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NP & PA Student Blog

First Things First or I Will Rule the World
April 14, 2015 11:42 AM by Nora Phillips

Welcome to my inaugural post as a blogger! I am excited to document and share my past and future experiences as a budding nurse practitioner. First things first, I will introduce myself. Ten years ago, I would have first announced that I was a pre-medical student with big aspirations to become a family physician. Nine years ago I would have proclaimed that I was a medical student on track to earn my MD. Seven years ago I would have said that I am a student researcher studying developmental and reproductive biology and teaching college anatomy and physiology. And just one year ago, I would have told you that I was preparing to start an osteopathic medical program. Today, I will tell you that I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of two who has finally found my true career fit as nurse practitioner.

Why the change in “who” I primarily identify myself as? Why has it taken me so long to figure out what I want to become? Will this new venture in my life also be transitory as the others may seem to be? These are all very profound questions that I may attempt to address in future posts. For now, I’ll say that I believe the paradigm shift of who I consider myself to be has come with age and maturity. And dumb luck.

Time has molded my outlook on happiness and purpose. When I was 21 and first starting graduate training, getting into medical school may have been the end goal in itself. Did I figure that once I was a doctor of medicine I would be automatically happy? Did I assume that I would naturally find fulfillment in my contributions to society and as a woman? Did I think that once I was a physician that all would fall into place and I would rule the world? Well yes, of course I did. I also never would have thought I would be a nurse, and I am more than embarrassed to admit, that I thought I definitely didn't want to be one. Then I gained experience and forged relationships that have taught me to question my assumptions and to gain a realistic view on the life that I want to lead.

Now, I am about to start a graduate entry nursing program this fall. Although some may assume that nursing was my “plan B” or the less desirable option after medical school, this is not the case. Just last year, I was accepted into multiple allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and submitted an intent to enroll form at one of them. What did happen I consider a stroke of luck; I caught a YouTube video about nurse practitioners that initiated a full-blown quest to learn as much as I could about being one.

Within three weeks, I withdrew my acceptance to medical school and started working on my application as a nurse practitioner. The very first thing I did was to Google ‘nurse practitioner’ and found the ADVANCE website where I spent hours learning about the role. Now, having been accepted to the competitive program, I am able to share my story and future experiences in hopes that I will engage at least one reader enough to test their assumptions in life and to ask tough yet important questions, and then act on them. And, for the record, I still do think I will rule the world.

Education in America
March 17, 2015 7:39 AM by Sean Goddard
I have had a busy week on the computer. Not because I have been studying hard, but instead working hard to try to help pay for school. Recently scholarships have opened up for application and I have been busy chasing the dream of someone helping me with this mounting debt we call education. Even to be considered is no simple process. The hurdles we must overcome can be massive. Just to have my school fill out two pieces of paper to confirm that I am a student has required hours of phone calls and emails and I am still not one step closer to completion. Letters of recommendation must be completed and specific people must fill these out. I can't even see what my essay questions are until I get past the basic stuff, so it doesn't even allow for me to start churning away at what I might include. One may question if all this busy work is worth it, especially since only about 8% were approved last year. Funding for primary care is supposed to have increased, but many of those funds are being passed on to medical students.

Debt is the burden of America, its people, and large debt is a reality for those who strive to obtain advanced degrees. Once that degree is obtained a large portion of your lifetime is spent paying for an education that does not always pay off financially. I am well aware that when I finish school I am likely to make less than I do now as a floor nurse. I find it funny when I tell people what I am going to school for and they say "Well that's where the real money is." Often there is no "real money" in advanced education, or least it can't be seen until the piles of loans are paid off. It seems we don't streamline opportunities for advanced education or ways to pay for it. Meanwhile, Obama passed new legislation to attempt to make paying your debts a little easier. At the same time, we have companies found guilty for misleading people about their loans and pulling in 100s of millions in fees every year collecting on student loans.

It seems that a shift is needed when it comes to education. Less time spent on collecting and more time spent on making education affordable. In the meantime, I hold my breath hoping I can get my application completed and turned in and that the dice will roll in my favor and I receive the funding. I hope that as I go through this process I can learn and pass this knowledge on to others so they too may find some assistance for their education. You can be assured down the road I will write how the process went, ways to make it easier, and if approved how the process is in action. Good luck to all those out there striving to better themselves!

A Reprieve!
March 4, 2015 1:46 PM by Sean Goddard
My first two blogs tackled, what I felt, were some pretty big issues facing nurse practitioner students. I thought I would take a step away and talk about something lighter in nature. As nurses, students, and future NP's we are faced with stress from multiple areas. This doesn't include personal commitment's such as spouse's, significant others, children, bills, the list goes on. As a divorced father of two children I often find myself questioning how I am supposed to fit it all in. This doesn't even include time just for me, to release the stress and let go. Sigh!

As nurses we know what havoc inflammation can do to the body. Studies show not only does it increase S/S in existing disease process but lead to such things as Alzheimer's. While I am sure I am not telling you anything you don't know about, the question is what are you doing about it? Are you making time for yourself? You want to do better in school, work, and home, so you push and push. You drive hard like the little voice in your head tells you to do (or if you're like me, the big booming voice). In your desire to do better though, you're often doing the opposite. The stress wreaks havoc on your body and often leads you to be lacking in some areas, especially when it comes to mental function.

There are all kinds of studies out there talking about what you can do to "relieve stress."  I am not going to cite sources and make you use your brain even more, reading how to relieve stress. What I am going to say is MAKE TIME. You know what makes you happy. You know what relieves stress for you. Last night I allowed myself a few minutes of reading some fiction and I was about to put my book down and I just changed my mind and allowed myself to finish the book. It was amazing and ended with a sense of accomplishment as my head hit the pillow. The beginning of April I am taking a one night stay in Nashville to see a concert. It's not a long vacation, but it is for me, and it gives me a chance to let go. I haven't been to a concert since before my son was born; this is ME TIME. I find myself taking time away from review CD's and jamming my favorite song in my headphones as I walk into work, getting myself ready for the day.

It is evident that I am not the only one who feels the stress, even just from the responses on my blog and the people around me, I can feel it. You can be sure those people around you that you desire to be there for can feel it too. If you want to truly be there for them then take the time for yourself. I am positive they will appreciate you for it and your mind and body will to! I look forward to hearing about your time you took and what you did for yourself.

Building Your Foundation
February 17, 2015 1:28 PM by Sean Goddard
I am bogged downed and overwhelmed with nursing theorists right now. The desire to read nothing further about Florence, Watson, or any other of the long lists of theorists grows stronger everyday with me. Here I sit writing a long paper about applying the four metaparadigms to nursing practice, nursing concepts, and how to apply theory to my nursing practice.  Does this system really expect me to remember all these theories, ideas, implications, and find a way to work then into my practice as an NP? I have sat here and wondered why I have to dedicate an entire class to theory.

I realized while writing my paper though that this is supposed to be a class of learning and evolving. This means knowing that evidenced-based practices exist and that I should apply them to my practice. What this entails is that fact that practices we did 10, 20, 30+ years ago are not necessarily the way we do things now.  This makes me wonder, why nursing education is very much like we did it all those years ago. Do I not see the reasoning of studying nursing theory, no I do. What I question though is as the role of the NP continues to be questioned in the medical field, where does new education fit in for us?

Our counterparts all take Gross Anatomy courses, yet this isn't even considered for our programs. In our programs we spend an average of a year doing "general requirements" that don't necessarily have a long lasting, direct impact on our practice. Often clinical time is left to the last year to ¾ of a year and average from what I see to be about 600-700 hours. Our counterparts average 2-5 times as much clinical time. Some of the best learning that we can be involved in is through our clinical time.

It makes me wonder if we as a profession are our own worst enemies. While we continue to fight and win for more independent practice, we stand by and allow education to be based on old foundations. Through countless conversations the statement that I hear over and over again from current NPs is that they learned more on what they studied on their own and after they went into practice. I take ownership of my education and have already started to add additional learning into my curriculum through additional shadowing opportunities and using study materials such as those provided by Margaret Fitzgerald. However, I do believe that as a profession we have to take measures to advance ourselves and that starts with the foundation, such as education.

So I leave you to go back to more endless typing and paper writing, while listening to review CDs. I hope that your program is taking strives to fulfill your educational needs and that you find ways to improve your outlook as a soon to be new graduate NPs. Don't allow doubts to cloud your mind, instead find ways to strengthen your foundations.
The “What If” Factor
February 3, 2015 8:13 AM by Sean Goddard

I sit here tonight staring at my computer wondering how to start talking to a potentially large group of people who are going through the same thing I am. I am just finishing my first class as a Family Nurse Practitioner student. Is my IQ higher? Do I feel smarter? Am I ready to take on the world of primary care? The answer to all these I am sure is NO! I just spent my first class writing papers about the difference between a nurse educator and a nurse practitioner. Yes that is correct, I gave up most of my social life, time with my kids, and what use to be my spotlessly clean townhome now has a spot or two. And yet, I feel no better prepared to be a NP.

Last night I submitted my final project, what was supposed to be a twelve page paper. After ten pages I tossed my hands in the air, submitted it as is and thought "WHAT IF!" So many what ifs! In my career as an ER nurse I have heard MD's, management, and even my co-workers bad mouth the NP role. I read on a consistent basis the arguments that NP's should not be allowed to practice independently and that we (assuming I graduate) are undereducated. Putting this aside I began to think about the thousands I spent just on this class and the overwhelming debt I will have when I am finished, added like a cherry on the student loans I already had from going to a private school so I could follow my dream quickly after being laid off. Dollars spin through my head all the time. What if I chose the wrong path? What if I struggle to pay back my student loans? What if I can't be the one of the few who gets approved for the NHSC loan repayment? What if when I am done I struggle to find a job, like I have heard so many others have?

When caring for patients we are faced with many what ifs. As nurses we can't allow ourselves to be consumed by these or the care we provide for our patients will be affected. There is no doubt in my mind that I can allow my future and education to be affected by these little thoughts that burn through my head. Instead I look at the other thoughts that roll through my mind. That I can be the next voice for our profession; ensuring that we are valued as we should be. That I can provide that exceptional care, that maybe someone would not have been provided if seen by another provider. That debt although overwhelming at times, is something I am willing to assume to better myself and further provide an example for my children. That the nursing profession continues to be and I believe will always be one of the most respected careers out there.

So while I have many classes and counting to go, I hope you, like me, are excited for the next step towards our future. So, here is to the next class, lecture, paper, and post. Do you have any what ifs?

Picking Your Battles
September 30, 2014 12:51 PM by Rachel Matson
Ladies and gentleman, I need a vacation. As term two of my NP journey comes to an end, I realize that I have spent way too much time on work and school. While I'm happy with my 4.0, my brain has that fuzzy, fried feeling. The kiddo is showing signs of neglect (or at least his laundry is).  Hubby is claiming he doesn't remember what a meal tastes like that didn't come from the crockpot.

I have decided going into term three, my motto is going to be "pick your battles." That pile of laundry is not going to be the start of the zombie apocalypse. If I only spend two hours on that paper, it is okay because time was not a requirement. I can stop to cook a quick meal - one that does not include the words: stew, broth or roast.

I can no longer be the "call" queen at work. I have spent the last two weeks acquiring over 150 hours of call time on top of working the standard six 12-hour shifts. I need to learn to say "no." While I hate to disappoint, one must take their sanity into consideration. I joked at work this week; I needed a badge that said "Zombie Nurse." I had slept a total of two hours in three days - the last week of the term with projects due and getting called into work made for very little sleep.

So while I joke that I need a vacation, by the time you read this I will be off shore in the Bahamas enjoying a cruise with the family. I planned this at the start of the term as a treat for them and to preserve my sliver of sanity. So it's time for you to pick your battles and make strategic choices that can help you cope with this intensely demanding yet exciting moment in life.

Leading With Soul
September 23, 2014 4:16 PM by Johanna Golston

In my last blog post I described the tests, StrengthFinder 2.0 and Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and shared my personal results from these tests. Today I would like to introduce you to the book, Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. This is the resource I chose to take me on a path of self-discovery of my strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations for personal improvement. In their introduction, Bolman and Deal state: "We're working harder than ever, but we're not really sure why. We feel a vague emptiness as we rush madly through life, hoping that we can escape if we keep running...The need to reinfuse life at work with spirit, passion, and zest is greater than ever."

This statement completely resonated with me, not only as a leader, a nurse practitioner, a student and employee, but also as a mother, wife and woman. Life balance is a very popular term right now, but what does it mean? How do we achieve it? It was with these questions in my mind that I chose to set out on this "uncommon journey of spirit."

Bolman and Deal describe soul as what is found when we "plunge into the depths of being, there we find soul, a bedrock sense of identity and meaning- who we are, what we care about, and what we are here to do."

They believe that once you have found your soul, it will lead you through the four gifts of leadership; love, power, authorship, and significance. Love is the demonstration of care for colleagues through honest and genuine actions. The authors postulate that when people feel cared for their actions are much different than those who do not feel cared for. This concept is applicable to every relationship and interaction we have. Showing sincere care for your partner, friends, grocery clerk, (insert anyone whom crosses your path here) allows for honest communication and a successful interaction.

In their book, Bolman and Deal compare organizations and interactions that "hoard power" and those that give it away. Productivity is low and resentment is high when there is a significant power differential. Energy is spent fighting against the power gradient, whereas, when power is released people feel a sense of ownership and ability to influence their world, which enhances productivity. The release of power also promotes authorship. Promoting authorship creates an environment where people feel they have control over their performance, they can be creative, and they are trusted to solve problems. This allows employees to see their work as meaningful and to feel responsible for the outcome of their efforts. Significance is bred from successful use of the gifts of love, power, and authorship. This final gift comes from making a difference in the world, from doing something worth doing. This does not necessarily just pertain to the world in a global sense, but to the individual worlds within which we reside and interact.

I am using the concepts in this book to further my own journey towards finding, believing in and utilizing my soul. As I achieve more in my personal and occupational lives I want to ensure that my spirit stays strong and is reflected in the choices that I make. How do you nurture your soul and spirit? Is this something new to you or something that you have incorporated into your life long ago? Have you found your life balance?

To Be Or Not To Be... Autonomous
August 5, 2014 9:59 AM by Rachel Matson

I'm sitting here at work, trying to figure out what to write about today. As I ruminate, I realize what a great team of people I work with every day and this reminds me of an assignment I recently completed for class. The question proposed for class was, "Do physicians work autonomously?"

As I wrote the assignment it made me think about nurse practitioners and our battle for autonomy in healthcare.

Each state has different laws governing the rights and practices of nurse practitioners. Some states have a collaborative agreement with a physician to practice, but there are states that ARNPs can work independently without physician guidance or supervision. This state level jurisdiction and regulation makes changes difficult and time consuming for advocates and collaborative organizations (like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners).

ARNPs are given the knowledge and training to work independently, but are limited by laws created by politicians sitting in an office. Most of these politicians have no medical training or experience. They do not understand all our hard work, education and dedication to both nursing and medicine. Does anyone in healthcare actually work independently? We learn as fledgling nurses how important each member of the interdisciplinary team is and value their input. It would be thought that physicians, at the top of the healthcare hierarchy, work independently. While physicians do make many important decisions on their own, physicians also discuss and collaborate with their peers and nurses.

It is going to take a concerted effort of all ARNPs to help our profession move forward and earn autonomy in practice. Just because we have autonomy does not mean we won't pool resources with physicians, but we can make more patient specific collaborations.

I challenge you as we move forward in this journey to become ARNPs....what are you going to do to help our profession move forward? What is your platform going to be? How are you going to make changes that will benefit the whole? What's your collaboration going to be?

DNP Essential: Leadership 2.0
July 29, 2014 3:29 PM by Johanna Golston

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing published the "The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing" in 2006. There are eight essentials outlining the required competencies of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduate. The second essential pertains to leadership and emphasizes the DNP's ability to facilitate organization-wide practice changes and provide guidance and oversight of nursing staff. I am currently enrolled in an Organizational Systems and Leadership course in my DNP program. Throughout this class we have been required to complete tests evaluating our leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses. We have explored which leadership approaches best suit our styles, personalities and organizations.

The StrengthFinder 2.0 test identifies the test-taker's strengths in four categories of leadership: executing, relationship building, influencing and strategic planning. These categories are then broken down into specific themes of strength. I showed strength as an achiever in the executive category, skills of empathy and developing in relationship building, and strategic and futuristic thinking in the strategic thinking category. I did not show strength within the influencing category. As an achiever, I excel at developing trust within a team through possession of a strong work ethic and dedication to the project. The ability to make the entire team feel like they belong and willingness to work alongside others strengthens the cohesiveness of the team. Empathy allows me to recognize and positively reinforce team members' achievements, as well as encourage others to recognize and evaluate their feelings. Strength in strategy facilitates visualization of the entire picture-potential problems and probable solutions. As a developer, I fill others with inspiration, acceptance, compassion and support. Futuristic thinking allows me to think beyond the present and strategize for the future. These leadership strengths encourage teamwork, innovation, accomplishment and reflection among the team. These strengths I agree with.

A second leadership evaluation was also completed, the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 appraisal. This test is based upon the belief that an important aspect of leadership is the possession of emotional intelligence: the ability to identify and utilize one's mood and emotions, as well as the moods and emotions of others. Strengths and weaknesses in the classifications of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management were identified.  My scores indicated that although I need to work on my self-awareness, I am somewhat skilled at self-management. I agree that I am usually able to manage my emotions, especially in a work environment. I also agree that some of this perceived emotional management is due, in part, to my lack of emotional self-awareness, which for me is caused by intolerance of strong personal emotion. I believe that this trait also affects my relationship management abilities. I avoid conflict or emotionally harming others at the expense of my own emotions. While this initially serves to enhance relationships, it often ends up sabotaging them. That being said, I disagree with the low score that I received in the category of social awareness. I believe that I am aware of others' emotions, sometimes to a fault. This has served me very well as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, but it also leaves me vulnerable to burnout and emotional exhaustion rendering me unable to acknowledge my own emotions. 

These assignments did not necessarily teach me anything new about myself, but did enlighten me as to how to use these personal characteristics in my leadership endeavors, especially the use of my "emotional intelligence." Although I do not completely agree with my personal results of this appraisal, as a psychiatric nurse practitioner this concept appeals to me. It is a reminder that everyone on the healthcare team is a human with strengths, weakness and emotions. Leadership is not about giving orders and micro-managing, it is about striving for change that benefits the majority of people, executing that change through promotion of teamwork supported by individual strengths, and celebrating the change on an emotional level - not just as a business transaction.  Leaders have weakness, individuals have weaknesses, organizations have weaknesses, but more importantly, leaders, individuals, and organizations have strengths. It is these strengths that allow for inspirational change to happen. So just a reminder, don't take the easy route of focusing on weakness - celebrate your strengths and the strengths around you!

What is your leadership style? Do you agree with the concept of "emotional intelligence" in leadership?

(Check in next month to read how I plan to use the concepts in Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal's, "Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit" to utilize my strengths and improve my weakness to become a more G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal effective leader.)

The Delicate Balancing Act
July 8, 2014 11:01 AM by Rachel Matson

Currently, as I try to write this blog post, I have a Chihuahua under my feet and a 7-year-old leaning against my arm. One term into my journey to become a nurse practitioner and I’ve already had moments thinking, What did I get myself into? and, What was I thinking? Balance is not easy. Coffee has become my best friend. But a balance for dealing with school, family and life is achievable, and I have found the following to be helpful in achieving my symmetry.

When dealing with school, it helps to be organized. I try to have one space designated for studying that is clutter-free. Though not much in my life can be classified this way, it helps to eliminate distractions when studying. I make sure I have a visual of due dates and reading assignments, and I highlight my calendar in different colors. I never leave the house without a book in my hand. Even at work or a soccer game, there is always down time to read a few pages.

It may sound odd, but I try to keep my family involved with my school work. I set goals and post them where everyone can see them. If I hit those goals, I reward everyone! Go get that Slurpee or have a movie date at the $1 theatre! Rewards tend to fare well with little kids. When you tell them, “I have to finish this and then...” they tend to give you those few, precious minutes you need. To save time, I pre-make our dinners and freeze them- the crockpot will be your friend. Take a few hours on Sunday and prepare meals for the entire week. Above all… make sure you have healthy snacks on hand to avoid that ‘freshman 15’ again.

Remember you are part of keeping that balance: Make ‘me time.’ Exercise while listening to the lecture recording. Take a bubble bath and brain storm essay ideas. And sometimes I need to step away from it all for a day and just re-collect myself.

You can achieve balance while in school. Take a deep breath. Remember there are lots of us on this fun journey too. A little preparation and organization can go a long way.

Why Didn't You Just Become a Doctor?
July 1, 2014 3:02 PM by Johanna Golston

After becoming a nurse practitioner and then deciding to obtain my doctor of nursing practice, I have been asked this question many times by patients, friends, family members, and even strangers. My short answer, which truly sums it up, is, "because I like the nursing aspect."

But what is the ‘nursing aspect'?  In 1860, Florence Nightingale defined nursing as "the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery." 106 years later, Virginia Henderson modernized Nightingale's definition and said, "the unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge, and to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible."

Both women describe a profession skilled in the act of caring, not just treating.

McMillan Dictionary defines doctor as "someone whose job is to treat people who are ill or injured; someone who has the highest degree given by a university."  In contrast the term nurse is described as "helping someone to improve or become more successful; to drink slowly over a period of time; the act of feeding a baby."

These definitions illustrate the helping, caring, calm, thorough and nurturing nature of nursing... of a nurse. These are the reasons I don't just become a doctor. As a clinician, I do treat illness, but as a nurse I treat the whole person. I want to improve their health condition. I want to prevent future health conditions. I want to educate, empower, and encourage them. I want to know what health means to them, what they value, what they need in order to achieve their optimum physical, mental, social, and spiritual health.

So tell me, why didn't you just become a doctor?

Finding a Professional Mentor
December 27, 2013 2:22 PM by Marjorie Shanks
Having the right mentor can be a valuable asset for healthcare students. But selecting the right mentor takes skill and time. Mentors are never more important to an aspiring professional than today in the healthcare field where the playing field is shifting. A senior advisor at your side can be an invaluable asset, so here's how to go about finding the right mentor.

When to find a mentor:

  • The best time to search for a mentor is when you don't need one. That means ahead of time. There's no time like the present. So just like studying for exams, procrastination is not the way to go here.
  • Always have your eye out for that unique mentor that meshes with your personality and needs. Conversation, experience and dialogue are the keys to determining if a person is the right fit for you.
  • It is never too early to start connecting with your peers and cohorts at professional meetings and continuing education events.
  • Establishing an easy rapport with a mentor before you find yourself needing questions answered and opinions verified is the best time to do so.

This leads us to where to find a mentor:

  • You may be lucky enough to find a mentor at your school or workplace. But often we find them where we find everything nowadays - the internet. I'm not necessarily suggesting an online mentoring network. But reaching out to build networks beyond your geographical scope can be a big part of successfully using the web to build your professional presence. So why not find a mentor this way? You can start by building your presence with a profile on LinkedIn. Once you have established your profile here start looking around and connecting with your peers.
  • Reading and commenting on online journal articles is a great way to find someone with a common background or interest who may be willing to take you under their wing. Read everything you can find about those around you who are seeking a common goal. Then reach out to them through email or phone calls. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and ask someone to be your mentor.

How to know if a mentor is right for you:

  • The right fit will be evident when you share an easy rapport with a more senior person who you respect. Being able to listen respectfully and converse comfortably are key to a good mentee/mentor relationship.
  • You may read your new mentor's writing and be impressed by their knowledge and articulate way of approaching a subject. Or you may work with them and admire their skill set and their easy dialogue with patients and coworkers and decide that you would like to ask them to mentor you.
  • Be sure to tell them where you are in your educational process and what exactly you are looking for in a mentor. In other words, what are your expectations? Then they can tell you if they feel that they can comfortably meet these or not.
  • Do not be dissuaded from your search if the first mentor you approach does not prove to be the right fit for you. Remember, we may all use more than one mentor. One person may help you with the interview or application process and another may come to your side when you are starting out in that new position and just finding your place.

So get out there and look for your mentor. And someday soon you may find yourself mentoring others.

Finding Inspiration in the Holidays
December 10, 2013 2:11 PM by Linda Pierce

As the holiday season approaches it has become clear to me that "Yes, Linda, there is a Santa Claus." Registering for the winter semester it was mentioned by my advisor that in May my clinical time begins. This day has seemed to be off in a distance for so long. Honestly speaking, at one point it was looking to be out of my reach and now only one semester separates my journey into the next place.

Being a student over the past 1.5 years has challenged so many areas of my life. It has seemed the entire summer went by with my head in a book or behind a computer screen. Knowing that the end is in sight gives hope.

Each class has also been unique in its own manner and has pushed me to apply every ounce of energy available. It would be so much simpler if school was the only task in my life. I also am a pediatric clinical leader in my hometown hospital and have been trying hard to get items implemented on our unit that will allow for better assessment of the children that come in.

I have always felt the need to achieve one more thing in life. I find not setting goals in your life is an easy way to not apply yourself. If each day went by and didn't have direction it would be simple to accept the status quo and go forward.

Becoming a nurse practitioner is the push forward that drives me. I want to be able to make a difference in a person’s life and know that all of the struggles and lack of sleep have been worth it.

My mother has always been a great inspiration to me. She obtained her LPN degree and with children she went back to obtain her ADN degree. She always was striving to have more knowledge and become a better caregiver. Knowing her time was coming to an end due to terminal cancer she continued to brighten our days with stories and desires for our lives. She never wanted any of her girls to settle for anything less that what they wanted to obtain.

My father also passed away a few years ago with terminal cancer and even today I can still hear him talking to me about where my career will take me. I shared with him the desire to help others and open a free clinic at some point. I know in his own fatherly way he would be proud.

This blog was written with inspiration from my Mom and Dad, Margaret and Harvey Spurlin, may they rest in peace.

In conclusion this month, my thoughts for you are to take some time to reflect on why you are where you are in this journey. Each person follows a dream, a course or a bigger aspiration for more and over the holiday season I hope you will take some time to sit and enjoy the lights, tinsel and mistletoe ... NO TEXTBOOKS ALLOWED.

Happy holidays to all. See you next year.


December 3, 2013 4:34 PM by Caroline Pilgrim
I'm down to the wire of finishing my PA degree and the PANCE is looming with a mere 17 days left for me to cram. How do you study for the PANCE? Because I haven't yet passed, don't take all this advice too seriously but I'll elaborate a bit on what I think is helpful:
  1. Start early. My school has over a month of built-in PANCE prep with lectures and practice exams so we had an earlier start than many programs.
  2. Stick to the blueprint. The NCCPA will become your best friend and I've been told that really adhering to blueprint content is your ticket to passing.
  3. Don't try to understand, just memorize. If you start early enough, you may have time to memorize complex patho concepts but the reality is the PANCE is a lot of pattern recognition so if you learn a lot of key terms it can be much more efficient than trying to re-learn everything you missed in your didactic year.
  4. Take practice exams all the time. The biggest thing that has helped me improve on my Packrat is practice questions because you start seeing the same questions over and over. I never sit down to study without doing at least 50 practice questions. I use PAEasy and Kaplan which I bought with 5 other classmates. Kaplan is really tough and I highly recommend it if you can get some folks to split the hefty $200 cost. Another good option is the Lange practice questions either as an iPad app or in book/CD-ROM form. Our school has a Packrat built in every week and I've improved each time.
  5. Listen to podcasts when you work out or drive.
  6. Bring your practice book everywhere. My favorite is A Comprehensive Review for the Certification and Recertification Examinations by O'Connell. I also use First Aid for the Family Medicine boards. I have a couple others but you really just need a few. If you memorize everything in these you would totally pass.
  7. Write stuff down. This helps me because it makes me slow down and realize what I'm reading. I have a notebook I have taken all my PANCE notes in from said review books.  I overdosed on flashcards in didactic so I gave up on that medium.
  8. Have a life and don't freak out. I'm a super busy person and the looming PANCE hasn't stopped me from going to see Hunger Games, spending time with friends, enjoying the holidays or cooking comfort foods. It's just a test and the worst that can happen is I fail and lose $400 and have to wait 90 days. That's really NOT the end of the world. 
How to Survive the Holidays as a PA Student
November 25, 2013 2:49 PM by Marjorie Shanks
One of the first things to know here is that it is all about priorities. And we know schoolwork comes first. 

So here is a step-by-step guide to getting through the last couple weeks of classes, final exams, Thanksgiving and the pre-holiday season.

Step 1: Sign up early for those holiday pot-luck parties.

Always volunteer to bring the cups and plates! This is why it is essential to sign up early. You don't need to be stuck cooking mac and cheese or brownies when you have an exam in the morning. So sign up to bring the disposable cutlery, plates and cups NOW! You will be thankful later when you make the quick dash to the dollar store and to run right over to the party.

Bonus: These school holiday get-togethers will provide you with a welcome lunch or dinner when you most need it - right in the middle of studying.

Step 2: Save time - study now, do laundry later.

Stay focused on your work by cutting back on doing laundry. This will yield countless found hours to devote to your studies. No need to do laundry now - it's cold outside and everyone dresses in layers anyway. Remember it's ponytail and sweatpants season for all students right now. Just bag it all up in a black trash bag and bring it home for the holidays!

Step 3: Make gift giving a snap when you procrastinate.

There are two alternate strategies here. You can either shop early and online or you can procrastinate to the very last moment. I recommend the latter. If you shop online you may be tempted to be distracted from your studying while at the computer. And there are actually advantages to procrastinating with holiday shopping! Markdowns will have already begun and the crowds at the stores will probably be thinned out - especially if you wait until Christmas Eve. There is a real art to this. So don't procrastinate on studying, procrastinate on shopping and be sure to reap the benefits.

Step 4: Smile extra big.

You will need to perfect this step. Remember, you are wearing dirty clothes, bringing plastic cups to a party and you have no gifts to give (yet)! So smile big, keep your chin up, your nose in your books and pass the cranberry sauce! There will be plenty of time for cleaning up and shopping later.

P.S. Tell Santa Claus that you want new highlighters for Christmas! It's never too early to stock up for the spring semester, it's right around the corner.



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