Become a Super Provider by Studying Less!

By Erica Millett, PA-S

Aug. 11, 2015

PA school is tough. During didactic year we constantly swim through a sea of power points and names of things we can’t pronounce, where memorization is requisite. Clinical year is full of long work weeks, repeat first impressions, and finding time to study as we commute, eat lunch, and iron our white coats. Somehow through this process we end up as Physician Assistants. Providers who have the autonomy to make decisions for other people’s lives. I think we have all had that moment where we meet a practicing PA and think, how in the world am I going to be that good? How is this hectic schedule and endless studying going to make me a great clinician? I have some bad news…it won’t.

While memorization, group study, and flashcards are important, knowing all the answers is not what makes a great healthcare provider. Becoming the provider you want to be is about patient-centered care, going the extra step to make patients feel comfortable, enthusiasm for your profession, teamwork, and volunteerism to do more than you showed up to do.  These skills are not learned in the classroom. If you want to make PA School more than just a Master’s Degree, to really enrich your journey through school, Get Involved.

Now, I know what you’re thinking….

How can I get involved when there is barely time to shower or eat?! Trust me, as someone with a past medical history of “Hanger” x 15 years, if you’re hungry you will find food. In my own personal hesitancy to volunteer more, I found I actually had better time management when there was less time to check Facebook, update my Instagram, and push snooze.

You must, of course, set reasonable expectations and constantly evaluate your priorities. Are the clinical skills you gain from volunteering at the local free clinic worth missing one or two questions on the next exam? And in reverse, can working the medical tent be someone else’s job this time because you have a pharmacology tests on over 100 drugs in two days that will help you more in the long run. The answer to both is yes…in the next year every day you will weigh your choices against your priorities. But, I can promise you that by getting involved you will enhance the next few years of your life.

So where can you start? Your University PA society is the perfect place. From helping the local elderly community, blood pressure screenings, 5Ks, and clothing drives, there are lots of ways to give back. Now, don’t think that you need to raise your hand for every volunteer opportunity, but keep in mind that participating in these opportunities helps to ensure that you will not just be a good PA, you will be a good person.

Your school society is a collective think tank on how to make PA school the best it can be. It is also a way to connect with the person who sits in the other side of the classroom that you don’t get to talk to on a normal basis. This may be the same person who you bond with at the class blood drive, who eventually may be the colleague you call for more information on a patient you are seeing in your clinic.

Community service is essentially our rent payment on earth. By giving back to the community you strengthen your ties to the human connection. A link that will provide you endless benefit as you start working in the field again.  Your patients and your career will be better for it.

Every time you provide a service out of kindness you not only represent yourself, but your program, and the PA community as a whole. By spreading volunteerism we also spread the word about who PAs are. Professionals who make compassionate and effective healthcare decisions with an intensive medical background.  In a recent survey only 66% of citizens knew what a PA was. When the next 34% figure it out, it is up to you to make that good first impression.

The PA profession is so successful because the PAs before you pushed for progression! We are known for being a united front. The AAPA is our sole parent organization. In comparison to Physicians and Nurses who have multiple organizations, our voice is singular and often times louder because of it.

BUT…You don’t have to wait until graduation to get involved. The AAPA also has a Student Academy and they really want us to be involved. YOU! Students across the country with different interests, involvement levels, and eclectic ideas about what they want from their national society. The Student Academy keeps educational needs at the forefront of the AAPA’s mind while promoting PA advocacy. The ideas and initiatives that the student academy works on each year come directly from individual student societies just like your very own. Have an idea? Bring it to your student society. Would this idea benefit other PA schools and practicing PAs? Bring it to the national level.

This can seem overwhelming, but what it comes down to is excitement! What you must already realize is that with organization and enthusiasm, we as students can make a philanthropic difference on both a small and large scale. By directing student energy at collective goals we can continue to promote and progress the dynamic future of our profession. Your dedication and contribution to the PA profession starts as a student, and all you have to do is want it.

As a student, doors will open up for you. You are not just STUDYING to be a PA, you are IN TRAINING to be a highly functional, compassionate, and contributing member of our profession. Patient’s and professionals alike are eager to support you and help bring your PA training to the next level. You are more than ready to become the great clinician you want to be, but opportunity comes to those who knock. It is up to you to make sure the next set of doors you come to opens up for you.

Erica Millett

By: Erica Millett

Second Year PA Student, George Washington University

Director of Outreach, SAAAPA 2015-2016

[email protected]