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tips on didactic year

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Hi all ! Melissa Gutierrez MPAS , PA-C  here with some other tips for didactic year

Happy Monday ! Another start to a wonderful week. Today I will talk about the hardest part of the 1st year of PA school.

There is several difficult challenges for the 1st year here I will list what I had a hard time with. 

#1 - WORK LOAD . PA school WILL BE THE HARDEST THING YOU EVER HAVE TO DO , I can assure you that. The work load is intense , you are expected to learn so much material in so little time. One of the hardest parts of PA school will be preparing for these exams ; quick tip : a lot of the material will be self taught, there's only so much material they can cover in class , so it will be expected for you to go home and go over a lot of stuff on your own. 

In the beginning I wanted to read every chapter, cover everything in one class before moving on to the next -- realistically there's no way you will ever be able to do all of that. 

It took me almost a full semester to realize this and change my study habits.  It's about studying smart, reading the material you believe will be beneficial to strengthening your information. 

for example , my pathophysiology professor provided power points notes directly from the book -- what I did was read the sections that were covered in his power point only-- made notes as we were in lecture with anything he added that wasn't in notes and then added important notes from book that helped me understand material more. Everything I did was always color coded, power point material was black, red was what professor added in class, and pink was book material. This kept all my notes in one document vs having power point notes, lecture notes, and self notes .

I learned that in order to make my studying time easier I needed to integrate material vs trying to study each class individually. 

So for example , my program was designed in modules -- meaning we began with Immunology & hematology ( they used NCCPA blueprint as the core of the material we would cover added by anything professors found relevant to our profession), we would see all pathophysiology, anatomy, clinical medicine, patient education and pharmacology for immunology and hematology and test over all topics of it in one day -- IT was called black monday so we would have anywhere from 4-6 exams in one day. 

I began studying material together so let's say we were going over allergic rhinitis I would review what is going on pathophysiologically, how will my patient present in clinic,  how will I treat them, what patient education can i  give them and in that manner I had reviewed every class . 

#2 - Time management 

We all probably are good at scheduling and organization after all you did get accepted into PA school, however this type of work load is like nothing else. Time management will be key , using your time wisely will safe you. 

I have talked about this throughout my blog - but having an agenda will save you . You need to be organized about your day and study habits. 

For example , I would get up at 5:30 AM , class began at 8:00 AM i would shower and review a little before class ( whatever we would be seeing that day ). I would be at school by 7:30 am, got my MAC ready ( in my mac I would open my pre worked notes , here I had power point notes typed up ,as well as my added material in pink from what I had read the night before ) in my IPAD i opened power point in order to follow along in lecture and record professor. As i'm in class I add in anything extra in red meaning I got that material from professor or anything done in class.  I would do this for every class, during lunch I would read or get ahead on any assignments that may be due . 

After school , I would go to library eat a quick meal and review material that we covered for that day for about an hour and a half or 2 and then begin reviewing material for the next day.  Now Every person is different , i was able to be on campus for 12-13 hours.  

You need to know your strengths during PA school, mine were my fast note taking skills and reading skills. I knew that I would be able to read and make notes because that's the way I enjoyed studying.  Now making friends and good study groups is key. My group of study buddies during PA school helped me a lot , one of my best friends was amazing at charts -- so she was in charge of doing the pharmacology charts with all the medications, side effects ,contraindications, usages, and dosages. Another firned enjoyed flashcard so she did quizlet for the class, another friend was good at making the reviews for the exam.  Finding your strengths and weakness will make a huge difference. 

#3 - having limited time for family and loved ones 

I often would hear during open houses I attended for PA school that if you do get accepted you wouldn't have much time for anything else other than school -- it almost seemed extreme but IT IS TRUE. 

Week 1 of PA school , and reality struck -- I had class monday's and wednesdays from 8:00 am to 5:45 pm. Tuesdays we had lab at 8:00 am until 11:45 Am and thursday lab from 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm. Friday was case study day from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon , then we had clinical lab science from 1:00 to 3:00 ish , saturday we had lab as well from 1:00 until 4:00  By the time I got out of class on Mondays and wednesdays I was so tired but also overwhelmed with all the material we went over --  so those were the hardest days to study because you're tired from classroom but you need to make the time . Tuesdays and thursdays I called my catch up days since I wasn't in the classroom for so long I would be able to get ahead on reading , studying , and note making. 

Your loved ones may not understand the pressure you are under and how much material you have to review a day, So it will be hard when you are missing BBQs, parties, dinners, etc.  Now there were plenty of my classmates that were able to do both , For me I'm a naturally anxious person and I needed to dedicate myself to this completely, You are in the program for 28 months , get the most out of these 28 months because the next time you are in a clinic you will be seeing patients on your own. 

#4 figuring out what works and what doesn't 

This is probably a constant struggle all PA students face, coming in you don't know what books to use, how to study , do notes work , flashcards, videos, etc. 

Every school is different but in our program some classes did have a required textbook while others allowed you to use any book you would like as long as you reviewed the topics at hand. 

This is hard, coming in you need to figure out what does and doesn't work. In my undergrad majority of what I would do was hand written notes ,it helped me remember material better, Coming into PA school there was no way I could handwrite my notes -- I Would never finish. 

So I had to make changes , and find out new study habits in order to work more efficiently. 

The first semester will be the hardest -- but it does get better you figure out how to study , what works for you and how to manage your time by your second semester you will be handling the stress so much better. 

It's a roller coaster ride of emotions ,it is stressful , it is hard, but its also so beautiful. I loved every part of my PA school journey. It was the best experience of my life. 

Be prepared , and remember be a sponge , absorb everything !

follow my blog : melissa-gutierrez.simplesite.com

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