Pearls of Wisdom from AAPA Members on Huddle

Seasoned PAs Offer Advice for PA Students and New Grads

May 1, 2018

By Kate Maloney

Huddle, AAPA’s members-only online community, fosters discussion amongst PAs and serves as a repository for helpful career-related information. Recently, Sarah Murawski, a second-year PA student at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona, asked her PA colleagues for their best advice for PA students and new grads. The ever-supportive PA community came through, and here we share helpful “pearls of wisdom” from three seasoned PAs: Michael Falba, Mark Navin, and Benjamin Shivar.

Be aggressive.

Michael Falba, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, advises that PA students in their clinical year be aggressive. “Go see patients and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for help. Think exposure – grab a suction in one hand and a lap in the other when you’re in the OR.”

Give back.

Falba has experience as a PA, preceptor, and educator, and he recognizes the importance of educating the next generation of PAs. “PA students are the most important people in the room,” he says. “They are the ones who will carry the PA profession into the future, taking up where folks like me leave off.” He believes strongly in the value of giving back to the profession. He makes his living in his full-time PA position, but regularly teaches and precepts, and hopes that these students he works with will, one day, do the same for someone else. “PAs have an exciting opportunity to cast a long shadow,” he says.

Be a sponge.

Mark Navin, PA-C, advises: “Be a sponge. Your preceptors are trying to impart years of knowledge, wisdom, and experience into you. Soak it up.”

Ask questions.

Navin, like Falba, reiterates the importance of asking questions: “ask, then ask some more.” He also reassures PA students that it’s okay to admit when you can’t remember something. “None of us knows everything,” he says. “The important thing is admitting that you don’t know certain things, and that you know where to look them up.”

Treat every rotation like a job interview.

When it comes to your clinical year, Navin suggests that PA students treat every rotation like it is a job interview. “We’ve had PA students do rotations, interview, and be offered jobs during those six weeks. Talk about a long interview process!” he jokes. Since no one knows exactly where life will take them, or what opportunities will arise, it is important to be professional at all times and always work toward leaving a good impression.

Enjoy the process of learning.

Benjamin Shivar, PA-C, reminds first-year PA students to “enjoy the process of learning. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself. Lean on your fellow PA students,” he suggests.  “It’s not a competition and you all are in the same boat.”

Know you’re in a safe environment.

Shivar recounts his own experience as a PA student. “It was hard for me at first,” he recalls. “I didn’t get involved in some of the tasks because I do not like to look stupid, so I would tend to shut up and not ask questions. In the end, I realized that it was the safest environment for me to try and fail. Someone was always behind me to help.”

Respect the PA-supervising physician relationship.

For recent graduates, Shivar stresses the importance of the PA-supervising physician relationship. “You know jack squat when you’re first starting,” he says. “Make sure your supervising physician is willing to teach you, come along side you, and that you feel comfortable calling them when you have even what you think is a ‘stupid question.’ Be certain you are in a place you can learn.”

If you’re looking for answers to your PA-related questions, a space to share ideas, or discuss news and issues with your fellow PAs, make sure you login to Huddle and join the conversation today!

Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. Contact her at [email protected].