July 21, 2021
PA Student Combines Studies and New Baby During Clinical Year
November 18, 2019
By Divya Williams
PAs on the Plaza is an annual event in which PAs and PA students join the TODAY Show crowd at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City to promote PA Week and the PA profession. This year, on October 7, more than 350 PAs and PA students gathered, and the group made such an impression that the hosts took notice. And one PA in particular stood out.
Binayah Jernigan, PA-C, was spotted in the crowd with her two-month-old son, Josiah. Savannah Guthrie noticed Josiah and asked if she could hold him. “Josiah was the real star of PAs on the Plaza,” says Andrea Bishop, PA-C, a friend and classmate with whom Jernigan made the trip. “Savannah Guthrie was genuinely enamored by Josiah, it was so sweet,” says Bishop. But what viewers probably didn’t know is that Jernigan carried Josiah during the last nine months of PA school and delivered him two weeks before her graduation from University of Lynchburg PA Program.
Carrying a child during PA school is challenging, and Jernigan credits her success to her friends and family. “I definitely had a great support system in my husband, family and my friends at school. I could not have done it without them.” But Jernigan doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of carrying a child through school. “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it,” she says. “It can be especially hard to deliver a baby during the didactic year because it’s typical to have three to four exams per week.”
Jernigan was halfway through her clinical year when she found out she was pregnant. “I actually only officially announced my pregnancy when I was eight months along,” she shares. “I was afraid the news might keep me from graduating with my class and I was adamant that I wouldn’t use the pregnancy to try to get special privileges.” She had already completed most of her surgical rotations but found her ICU rotation particularly tiring due to the long hours.
Jernigan also experienced gestational diabetes while she was pregnant but was able to manage it without medication and with diet and exercise alone. “It was very difficult to keep up exercising and preparing healthy meals with everything else going on, but Josiah’s health was my main focus.”
Jernigan does recall one of the perks of being pregnant during PA school: she was able to use ultrasound to check in on and spend time with her baby during breaks. “If I was worried about him or hadn’t felt him move in a while, I could take a peek at what he was doing with the ultrasound during my breaks,” she says. “I actually have a video of him sucking his thumb in utero from ultrasound day at school. That was a very special moment that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been in PA school.”
Advice to others
Jernigan was particularly interested in sharing her advice with other PA students because she found very little information when she looked for it herself. “I was interested in learning how other PA schools managed with students being pregnant, whether or not I would be able to graduate, or if I would have to defer finishing school for a year,” she said. “There really wasn’t much information out there.”
For those looking to start a family, Jernigan says that while it’s not easy having the right people supporting you can make it work. “You definitely need to have the support of your faculty and be in close communication with them especially because labor and delivery of a baby is unpredictable.”
And instead of jumping into work right after graduation, she waited four months before starting her job in order to ease the transition to being away from Josiah. “I feel like I missed out on bonding time with him because I had to go back to school right away after he was born, and I’ve enjoyed every second with him,” she says. “I won’t look back and regret taking this time off with him.”
PAs on the Plaza
Jernigan made the trip to New York with her friend and classmate, Andrea Bishop, PA-C. “Binayah and I had talked about it during PA school, but because our schedule was so demanding we were never able to go,” Bishop says. “This year we had a long break between graduation and the beginning of our Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program so we decided it would be a good time to make the trip.” The trip was by no means quick – Jernigan drove five hours with Josiah to Ocean City, Maryland, to pick up Bishop, then another five hours to New York. “Binayah was the real MVP,” says Bishop. “Josiah was a great travel companion and did really well the entire trip.”
The trio then woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, October 7, to get to the Plaza at 5 a.m. and were met by a line of PA students in short white coats. “I felt a sense of pride having just earned my long white coat,” says Bishop. When they were finally all behind the barricade, and Guthrie asked if she could hold Josiah, the first thought Jernigan had? “In the moment, my only thought was ‘Oh no! He’s definitely going to spit up or have a blow out while Savannah Guthrie is holding him on national television,’” she says. But looking back, Jernigan is excited to be able to show Josiah that special moment when he grows up. “Everyone at the Today Show was really kind. Babies definitely bring out the best in people,” she says.
Though Jernigan is spending with Josiah before jumping into work, she’s currently a DMSc candidate at the University of Lynchburg, a program she started in January. So far, she’s been focused on learning her leadership style. “It will help me if I decide to teach or take a leadership role in my practice in the future,” she says. “It’s different than PA school, but it has been very informative. I believe it will help me be a more well-rounded PA.”
Bishop is once again Jernigan’s classmate in the DMSc program. She has begun a fellowship in Primary Care and has also gotten to work closely with pediatrics and behavioral health. “I feel very lucky to have access to all of these specialties under one roof and hope to gain extensive knowledge from each,” Bishop says.
One of the things Jernigan loves about the PA profession, she says, is the ability to specialize. “I will start working in Urgent Care soon but would love to someday specialize in either women’s health or reproductive endocrinology and infertility,” Jernigan says. “I would love to have both a general medicine job as well as one in a specialty in the future.”
As for Josiah’s future, Jernigan is rooting for the PA route for him. “I originally got Josiah the white coat as a joke for my pregnancy announcement that he is going to be a PA when he grows up,” she says. “My husband, Caleb, wants Josiah to follow in his footsteps as an engineer. Regardless, I hope that when Josiah grows up, he will have the memory of PAs on the Plaza to look back on whether or not he becomes a PA.”