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Pros/Cons/Tips from Current Students

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Hey guys, Just wondering if any current WFU PA students could give some input on their experiences in the program?? With the unique problem-based curriculum, does anyone feel that they're not learning everything or missing out on stuff? Particularly anatomy? Also, favorite/least favorite parts of the program? Ease of setting up rotation sites during 1st year? Opinions on rotations and 2nd year experience? Thanks for your input ;)

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Hey guys, Just wondering if any current WFU PA students could give some input on their experiences in the program?? With the unique problem-based curriculum, does anyone feel that they're not learning everything or missing out on stuff? Particularly anatomy? Also, favorite/least favorite parts of the program? Ease of setting up rotation sites during 1st year? Opinions on rotations and 2nd year experience? Thanks for your input ;)

 

First-year here, and there are a few more of us on the board so they may chime in eventually as well. As for me, I couldn't be happier. I turned down spots at other programs and cancelled a few interviews just to come here, and I haven't regretted it once. The PBL curriculum isn't an anomaly - a handful of other PA programs utilize it, and quite a few med schools (including Wake) use PBL as well. Wake Forest just happens to be one of the PA schools that is most renowned for it.

 

You'll get cornerstone lectures on Anatomy & Physiology, Internal Medicine, Clinical/Physical Exam Skills, Pharmacology, Diagnostic Medical Sciences and Professionalism/Ethics - all of which are given by the faculty or specialists at the top of their field who are practicing daily at WFUBMC. The PBL cases are simply the "hook" that helps you engage with the material - you have to logically work your way through a differential, research things you're unsure about, rule in and rule out options based on physical exam and lab findings you're given. Each single "case" usually starts with a differential a mile long, and by the end of the week you haven't looked into one thing - you've looked into dozens. We use the PANCE Blueprint (topics that the PA licensing exam questions are drawn from) to direct our inquiry, along with a weekly study guide to ensure that we're covering all the relevant bases and not "missing" any major topics! Above all else, PBL can be a lot of fun - it's a puzzle that you're working on with friends, and you've got an experienced PA to guide you along the way. One minute, you're squinting trying to read a chest x-ray or decipher an arterial blood gas - the next, you're laughing as your group-mates roleplay a scenario involving "the PA" and "the cantankerous alcoholic" - the minute after that, you're munching on homemade muffins that your other classmate baked to share with the group. The whole time, you're learning.

 

We do not spend a ton of time up front on gross anatomy like many other programs - you get it as you go along, and we only go over to the gross lab a handful of times during the year. I had taken Anatomy and Cadaver Dissection beforehand, so that wasn't a big deal to me. It may be a sticking point for some, and that's understandable. As it stands, we cover Anatomy system-by-system as we go along, and always link it back to the physiology involved. I personally would rather spend my time learning how to think my way through a case, learn to research things independently and focusing on the mechanisms and pathophysiology involved. That's learning for life, rather than just learning trivia for a test. My favorite parts of the program are PBL, PBL and the last half of SPA week where we're given a case to research and diagnose independently on our own. Which is kind of like PBL, except you're doing it solo. Did I mention that I like PBL yet? :)

 

As for rotations - you can't ask for a better setup. You do ten rotations, three of which are electives (most programs have 1-2 electives). Three must be in the area so that faculty can come evaluate you, but otherwise you can use your own connections or take advantage of the network that Wake has to try and hook things up throughout the state, country, or in select cases even abroad. Few schools give you as much input into the selection process as Wake does, and you've got staff who are willing to knock on doors or navigate the maze of clearances & approvals if there's a place you're dying to go to. We also have access to a database of reviews that previous students have done of their various sites which also helps with putting in your rotation requests. We're in the earliest stages of planning for 2nd year right now, but I'm already grateful I'm here and not at another program where they merely have sites contracted out and assign you with no input as to where you might want to go and what you might want to do. Second-years can speak to that whole experience better than I can, though, so I'll leave it at that!

 

Good luck making your decision - you or anyone else who is considering our program are welcome to PM if you have other questions...

Edited by LoRezSkyline
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Another 1st year here.....I'm not worried about not spending a lot of time in the anatomy lab at all. I think it would really take time away from the big picture and make it a lot more stressful if we had to spend weeks in the anatomy lab. I don't feel like I'm deficient in my anatomy knowledge.

 

PBL....the main reason I came here. Instead of sitting in lecture every day from 8-5, not paying attention, and not learning anything, you're engaged and actively participating in PBL. (Not saying all lectures are bad, and we do have 4-5 lectures a week, but I'm just not an auditory learner and as we all know, if you sit in a lecture hall too long, you zone out.) If anything I think I am learning more in this curriculum than in a lecture-based curriculum. You have to be very self directed, and the advantage of this is that you get to learn the information the way you want to learn it, instead of a teacher telling you exactly what to do all the time. The fact that we have one test week at the end of each unit, instead of 2-3 major tests every week, is a huge plus in my opinion. I think it is much less stressful to do it that way.

 

We've just started getting info about rotations, but the process is very easy and organized so far. If there's somewhere you want to do a rotation but it's not in the database, they'll help you set it up.

 

By the time you get here, we'll be 2nd years and able to help you get acclimated to the program! It's definitely different and takes a little getting used to for the first couple of weeks, but it's worth it.

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Hey guys, Just wondering if any current WFU PA students could give some input on their experiences in the program?? With the unique problem-based curriculum, does anyone feel that they're not learning everything or missing out on stuff? Particularly anatomy? Also, favorite/least favorite parts of the program? Ease of setting up rotation sites during 1st year? Opinions on rotations and 2nd year experience? Thanks for your input ;)

 

 

 

i was also wondering about favorites and least favorites about the program.. but mainly the least favorite parts? i have heard so many great things about it, and not to say that they aren't all completely and fully true, but i feel like i'm getting a very one-sided view. does anyone have any misgivings about the program? i do really like the program, but every program has some slightly less appealing aspects, and i want to make sure that they arent concerning things that would bother me enough to change my mind. i just want everything out on the table that i can have before i make this official! thanks!

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one thing that bothers me is the timing of our Problem Based Learning compares to the lectures. We usually have our PBL in the morning and lecture after lunch. I would much prefer the lectures to happen earlier in the day when i'm still awake. I have a tough time listening to lectures after lunch, especially when the tryptophan is in full effect. I discussed with the faculties about having it switch, but unfortunately it's a logistical nightmare to convince lecturers to come in early since most of them can only come after lunch.

 

So, drink plenty of coffee and try to stay focus.

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This is something first years might be able to help with! Is there anything you can suggest that we will need in our first year that we can go ahead and by now such as equipment or anything while we still have jobs and are making money? Any suggestions would be appreciated!! THanks!

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if you haven't yet, go ahead and buy a good stethoscope. Mine is a Littmann Cardiology III and it works well. I would save money for a Welch Allyn diagnostic kit (opthalmoscope, otoscope, etc...) as well. You should also buy Bate's Physical Examination and start reading it.

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Ok THanks Bowie!!! i have a LIttman Cardiology III already...but other than the diagnostic kit i wasn't sure if there were any other instruments we would need. Do you think there will be a new version of Bate's out between now and then or is it safe to go ahead and buy?

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Bates is actually up to 10th ed now, but it rarely changes that much between editions - they tend to update the graphics, put in a few more pics, maybe some multimedia bells and whistles. I'm actually using a 5th edition (!!!) Bates that I had purchased a few years ago and have been totally fine with that, although I do see my classmates' texts occasionally and note that there's a newer diagram or photo that makes me a little bit envious.

 

If money's tight, any of the relatively recent editions should suffice. If you want a copy for the ages, get the latest and greatest. Either way, whacking a patellar tendon with a reflex hammer hasn't changed much over the years :)

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Also - this is just my personal tip, but I'd pick up a used copy of the Merck Manual Home Edition - don't get a brand-new one, and you don't need the professional version. Seriously, the Home Edition is basic - easy to read - yet still at a level where you'll glean something from it. I got a used hardback copy for $5, and I still refer to it all the time as a jumping-off point before I dive into Harrison's or one of the heavy-duty books! It's online for free as well, and there's even an iPhone version for a few bucks. But there's something about having the actual book around that's nice; you'll pick it up more often.

 

Once you've got it - open it at random, read about whatever random disease process you come across. It will help you become vaguely familiar with many different conditions - you don't have to remember all the details, just get a general vibe of what can go wrong with the heart, the kidneys, and so on. Then, next year in PBL when someone says something about Guillain-Barre - maybe you'll remember, hey, yeah, that's that odd syndrome that's usually preceded by a viral illness? The one where people usually get weak in the legs first, it moves up their body, can even paralyze the diaphragm? And from there, you can delve into the details and learn everything else you need to know about it. Just having a toehold helps immensely, though!!!

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I've been offered a seat at Wake and am very excited but still have a few questions:

 

To current students:

1. I know the anatomy course was insanely intense this past year and that the faculty is going to revise it - any word on the changes that will be made? Do you think we will still have adequate cadaver time? Is the course still going to be the first 3 wks of the first unit/block or will they spread it out over the entire block?

2. Any advice for the incoming class? The first yrs at the interview recommended Bates' and Clinical Patho Made Ridiculously Simple - so those are now both on my Christmas list. :)

3. How many 2nd yrs have job offers at graduation? Has anyone done a post-grad residency recently and how difficult was it to be accepted (I know that depends on the type of residency but I'm curious about the value of PA residencies in general)?

 

To grads:

1. I'm considering surgery after graduation (although not as much anymore) and Wake doesn't have a "focus" or "emphasis track" like other program I've interviewed with. Are the 3 elective rotations enough to feel prepared for working in surgery after graduation?

2. How is the current job market in NC? There is going to be a new program starting in NC soon (Elon) - do you think the PA market will become saturated in NC over the next 10 yrs? My current state has great employment ops for PAs (and pretty good scope of practice/Rx privileges/PA ownership laws too) but I'd like to stay in NC once I move because I love the area.

 

Thank you for your time and reviving this helpful thread!

Edited by swimrgal02

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Congrats! I'm a second year, so I'll try to answer some of your questions:

 

1) The anatomy course was new for this year, so our class didn't do it. I also heard it was fairly intense. The faculty is usually pretty receptive to students' needs, though, so I imagine they may make some changes to make it better.

2) Honestly, just take some time to relax before classes start in June. Book-wise, I'd agree with the recommendations of Bates and Pathophys M.R.S...I would strongly recommend holding out on any other book purchases until you start classes and figure out what you need (caveat: you'll probably have to buy a book for anatomy). You will have access to a lot of books online through the library, like the Current series, which I love. I also would use Jim Van Rhee's PA review book and First Aid for the Step 2 for studying for SPA week.

3) I can only speak for myself, but I'm not quite at the halfway point of clinical year and I've already gotten one job offer and another practice where I rotated was pretty interested in me, but didn't outright give me an offer yet. I honestly don't know a lot of the students that just graduated very well, but I don't think any of them have had a huge amount of trouble finding a job. Regarding residencies, I know at least one of the recent grads is doing a critical care residency. My impression of residencies is that if you KNOW you want to work in area X, doing a residency in it gives you leverage to have a wider scope of practice and probably earn more once you get hired post-residency.

 

I'll take a stab at the grad questions, but hopefully one of the grads can chime in too.

1) Generally, we were encouraged to pursue electives in different areas. I imagine the clinical coordinators would be ok with you doing 3 surgery electives, as long as they weren't all in the same thing - like if you did general surgery for your "surgery rotation", then did electives in ortho, CT surg, and plastics (just for an example). Just my opinion, but I think it might be useful to stay open minded and consider doing at least one elective in something other than surgery, in case you end up hating it. In the end, a lot of learning will be done on the first job, regardless of your clinical year experiences.

2) I think the job market has the potential to get interesting - Campbell also just started their program and has their initial class this year, and in addition to Elon, I've heard High Point is to get a program at some point in the future. I think there's pretty good demand for PAs currently, but it could get interesting...ultimately, I think there will always be a place for PAs in primary care, especially in more rural areas.

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  • General Chemistry: one semester (a minimum of three semester hours or four quarter hours). One semester of Organic Chemistry will also fulfill this requirement.
  • Biochemistry or Organic Chemistry: one semester (a minimum of three semester hours or four quarter hours) of Biochemistry or two semesters (a minimum of six semester hours or eight quarter hours) of Organic Chemistry.

This is off topic but maybe someone can help me. I have taken General Chemistry I & II and Organic Chemistry, so as the above prerequisites read then I still have to Organic Chemistry II to meet the requirements...right. I know most programs just require Organic Chemistry I or Biochemistry, but I guess I just want someone to tell me that I do not have to take Organic Chemistry II. Hope this makes sense! Thanks

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Hey madisongf,

From the requirements listed you'll need to take Organic Chemistry II, unless you want to skip it and take Biochemistry. That's what I did, which worked pretty well (I was fortunate to have a Biochem teacher who didn't focus a ton on the mechanisms studied in OChem II). Be careful about classes such as "Intro to Bio-organic Chemistry," however, because I know many schools won't accept that as fulfilling the requirement. Bottom line is, if you have questions, just contact the program directly - they are really helpful. Good luck!

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BUMP.....can you tell me what your life was like during the 1st year of the PA program (any updated information)? What was your class schedule like? Did you often go home well after 5pm? How many hours a day did you need to study? How much "free time" did you have? Was it as intense as most PA students say it is? What were your classmates like and in general living in the area and the program as a whole? Did you find it extremely competitive to gain admission to this program? Thanks!

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madisongf,

 

I am not a student yet but would love to be!!... Anyway, for completness in answering your question from my experience I was at WFU open house this summer and the director has a personal preference for Biochem/molecular biology exposure prior to attending. That is what I am banking on.

 

Thank you so much to the current students that have posted this information!!!! I am extremely hopeful to be able to apply it to future experiences at WFU. PBL is the only way to fly... imho.

Edited by drholmes
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BUMP.....can you tell me what your life was like during the 1st year of the PA program (any updated information)? What was your class schedule like? Did you often go home well after 5pm? How many hours a day did you need to study? How much "free time" did you have? Was it as intense as most PA students say it is? What were your classmates like and in general living in the area and the program as a whole? Did you find it extremely competitive to gain admission to this program? Thanks!

 

Arrgh! So I just spend the last thirty minutes composing a comprehensive response to your questions, but I hit something on the keyboard that sent me to another page and it is all lost in the cyberspace void. So, the fast/abbreviated version will have to do:

 

Class schedule varies; generally we're done with class before 5 or 5:30 but many stay at Victoria Hall to study; here's an example (last week's M-F schedule):

 

[TABLE=width: 100]

[TR]

[TD] 9:30 EXAM

10:00 IMS Clinical Problem Solving (A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, D8)

1:00 CLNAP H&P

3:00 PFP

[/TD]

[TD] 8:30 Diagnostic Medical Sciences

9:30 Diagnostic Medical Sciences

10:30 IMS Applied Basic Sciences

1:00 CLNAP Lab ©

[/TD]

[TD] 8:00 Community Service

10:30 IMS Clinical Problem Solving

1:00 IMS Clinical Problem Solving (A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, D8)

3:00 Diagnostic Medical Sciences

[/TD]

[TD] 8:00 PFP

10:15 Pharmacology

12:00 KAS Meeting

1:00 Diagnostic Medical Sciences Lab ©

[/TD]

[TD] 9:00 IMS Clinical Problem Solving (A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, D8)

10:30 Pharmacology

11:30 Diagnostic Medical Sciences

2:30 PFP

[/TD]

[/TR]

[/TABLE]

 

Hours needed to study - technically you could study every hour of every day and still not go over everything you'd like to. We learn how to learn, and how to be efficient. Personally I have to study 2 hours a day at minimum to keep my head above water; I'd like to study more all the time but I also need to balance school with my personal life otherwise I'd go crazy.

 

Free time - you need to find/make it but it's doable. I feel like I've kept up with my school work, and have also found time to do things with my wife and our friends like: go to the fair, catch a concert in Greensboro, go to an apple festival, enjoy a movie at the $2.50 cinema, play intramurals, etc.

 

Yes, it's intense! It can feel hard and overwhelming, but that's the nature of a two-year master's degree (I don't care what it's in)! This program is amazing and the faculty wants you to succeed and to succeed healthily - in other words, they are willing to address concerns and work with you when you need some extra help. We rely a lot on each other and it's awesome what my classmates do to help lift each other up and provide encouragement. My classmates are fantastic, and small group is great because we really get to know each other and learn from each others' backgrounds/experiences.

 

I love living in Winston-Salem and think it's the perfect size; my classmates from big cities would disagree and say there's not a lot to do here but it's close to Charlotte and Raleigh.

 

The program as a whole is everything I hoped it would be and more - seriously. I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you are a self-motivated learner and you recognize the value of teamwork and don't enjoy sitting in lectures from 8-5 every day.

 

As our profession continues to grow in recognition and popularity it seems it will become increasingly competitive to gain admission to this and other programs; however, there are so many incredible schools out there. Although I happen to be biased towards this particular program, my hope is that wherever you go you will find committed, compassionate PAs who are trying to make a difference in PA education. Make sure the schools you interview at and consider are focused more on student well-being and success than on academic recognition and prestige, and you should be able to make a good decision. Good luck!

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