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I am done with didactic and is about start rotation soon. I think should feel excited to be done "the hard part" yet I'm filled with doubts and anxiety about moving forward. I originally came into this profession with the idea that I want to help patients understand diseases and empower them with knowledge to help themselves. Looking back now, I somehow feel like I've been passively heading toward this direction all my life because when people asked me what I wanted to do, I just said I want to do something medical related. Be it after school programs in high school or medical related jobs after college. There were times before PA school where I had doubts that this may not be right for me but then quickly brushed it off. When I do bring this up with family and others, I always get asked "what else do you want to do if not this" and I never had an answer because I wasn't actively looking at alternatives. Then I would get told that just do this if you don't know. I felt like I set this expectation for myself to set out to be a medical provider when I was way younger and now im feeling kinda stuck with having to follow through. Else i'd be a disappointment. I'd be lying if I didn't feel any familial pressure to stay the course.   

Then I got into PA school and it gave me a sort of adrenaline rush like "yeah! i got in, i can do it!". I thought it was gonna be simple and all I had to do was keep my head down and get through it. Yet throughout didactic there was always this tiny inner voice whispering to me "this feels wrong". I chalked it up to just being stressed out by the heavy workload and imposter syndrome and buried it. Sometimes when I do talk about it with my family I just get told to keep going because I've invested so much into this so at the very least just stick out the first year and see how it goes. Now that i've clawed my way through didactic, I feel completely burnt out. I took a month long break without doing anything PA school related. I spoke with friends who graduated already who tell me that clinicals would be completely different, similar to the countless other posts i read online.

Looking ahead to clinicals I just don't even care much less feel excited and I know that won't help me make it through. Thinking back to when I decided to enroll in the first place vs now make me feel like I'm in a totally different person. I feel like the spark of interest for medicine that could have ignited a flame of passion just kinda fizzled out as time went on for me. I don't get interested in medical topics anymore. I don't feel motivated anymore and have trouble feeling empathy for anyone. I sure this is part of the burn out but can't shake the feeling that it's more than just that. I lay awake at night contemplating whether I've had enough and seen enough to say "I've gave it an honest attempt and now it's time to move on" or if actually being in clinicals will make a difference. When imagine winding up to grind through a 2nd year for clinicals, i get a sinking feeling in my stomach. When I imagine not being a PA, i think, "im ok with that". If I quit now, it would feel like be a huge financial and time wasted on this path and a lot of resistance from those around me. If I continue, it could possibly be an even bigger wager of time, money, and effort on a "maybe" I'll change my mind during clinicals. I think about this on a daily basis now. Anyone who have experience care to give some advice? 

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For starters, take a deep breath. Your honesty is much appreciated and I'm sorry you are dealing with these doubts. You've worked so hard to get here but know that you are allowed to change your mind. I know you have read 'it will get better' and it really does for most. However, if your heart is not in it, it won't matter. I always always always have 'gone with my gut' and it has NEVER steered me wrong. With that being said, there is a decent financial implication here that plays a role. If you told me you have a trust fund/SO who would stroke a check/full tuition scholarship/ etc, I would probably advise to go do what makes you happy AFTER one semester of clinical rotations. Because yes, didactic year is completely terrible and nothing like practicing medicine, so it jades many. If you told me you are a starving student and will have to pay back this debt by yourself, I would give pause. Unless, of course, you had a very solid backup plan with a very decent income potential. You do not want this debt to burden you forever. The fact is that you will easily make six figures once you graduate and being a PA, at least for the immediate future, may be your best option at repaying your student loan in a timely fashion. And, you would be employed (much more attractive to potential employers), and you would have experience, and you would be financially stable. The bottom line for me is a financial decision and not an emotional one. If finances are not an issue and you want to leave, then go. If it is going to be an issue, I would have to advise to do at least one semester of rotations. I know there is nothing worse than doing something you don't want to do, but sometimes it is the wisest.. at least for a short bit until you have the plan B in place. I know this may not have helped at all, but I do appreciate your position and do hope you can find a resolution that ultimately works for you. Best of luck!

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By the end of didactic I had no interest in starting clinicals. I forgot why I went into medicine and why I wanted to become a PA. Nothing really clicked anymore and I was totally dreading clinical year.

I’m currently finishing up my fourth month of rotations and I genuinely feel grateful every single day to be learning medicine. I won’t lie to you, there are some really tough moments, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The amount I’ve learned in a few short months blows my mind and I’m excited that I get to do this as a career. 

What I’m saying is to hold tight. Didactic year is tough for everyone. You’ll find things in clinical year that will remind you why you went through all the trouble to get to this point.

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I've had that same feeling about my various careers as I went through life. And there definitely are times to consider changing directions. As I told someone on this forum once, the time to decide to get out of the Army isn't when you're in the landing craft on your way to Omaha Beach. And you don't have to have a really good idea of what you want to do next before you decide that you might be on the wrong path.

The reason I say these things is because you are about to go through one of my life's greatest adventures. You will more of less spend a year working at different jobs every month. Not only will they be in different areas of medicine (which some students fixate on too much) but different environments, different cities, different technologies, different patients, etc. You will learn a lot about yourself and about life in general. I happen to like my job as a PA but I can honestly say that there are many, many PA jobs I probably wouldn't like.

Sitting at home and trying to figure out what you want to do next never worked for me. Going into lots of different environments and seeing how being there made me feel, on the other hand, taught me a lot about myself. That is exactly what you are about to do. Just take it as an adventure and not a prison sentence. You can always elect not to get back into a landing craft when your year is up.

Best wishes.

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23 hours ago, Flyhi1213 said:

I know you have read 'it will get better' and it really does for most. However, if your heart is not in it, it won't matter. I always always always have 'gone with my gut' and it has NEVER steered me wrong. 

That's the part that worries me the most. I don't think my heart is in it anymore. When i was in didactic it just felt like I was just going through the motions without much thought about anything else. TBH mostly bc I never really did well academically and was in survival mode most of the time and it just got worse as time went on.  When i did stop for a moment to think, I remember telling myself to just get through it, get the degree so I can make money and do something else, and the fear of debt was what kept me pushing on. (I don't have a trust fund or a rich SO) Now that I've had time to stop to think long and hard, I find that the tiny voice from before is now screaming for me to leave because i'm not happy. The fear of debt pales in comparison to how miserable i feel. I've worked closely with PAs and docs in the ER, family practice and surgery dept for a year at each site so I have a very good idea of a day in the life of a provider at each site. Picturing myself as the PA at those sites doesn't do anything for me. 

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13 hours ago, Warwick said:

When i was in didactic it just felt like I was just going through the motions without much thought about anything else.

This is EXTREMELY common.  Didactic year is nothing short of awful.  You're sitting in a chair for ~8 hours per day to simply go home and study for more.  It's a simple kind of torture...but it's what is required.

You have made it through the most difficult part...100%.  Does that mean it will be easy until the end? OF COURSE NOT! But you have still made it through the most difficult part.

I don't know your entire situation, but can tell you that on average you have minimum $50k in student loans...and that is just from PA school.  If you drop out how will you pay that back?  Yes, there is discussion that the democrats will pay off people's student loans.  But, I wouldn't hang my hat on it for MANY reasons.

The last point I will make is, what will you do instead?  The vast majority of people are NOT passionate about their jobs.  I initially went into teaching because I was passionate about being an educator.  Guess what?  I lost that passion pretty fast when I saw how awful our education model is from the inside.  It didn't help to bring home $35,863 (yes, I still remember) with a B.S.  It didn't help that summers off for teachers is almost laughable because of ridiculous, required training that teachers have to pay for themselves.  What about accountants?  What about marketing?  The list goes on...and the simple answer is that the majority of people just aren't passionate about their jobs.  It is the sad, mundane reality of life that everyone has to accept at some point.  For me, when that reality hit I made the decision to find something that I would at least hopefully enjoy and make a decent salary at the same time.  Guess what?  I do enjoy my job and I make a decent salary.  Personally, I don't find the majority of my fulfillment from my job.  I find it through spending time with my wife, my 2.5yo daughter, my church, my friends, serving neighbors, etc., etc., etc.

One lie that I will never tell my daughter, "You can be whatever you set your mind to."  It's simply not true.  Finish PA school...do better than I have done at paying off your student loans (and I've done pretty well) by living like a student until they're gone.  Then find your fulfillment in something outside your job, or search for that career that would give you fulfillment, while enjoying a salary that allows you to do so.  Trust me...it's pretty hard to be able to do much of anything on a $35k per year income.

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Some time right before when you start seeing patients everyone wants to quit.  For me, it was after Christmas break and before spring break.  If you didn't, then you probably are some sort of a sociopath. 🙂  Seriously, my PA school classmates and I took turns talking each other out of quitting, and pretty much everyone made it.

Actually being able to see patients, talk to patients, and have some experiences with them was the time when it started to seem worthwhile.  There was still a rotation or two that sucked, but it was obvious that it was headed in the right direction then.

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Don't quit.  I thought about quitting literally every day from the moment I was on my way to campus for my first day of school until my very last test out.  I hated PA school.  Now I love being a PA and am so glad that I persevered.  Besides, do you have a good plan for how you will pay off your students loans that you have accumulated so far that doesn't involve making a PA's salary?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Late to the discussion, I just happened to come across it. I am also miserable and I am only halfway through didactic year. It is a feeling shared by many of my classmates so don't think for a second that you are alone. It is torture to say the least and extremely hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think what really gets to me is that yes, I do do well on my exams and assignments, but I get bogged down by the fear that I will not be successful out in the field and of hurting a patient or getting burned out. My honest opinion is that you should at least give one rotation a shot and see how you feel, maybe it will reignite the drive that lead you to PA school in the first place. I think sitting in a chair studying for so many hours a day + complacency will drive anyone mad. 

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I don't think anyone really appreciates the amount of material you need to cover during your didactic 12-18 months, at least until you're in the middle of it.  The common phrase is "drinking from a fire hose".  It is.  It also usually leads to a binge/purge cycle of retention.  You'll probably feel some better during clinicals, but you'll have the anxiety of being in a completely new setting every 4-6 weeks: new area of medicine, new facility, etc.  That's a different kind of terror - depends a lot on your preceptor.

Then will come the anxiety of preparing for PANCE and the worry of waiting for results.  Even though 95% of all PA students pass on the 1st attempt, many people are sure they failed, until they find out they passed.

Then, it will probably be 3 years in your 1st job before you're beginning to hit the flat part of your learning curve.

I'm not wise enough to know the words to re-assure you.  But, what you're feeling is totally normal and far more common than not.   All of us who have gone before you got through it.  I can't speak for them, but I'm sure I'm not smarter or better than you in any way.  I struggled, but got through.  Out of all that I went through, I've kept that portion of what was applicable.  But, it was in my 1st job that I learned my trade.

Keep going.  It won't get easier, but you're clearly have the same level of capability that we all do, so you can make it.  Then, you can try actually practice medicine for awhile and really find out if it fits you.

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Sorry you are feeling this way.  I guess I'm a sociopath.  I loved PA school.  Enjoyed every thing about it.  If you feel like you have imposter syndrome now I'm not sure you should continue.  I felt that way towards the end of my 30 years!!   Working as a PA is so much harder than being a student.  Just my opinion for what that's worth.

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I'll 100% second what @mgriffiths said above.  The absolute VAST majority of individuals out there don't truly love their jobs.  I worked EMS in my prior life and there is a huge tendency to define yourself by your career when working in the prehospital world.  It took me a long time to realize that my job didn't define my happiness and that my focus needed to change from living to work, to working to live.  As in my job gave me the opportunity to do the THINGS I loved to do, rather than needing to be THE thing I loved to do.

You're almost there.  I personally loved the didactic portion as much as the clinical, but I'm a huge nerd.  If you drop now I think you may end up regretting it, but you know you best.  May be a huge hit financially if you stopped now, but could be worse if you complete the 2nd half and end up not working down the road.

Judging by the thread quite a few people were in similar boats and are now happily cutting/sticking/poking/diagnosing/curing folks on a daily basis.

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