The Ultimate PA Student ResourceFrom practicum to practice these are the tools you need to rock your PA school student years
Welcome to this special student section of The PA Life Website
You have finally made it and trust me I know it isn't all sunflowers and stethoscopes. PA school is hard. There were times when I was on my knees begging for the mercy of God that I would make it through my EOR exam. I made so many deals with my higher power that I am sure I am in some serious trouble. So to save you from the fiery bowels of hell I have created this resource as a path to your salvation! OK, maybe that is a bit over the top, but here are some excellent tools that I can not live without.
The Didactic Year
The most important part of the didactic year is learning to study effectively. This includes prioritizing your time by focussing on what matters and learning test taking skills that will
Learn how you learn Then just do it
PA School can be a bit of a shock. We all know it will be hard, requiring long hours, but the sheer enormity of knowledge we need to master (or at least make a passing acquaintance with) can be overwhelming.
You will need to figure out how you learn best, and most efficiently.
- Is it taking copious notes in class?
- Drawing pictures of dissections?
- Re-listening to lectures on your iPhone while out for a run?
I was a solitary studier all through college, poring over all the required reading and taking notes. I tried to continue this pattern in PA school. This worked fine during the first term, which was largely a review of basic science principles I knew well already.
However, after getting my results back on the first anatomy exam at the start of our second term, I realized something had to change. My response was to join a study group. While I might have avoided my areas of weakness when studying alone, in a group, we’d be sure to go over all those annoying branches of the brachial plexus. This is a habit that will help you beyond PA school.
The field of medicine is one of life-long learning. We will constantly need to update our knowledge of our field by reading journals, attending conferences, and discussing interesting cases with our colleagues.
My Favorite Tools For the Didactic Year
Every PA program has its own required textbooks. These almost always include Current, Netters and Bates. They are so common I can use just one word and I am sure you know what I am talking about. There are also some books that aren’t required but I find a useful addition to the PA students arsenal.
Makes Studying a Breeze
- Essential Anatomy
- Shots Immunizations
- Diagnosaurus® DDx
- LabGear by Med Gears
- Tarascon Pharmacopeia
- Epocrates Pharmacopeia
- MedCalc – The Professional Medical Calculator
- The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy
- Essential Clinical Procedures
- Medical Spanish: Healthcare Phrasebook with Audio
- Perfect OB Wheel
Zygote Body 3D Anatomy - Free Web App
Zygote Body is hands-down the best web-based anatomy application and to top it off it is 100% Free. Once you sign up for an account you can use all the tools interactive 3D tools. It is beautiful, brilliant, and yes it is free.
Free Medical Spell Checker for MS Word
- Free Medical Spell Checker For Microsoft Word, Custom Dictionary: You will be typing a lot of medical papers in your lifetime. This free custom dictionary by civil engineer and medical transcriptionist "Raj" is wonderful. Just follow the instruction on the page, it is easy to install.
- I also use Grammarly, which offers a feature-rich set of spell-check and proofreading options in their free web app. They also have an MS Word plugin that will take your spellcheck to the next level.
Tools For The Clinical YearDo you want to make your preceptor cry with tears of joy? Then start here.
What equipment do you need for PA School?
This was a question I had as a nascent first year PA student excited to get my hands on a “real” stethoscope. At the time, I just listened to whatever my school recommended and bought most of my PA school equipment from the bookstore. Bad idea on both counts.
After a decade’s worth of trial and error and real world use the following is a treatment of everything your PA school says you should buy and what I think about it.
The Two Greatest Workhorse Stethoscopes
Littmann Cardiology IV $164
The Littmann Cardiology IV is a great acoustic stethoscope and is the gold standard. Most PA schools will say the same. Having used almost every stethoscope on the market I find the Littmann Cardiology III to be the only stethoscope that allows you to auscultate even the most difficult to hear heart sounds, especially in a loud clinic environment. It is a bit heavy when compared to the Littmann Classic II and my first one broke after 11 years of hard daily use and tons of curious pediatric patients playing with it. But in my opinion this is a no-brainer, buy the Littmann Cardiology III and you will be very happy you did.
Littmann Classic III S.E $79
The Littmann Classic III is a very lightweight and well-built stethoscope with good acoustics although not as good at noise canceling as the Cardiology III. My wife (an RN with 14 years experience) swears by this one because she likes the lightweight feel and durability. I used this stethoscope for a year when my Littmann Cardiology III broke and I was too cheap to purchase a proper replacement. It wasn’t until I finally replaced my Cardiology III that I realized what I was missing. If you are a student with a tight budget this may be a good option. But I still think you should consider a worthwhile upgrade later.
The Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is the one pocketbook I cannot live without. Although, after PA school I have transitioned to their amazing iOS app the small pocketbook is something I still recommend to all of my students. The pediatric dosing instructions alone make it worth every penny. Yes, you can use free apps such as Epocrates, but after 11 years Tarascon is still my go-to source for prescribing and I wouldn’t leave home without it.
The Sanford Guide is a wonderful little resource packed full of information that goes far beyond antibacterial treatments and causative bacterial agents. My only regret as a student was that I didn’t spend enough time understanding the book prior to using it. Grab a copy, spend 30 minutes fully grasping its utility and you will carry it with you through retirement. They also have a wonderful iOS app.
This is a classic! Great quick guide to SOAP notes, notes for surgery or OBGYN, quick reference to review of systems and physical exam. Also a handy visual acuity eye chart and other great quick reference info. I used this daily during my PA school rotations and stashed it in my desk drawer after graduation. I just recently pulled it out again and couldn’t believe all the useful information.
The Standford 25 - Bedside Exam Skills
The Stanford 25: Demonstrate one or more of the 25 technique dependent physical diagnosis maneuvers, then have the residents perform, demonstrate, perfect and show you how they teach. This is a cool site!
Below are select resources for clinical rotations by specialty. Here are six of my all-time favorites that cover all specialties.
- Smarty PANCE and Rotation Exam Review: With seven end of rotation exams, and three courses along with a searchable index of blueprint topics this is my recommended go-to guide.
- Rosh Review: Board exams review and top-notch Q-Banks
- Osmosis: Their videos break down complex topics, now with flashcards, quizzes, and high-yield notes.
- Picmonic: If you like visual learning with mnemonics then Picmonic is for you. You can get a 20% discount by clicking here (affiliate link)
- MedBullets: this is a hidden gem, with wonderful review tables and lots of practice questions. They also have a site dedicated to orthopedics at orthobullets. Focus on their Step 2 content.
- OnlineMedEd: 70 + hours of video covering 250+ topics and 19 specialties.
General Surgery Rotation
Emergency Med Rotation
Internal Med Rotation
- BB pocket cards app, set of all pocket cards
- Sanford guide to antimicrobial therapy
- ICD9 consult
- Medical eponyms
- Tarascon pharmacopeia
- American Psychiatric Association Clinical Practice Guidelines
- Smarty PANCE Rotation Exam Course and EOR Exam
Dermatology Atlas - is an online source of over 23,000 images of skin disease brought to you by Loyola University.
ECG Library is an online collection of realistic-looking recordings that can help clinicians improve their ECG skills. It contains detailed
Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopedics is the largest, most comprehensive online medical textbook on orthopedics with 11,000 pages of text and over 5,000 images.
Other Super Useful Resources
- Life in The Fastlane: A spectacular blog that is helpful for Cardiology review as well as your ER rotation. I seem to always end up at this site after a google search and there is a good reason for that.
- Geeky Medics is a medical student learning platform that aims to make revision less painful and more productive.
- Practical Clinical Skills provides free training and reference guides. Their Simulation-based lessons cover heart sounds, murmurs, lung sounds, carotid bruit, blood pressure measurement and EKG training. The quick reference guides are a timely information source at the point of care.
- Picmonic: Picmonic founders and medical students Ron Robertson and Adeel Yang took the idea of image mnemonics and applied clever pictures and humorous characters tied together with story and audio — and put it online to create the ultimate studying system for retention and recall.
iOS and Android Applications
This is an app I wish I had found sooner. Not only is it wonderful during the didactic phase of your studies, I find this to be an extremely useful tool in the clinic that my patients (and my kids) absolutely love.
There are lots of Pharmacopeia apps out there, but Tarascon continues to be my favorite. Loaded with some amazing tools (especially the pediatric dosing charts), blazing fast load times and zero advertisements the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is well worth the one-time annual investment. I couldn't practice without it.
Having a good lab reference is a must. If you are going to use one, Lab Gear is by far the best
The Best Medical Apps for Physician Assistant Students, PAs and Medical Professionals
Over the years I have tried (and continue to try) just about every medical app on the market. Distilled here is my extensive list of the very best (free and paid) medical apps designed to cover you in just about every situation.
The apps below will make you and your patients better because sometimes computers do work better than humans, let's just hope they don’t take our jobs in our lifetime.
My Favorite PANCE and PANRE Prep Books
Time tested and PA program approved these are hands down my favorite PANCE prep books
Why not accomplish more during your long commutes? These two podcasts can make the hours seem like minutes and help you ace your EORs as well as your boards.
The Audio PANCE and PANRE Physician Assistant Board Review Podcast
Physician Assistant Exam Review Podcast by Brian Wallace
Smarty PANCE Board and EOR Review
14 NCCPA™ Content Blueprint Courses
- Cardiology 13% » 51 disorders
- Pulmonary 10% » 31 disorders
- GI and Nutrition 9% » 38 disorders
- Musculoskeletal 8% » 36 disorders
- ENT 7% » 61 disorders
- Reproductive 7% » 46 disorders
- Neurology 7% » 34 disorders
- Endocrinology 7% »17 disorders
- Infectious Disease 6% » 41 disorders
- Psychiatry/Behavioral Science 6% » 18 disorders
- Genitourinary 5% » 25 disorders
- Renal 5% » 14 disorders
- Dermatology 5% » 55 disorders
- Hematology 5% » 15 disorders
Total: 14 organ systems and 482 diseases/disorders
Topic Specific Practice Exams
- Cardiology Exam - 147 Questions
- Pulmonology Exam - 143 Questions
- GI and Nutrition Exam - 149 Questions
- Musculoskeletal Exam -126 Questions
- ENT Exam -111 Questions
- Reproductive Exam - 107 Questions
- Genitourinary Exam - 72 Questions
- Neurology Exam - 84 Questions
- Endocrinology Exam - 76 Questions
- Psychiatry Exam - 78 Questions
- Dermatology Exam - 66 Questions
- Hematology Exam - 39 Questions
- Infectious Disease Exam (coming soon)
Comprehensive Practice Exams
- 225 question exam 1
- 225 question exam 2
- 225 question exam 3
- 225 question exam 4
- 225 question exam 5
- Virtual PANCE
- Virtual PANRE
- 60 question Academy exam 1
- 60 question Academy exam 2
- 60 question Academy exam 3
- 60 question Academy exam 4
- The Daily PANCE and PANRE Exam 1
- The Daily PANCE and PANRE Exam 2
- The Daily PANCE and PANRE Exam 3
- The Daily PANCE and PANRE Exam 4
- The Daily PANCE and PANRE Final Exam