In the first week of PA school, I remember being told that, “PA school is like drinking out of a fire hose.”
Am I exaggerating? Definitely not!
PA school is a crazy journey, unlike any other. Every PA program is slightly different, but the didactic year requires that you absorb A LOT of information. Anatomy, pharmacology, general medicine, the list goes on -- all in the first year!
So, how do you get through it?
It might seem impossible, but it isn’t! No matter your age or how long you have been out of school, you were picked for a reason. Admissions trusted you that you were able to be a great physician assistant. Plenty of us have been through it before, and you will be able to as well.
Looking back, there are a few things that I think is very important to know if I went through the journey again.
4 Tips for First-Year PA School SuccessPA programs are roughly two years in length. To cover the material, the typical PA student must be prepared to drink knowledge from a six-inch high-pressure hose twenty-four hours per day from the very first day of class . . . and like it. —Dr. Henry HeardClick To Tweet
1. Time management
There is so much material expected to be learned so quickly. It can be overwhelming to think about, but it can be done! You have to find what works best for you to be able to stay afloat.
- Are you a visual person? Creating study guides or writing on PowerPoint slides might be the best thing for you.
- If you are a person that likes interaction, maybe finding a study group and problem-based learning will be best for you.
- Some people created Quizlets, drew it out, talked it out, or listened to lectures. The list goes on.
There is no right way to study. Don’t feel bad if your classmate studies a different way. How you study might be different than how you studied in undergrad.
As long as you can retain and understand the material, that is all that matters! It can be some trial and error, but you will find your way!
2. Take time to relax
You have class eight hours a day, then you go home or to the library to spend hours studying again. It can be exhausting and seem like you cannot relax at all. The amount of information you have to learn can be scary, but you will not learn it if you take no breaks for eating, sleeping, and spending some time taking a break.
It might be challenging to make time for yourself, but you should! You have to eat- so that that hour to get dinner with a friend or family. Maybe, watch a movie at 10 pm when your eyes are exhausted from staring at lecture slides. Go workout after school before you study for the night.
Whatever break it might be, take some time for yourself. You will be more refreshed to jump into the next part of studying. You will wake up ready to study the next day and learn more!
It might feel like there is no end in sight, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is short term.
3. You are not in this alone. Talk to someone!
It might feel like no one understands what you are going through. Your friend or family might not understand how hard it is to study all this information in 1 year. They might not get the exhaustion of taking multiple exams a week. You will make friends in school who are going through the same process.
If you are struggling, ask for help! If you need help with school or coping with the workload, you have teachers who have likely been through this before. Don’t be afraid to get a therapist or counselor to help talk things out or help you through the changes or stress of school.
Call your long-distance friend on your walk or drive home to catch up and take that mental break. Ask a classmate to help you understand a topic you are struggling with.
PA school is tough, but it will be more challenging to go through it alone.
4. Last but not least: Jump in
There is no time like the present!
However, you do not need to jump in alone! Reading all of this might make you feel relieved, but also a little scared. It’s okay. PA school is an exciting, scary time. You worked hard to get here; you will work hard in school. Luckily you and all your classmates are going through this together.
Enjoy the process, have fun learning the material; it will make your time in PA school a lot more tolerable. As my PA professors said to me: “Trust the process.”
You will get through the first year, and you have help along the way. You will become a PA!
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