not do a residency but did do a rotation. My boss says that, after working for the first three years here, that I've probably seen more than MD residents do in their 3 years. I'm not so sure about that and there is a lot to learn every day.

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Take every opportunity presented to you. Remind yourself (often) of why you chose this career. Get as much patient contact as you can (this will help with the former). Don't be afraid to ask questions. Take time for yourself everyday...and if you can, maintain some form of exercise (it'll help prevent that 20 pounds of stress weight that most of us gain and possibly maintain some remnant of your sanity). Utilize your resources: the fact that you and your classmates come from varied medical backgrounds is a HUGE advantage over medical school. Ask for their expertise when you need it because I'm sure they will need yours as well! It's stressful and crazy and chaotic and you'll probably think to yourself, "what the hell am I doing???" Enjoy it. Make the most of it because it can truly be a situation where you get out of it what you put in. It'll go by SO fast, you will be amazed. Congrats on this new journey and welcome to the community!!!!

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Yep. A lot of people get caught up in the complain game, comparing answers right after an exam... another thing is hoarding and sharing "the best study guides". There is no best study guide besides the one you make yourself. People studying straight from the slides do just as well as those studying from fancily formatted study guides handed down from 2nd years. Stay on your game, don't get wrapped up in any nonsense, and you will be fine. This would be the single most important piece of advice IMHO. Everything else you will learn as you go.

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Yep. A lot of people get caught up in the complain game, comparing answers right after an exam... another thing is hoarding and sharing "the best study guides". There is no best study guide besides the one you make yourself. People studying straight from the slides do just as well as those studying from fancily formatted study guides handed down from 2nd years. Stay on your game, don't get wrapped up in any nonsense, and you will be fine. This would be the single most important piece of advice IMHO. Everything else you will learn as you go.

 

 

Two thumbs up. Best advice you can get. The best is having to sit through a test review with your course director and watch 50% of your classmates tear into your course director about one stupid question that had two right answers, only one was better and clearly stated in lecture but for some reason had to be argued. It's very humbling when you sit back and watch this reminding yourself that YOU are the STUDENT and the COURSE DIRECTOR is the PA who has been PRACTICING for several years. Sure, I have had times on tests when I could have argued a question until I am blue in the face... truth is, the 1% boost to your grade doesn't really matter (unless of course your course grade is shaky). I may be wrong, but it's just not worth the time and effort. It's a dog eat dog world out there :). Just keep your head above water and you'll be fine. I too am someone who studies straight from lecture slides and reference text. You'll find out quickly what works best for you.

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I just turned 39 and am half way through my 2nd semester of PA school. I too was nervous returning to school "mid-life", but everything is going better than I had anticipated. I agree with the advice above, focus on the things you can control (which is really only yourself) and don't overreact to the things out of your control (pretty much everything else). Find the most efficient way to study that works for you-everyone has a different method and if yours works-stick with it. If it doesn't - change it quickly. Eat right, sleep and get some phyical activity on a regular basis. Focus more on understanding than learning. It's more important to get the big picture; don't get bogged down in the little details.

Good luck!

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Unless you are shooting for a residency program remember its not PA-A or PA-B, it's PA-C that you are aiming for. Just get the degree and learn as much as you can for the application of practice. Take time to relax when you can manage it. It will be tough, but hang tough.

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@kschill - thank you for your advice! I think that I am just getting nervous since I'm also mid-life and not wanting to make a bad career decision. In my heart, I don't feel like I am.

 

@benny32311 - I really do want to do a residency! I at least don't want to turn away the option, since I'm not terribly sure what field I want to go into and I feel like in some of them I would be much better served to have a residency or fellowship under my belt. But, I absolutely understand your sentiments.

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1. Take a break and relax! :)

2. When you start, take your time (not too much time) to try to figure out how you learn best i.e. study groups, individual etc.

3. DO NOT talk about grades with your classmates. The more you keep your class as a pack and kick the competition out the better it'll be for the rest of the year, and it avoids drama too.

4. You know what you know based on your experience, help out your classmates whenever you can but dont be a gunner if that topic comes up ;) Some peeps might get annoyed, i.e. humble...

5. I don't really agree with some OPs advice about study guides. you'll quickly realize that its A LOT of material and it can get tiring to study 500+ slides for one exam for the gazillion exams you'll be having. In our class we make a google doc and ppl sign up for different objectives, totally volunteer type thing, no one is forcing you. And then we combine it. This helps with two things. a. cutting out the fluff b. focusing on what is pertinent to that subject and pance blue prints and practical practice.

 

Stay focused! they saw something in you and they will help you make it through! The program's reputation is on the line as well like any other program out there they will do everything they can for you to learn and be one of the best peeps out there :) !

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@kschill - thank you for your advice! I think that I am just getting nervous since I'm also mid-life and not wanting to make a bad career decision. In my heart, I don't feel like I am.

 

@benny32311 - I really do want to do a residency! I at least don't want to turn away the option, since I'm not terribly sure what field I want to go into and I feel like in some of them I would be much better served to have a residency or fellowship under my belt. But, I absolutely understand your sentiments.

 

In that case, just see what the minimum GPA is then. I am also interested in doing a residency, and it seems that most places require about a 3.4 or 3.5, which is definitely doable. Don't kill yourself trying to get it though.

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  • 1 month later...

Congratulations on your acceptance! I am 45 years old and starting PA school in a week and a half after being accepted from the wait list two and a half weeks ago. Yikes! My advice from one "mid-life" student to another: you're old enough and experienced enough to know how much sleep you need, how you learn best. etc. Keep doing that. Exercise. Eat well. Ask your family for support when you need it. Value your past job and life experience. This is going to be a little rough but you'll be fine and so will I. Best of luck!

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You didn't ask for advice from family but since my husband is in his first semester of PA school having made a midlife career change at 42 (but got into PA school at 45) from electrical engineering, I'll chime in! Enjoy yourself, vacations are good...but also get mentally prepared for being stretched...my husband is smart as is everyone in his class and there are some who are in danger of not making it to second semester...we were glad we read UGoLong's book because his first semester was rough as well and we've commented that that helped us to just focus on getting through this first summer semester...You don't mention family but make sure you have some cheerleaders whether family or friends who can encourage you through the long study hours and the test upon quiz upon test upon paper upon quiz upon midterm upon final! Best of luck!

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@ljgiblin: Thank you very much for your insight! My closest family is 4 hours away, but they are definitely supportive! I keep hearing over and over again the rigors of PA school, and I'm concerned to such an extent that I'm seeing a counselor once a week to start gaining time-management skills, discuss coping mechanisms and study strategies, and hopefully gain mental preparedness for when I start school in January. I hope it helps! The last thing I want is to get two semesters into it and have to quit... ugh.

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don't give up any activities that you love just because you may feel like you don't have the time for it. I made that mistake first semester and I felt like the second semester when I worked out more, I was less stressed out. I also felt like for some reason the next semester didn't require as much study time because I used that time more efficiently once I found out the way I studied.

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