5 Mental Health Tips for PA Students

PA Student Reflects and Shares Lessons Learned During COVID-19

July 14, 2020

By Melissa Elist, PA-S

PA student Melissa Elist

As a second-year PA student at University of California Davis, adapting to COVID-19 has definitely been a challenge. Along with many other students, I experienced anxiety while in school. During these unprecedented times, I noticed that in addition to anxiety, I was experiencing fatigue, and lack of motivation and concentration. I realized that I needed to take care of myself so that I could take care of others in the future.

[It’s Not Just You: The Pressures of PA School]

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we have all learned about ourselves. Using this time for reflection, and knowing the importance of mental health, I wanted to share five tips for other PA students.

  1. Take a break.

    Take some time for yourself. We don’t have to be going 100% full speed every single day. Take a break from technology or take a walk. You will have some good days, some bad days, and that’s the natural flow of life even without the pandemic. Allow yourself to do something that you love each day, even if it’s for a short period of time. Do not feel guilty if you’re not studying. As a PA student, there are times when it feels like no matter how much you study, there will always be more to do. But resting when you’re tired, or taking a few moments for yourself, will not set you back in PA school.
  2. Recognize your feelings. 

    Feelings have a beginning, middle, and end. They are temporary. During PA school, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or stressed out. When you have any emotion, recognize it, invite it in, feel that emotion, and give it permission to leave. That temporary feeling does not define who you are, your potential, or what you are capable of doing. Being a PA student in the midst of a pandemic is a stressful situation – if you recognize your feelings, you’ll be better able to focus, study, or retain information.

  3. Consider perspective.Anxiety is a word that triggers many emotions. Remember that we are in control of our perspectives. All PA students are in an uncomfortable situation right now – learning from home, quarantined, uncertain about rotations, graduation dates, the job market. Try to see situations that make you uncomfortable as opportunities for growth. We will get through the pandemic and will learn new lessons about ourselves that will be valuable for the rest of our lives and our PA careers.

    [PA Burnout Resources]

  4. Build connections.While we may be physically apart, we can still build meaningful connections with our PA school classmates, faculty members, and others who are helping us through this time. Find out what resources are available to you, both academically and emotionally. Keep in touch with professors, peers, and other faculty members. By maintaining professional connections you can potentially build stronger relationships. The connections we build now may be long lasting and meaningful; this pandemic will always have a place in our memories.
  5. Remind yourself how far you’ve come.We have all experienced moments of stress, anxiety, fear, and grief through this pandemic, but we’ve made it this far. Nobody did this for us. We relied on determination, compassion, tenacity, patience, dedication, and professionalism – all important skills for future PAs. We’ve been resilient, even as the world changes quickly around us. While the pandemic isn’t over, and we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, we have come a long way from where we were in March. Despite the anxiety and the unknowns, we’ve been resilient. Remind yourself how far you’ve come.

I feel privileged to be a PA student right now. We are next in line to serve the public with our newly acquired medical knowledge. We all have ups and downs, and on your down days, don’t forget the big picture. We chose the medical profession. We chose to heal and treat people. We chose to be PAs, whom our patients look to for hope, safety, and answers. The entire world needs educated, compassionate healthcare providers right now, and we’re lucky we are on the way to becoming PAs.

Melissa Elist is a second-year PA student at University of California Davis. She can be reached at [email protected] or find her on Instagram @melissaelist.

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