The one question many people ask me is if PA school is difficult?
And the answer is…. Yes!
Of course it is, in many ways it is equally as rigorous as medical school. As students in the first year didactic portion we took many of our classes with medical students. Although, we were graded independently we were still required to maintain a high score.
Just one score below the required percentile landed you in remediation. Another was means for dismissal from the program. I saw this happen more than once. In fact I believe we lost approximately 4 students from our already small class.
I spent many long nights pondering my decision to attend PA school. The tests were extremely challenging and the breadth of material at times overwhelming.
Once I received my National Health Service Corps scholarship I had another layer of stress. To default on this loan meant I would have to pay the cash amount 3x over. Sitting down to take exams with this knowledge over my head sometimes was unbearable.
Beyond The Classroom
Once you get to clinical’s life can either be a joy or hell on earth. Example: I had the wonderful chance to study under the esteemed tutelage of Dr. Dick during my surgery rotation. He did everything in his power to live up to his name. His pet peeve was a shaky hand on the endoscopy camera (a task often given to students). One of my classmates passed out with said camera in hand in a last ditch attempt to remove any shaking in her knees. Nothing like waking up on the ground of an operating room with a man by the name of Dr. Dick cussing you up a storm!
Residents could be extremely warm and supportive or slave drivers. Days could be short and sweet, or long laborious hours or all-nighters. And yes, during clinicals you still have to find time to study for exams.
Why it’s Worth it
My 4-year-old daughter reminded me last week that when I “make a mistake my brain grows.” I absolutely love this idea and I think it is true…Difficult to stomach though in the field of medicine where “mistakes” can be life and death.
But the truth is going to PA school makes your brain really grow. Despite the obvious stress, the challenges and the bar being set high, it will drive you to be a better version of yourself.
Like all brain growth it can be painful before it is rewarding. Looking back I am so glad I pushed through the self-doubt, the mistakes, the difficulties. The process is at times arduous but if you love medicine, science, puzzles and people, the path is one of total joy and fulfillment.