Welcome to the PA/NP Universe!
This month, thousands of PA and NP students are just getting
started on their journey. Most PA programs begin in June or August and many
students are gearing up for the craziest two years of their career thus far. I
am 2 years in and graduate in December and August is a great time to reflect on
what I've learned so far and what I tell prospective students who have
trepidation mixed with excitement on starting their higher education.
If I could have told just-starting-PA-school me a few things
back in 2011, this is what I would've said:
Don't worry about grades. At all. Don't. I
cannot emphasize this enough. As I job hunt, the only GPA requirements are from
the CIA PA positions, which require a 3.5 in PA school. No other employer CARES
what your grades are. You are not supposed to put your GPA on your resume at
all. Care about learning.
Don't worry about loans. Yes, manage your money
wisely, but you can't compromise your intense learning experience by worrying
about your future debt. Be smart, but don't panic. You're in good company with
thousands of PAs and NPs tackling their loans post-grad.
Volunteer! There are literally hundreds of new,
exciting community service opportunities available just because you are a PA/NP
student. Find a free clinic. Teach kids how to read. Find a shelter. Join a church and get to know some old people.
Volunteering whenever I could in PA school has been the best choice over
studying I could have made.
Go overseas. I'm about to go to Uganda next month
on a global health rotation. Up to 25% of medical students volunteer abroad and
we as PAs/NPs are falling behind. Many programs are just beginning to consider
the global health rotation option. Pave the way for your program. Experience in the third world gives us cultural
competence, compassion and insight into the blessings of our own health system.
Network. You can never ever know too many
people. Always talk to your guest lecturers and remember their names. You will
see them around on your clinicals. Always learn everyone's names at your
clinical sites: nurses, techs and pharmacists. Be friendly. You never know the
connection that will land you a great recommendation letter or job.
Take time to reflect and rest. Are you a writer,
a talker, a musician, a runner? Staying refreshed will ultimately make the long
days of learning and clinicals so much more productive. Good rest yields good
Good luck, PA/NP colleagues!