New grad anxiety

By Rob Gray, PA-C

It feels like only hours since completing my final clinical rotation, and I already miss it. For twelve months, I possessed the power to ask almost any question I wanted of my preceptors, without the threat of being fired from the rotation for stupidity. Sure, every preceptor reserves the right to judge me for asking certain questions (and the program gives them evaluation forms for posterity), but for the most part, my clinical education was supportive and collegial. When stumped during rounds, I could fall back on the tried and true: “I should know that, and after I read about it again tonight, I will know it tomorrow.” My most demanding preceptor, a hulking six-foot, three-inch trauma surgeon composed by volume of hard work, high intellect, sleep deprivation and perpetual disappointment related to my performance, advised me each day to go home and read furiously each night. I spent a lot of time each day promising him that I’d do a better job tomorrow, and I hope I didn’t let him down.

Post-graduation day 10

It’s PANCE day, because I wasn’t anxious enough last week. I took the first test slot after graduation, reasoning a) I just spent twenty-seven months preparing, b) tuition is the most expensive test prep course in the world, and c) I wasn’t going to get any smarter worrying about the exam instead of just taking it. My test prep method was familiar: Read tonight. Improve tomorrow. Repeat. It’s a bold strategy, let’s see if it pays off.

Post-graduation day 17

PA school doesn’t prepare you for the “two Thursdays in limbo.” Done with school, but not a PA-C yet, and still no license. Not sure what to do with my days at the moment. Am considering reading a book for pleasure.

Post-graduation day 20

According to the Internet, I am now a PA-C. Refuse to post to social media for concern of jinxing the process. I take a screen shot just in case it’s a glitch. Paperwork filed at the state medical board, awaiting licensure. Credentialing paperwork filed with my future employers. Things just got real.
In a few days, there will be no more preceptors, only colleagues, supervisors, and patients. Without the safety net of “just a student,” I will be “the PA” and my coworkers and patients will depend on me to do my part. There will be a learning curve, and I won’t be expected to move the needle much at first, but pretty soon I’ll be expected to get out of my own way and get on with the stamping out of disease.

Medicine isn’t my first career. I was the “old guy” in my class, so I’m accustomed to being the “new guy” in a lot of workplaces. I worry about having learned enough to perform out of the gate, but instead of losing sleep, I’ll focus on what I can control. In a few days, I’ll wake up for my first shift, suit up, clip on my new badge, and execute the plan:

Read tonight. Improve tomorrow. Repeat.

Let’s see if it pays off.

Rob Gray, PA-C, is a 2016 graduate of the Nova Southeastern University – Jacksonville PA program. He specializes in urgent care.