Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The home stretch for semester 2

I have 27 more days until the end of the second semester. I think that I couldn't go for another week or I may go crazy (I am already on the road to going mad, so stopping the train before its get too far down this track is crucial).

Being in school since January 4th with the occasional break, spring break or two days off between semester 1 and2, has led to total exhaustion. I am tired down to the my bones and that was manifested last week. Everything last week was a problem: the test, the schedule, people breathing... Last weekend I took time to focus on why I was here. Why I was in PA school. What was my end goal. MY end goal is to become a physician assistant. A technique I used to focus on my goals was mindfulness. As a class we're taking an arching behavioral medicine course this summer and our instructor has stressed the importance of being mindful of your feelings. And although it sounds a little clique, I took the time this past weekend and said: "These feelings are not me. I am not an angry person who is unhappy with everyone and everything."

I realize that is sounds ridiculous, but it is helping me re-focus on what is important to me and that includes becoming a compassionate, patient provider for my future patients. I cannot do that if I let my feelings of frustration and exhaustion overwhelm me.

July 27th is the first day of my freedom. I plan on relaxing -- sleeping and laying out in the sun and letting myself heal from the rigors of a tough 8 months.

It's not all bad either... a few weeks ago our class go to round on patients in the GI unit. It was exciting and fun to get to present our patients to the fellow on call and go over the differential diagnosis for the patient!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


The past few months have been so busy! I finished my first semester of Physician Assistant school at UNC, started a new semester two days after the last, and most importantly I GOT MARRIED!! B and I got in engaged two years ago (to the day) and it took about a year for me to be ready to plan my wedding after we moved and a year to plan it. I never knew how difficult it was planning a wedding around potential school and whenever you only get a limited amount of vacation and while not living in the state you plan on getting married in. B and I are very, very lucky that we have such an amazing, supportive family who helped us with anything that we needed. We planned the wedding last year, before we knew that I would be in PA school. Luckily, because we planned it so early it wasn't as stressful as it could have been for me. I have a great support system in place with my classmates (who sent me all of their notes) and the faculty and staff who told me to take off as much time as needed. I took 3 days off, I didn't miss any tests or assignments, but it was difficult to re-acclimate myself to school again. I can understand why people go on honeymoons and take time off after getting married, it was exhausting and all B and I wanted to do was to be able to spend some together after being surrounded in chaos!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fins up!

None of my classmates are very good at taking a time out for our lives during this semester. We often talk to each other and find that someone woke up at 4 am to study... or went to bed at 8pm in order to get more sleep and wake up early... or stayed after school and studied for 3 hours in the library. Its tough. And tiring. I find myself constantly tired and as soon as I leave school feeling as though I have so much more energy... until I tell myself that it is time to study. I think this deep exhaustion is normal, but being exhausted is exhausting. I am not able to focus in class and I can tell I am ready for this semester to be finished.

This week a group of my classmates decided that we were going to see Jimmy Buffet. It was amazing! It was nice to pretend that school responsibilities didn't exist, even if it was only for a few hours. We drank beer, ate BBQ, and danced to margaritaville. I am tired today, but for a different reason... getting home at 11:30 does that to you! You know what though, I made it through the day, I passed my radiology quiz and am ready for the weekend :) It was the most fun I've had in several weeks. B and I got to relax and enjoy each other's company with some great people, who I normally only see in stressful school situations!

Balance is something that I am constantly working on. I am trying to find the way to meet the expectations of school, while my own personal life expectations. Sometimes I know that I have to focus on school only... but sometimes I need to make sure I am still living my life whenever I often sacrifice so much for school. Again I am grateful to be in school and wouldn't trade what I am doing for anything, but you can be grateful and tired at the same time. Which I usually am these days!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Life happens

Life happens... all the time.

One of the things that makes school so difficult for me lately is that life just keeps happening. It would be nice if all the family and friends that I left behind when I moved to NC could just pause. This past semester I have seen that real life doesn't work that way.

My family is the most important thing to me. I truly believe that I am who I am because of them. Their support and love means the world to me and I worry about them.

My dad had to have his gallbladder taken out (the 6 hours until we knew a diagnosis, we're great by the way), my so's grandmother passed away, and I am planning on getting married in a month.

All of these things are happening along with a job-like PA program. Several of my classmates have babies due this month. I cannot imagine how they are going to balance their lives with school.

Every single person in my class has their own lives, families and friends that they have had to sacrifice time for to be successful in school. But eventually those things still come crashing in to tell you that they are important! And that you need to pay attention to them.

I am very lucky to have a supportive family! I think it also helps that I moved away for school. I know that seems counterintuitive because having a close family can give you a good support system, but in my case I never have to choose between going to dinner with my dad or studying. I never have to miss my nephew's baseball game because I live 9 hours away.

I luckily still have a great support system in B-casey, my fiancee. He is a resident at UNC and therefore understands completely when I make the choice to study before anything else. He has already gone through this and knows the choices that have to be made in order to pass the class.

This does not mean that my family isn't important to me, if someone was sick and I needed to be there. I would fly home in an instant and tell school to just send me the lectures for the day and I'd catch up when I can.
For now though I can usually get away with daily text messages, calls while I'm on the bus to and from school, facebooking, and sending out messages while I'm winding down in the evenings and finished with studying. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

CASPA - The application process

How I got to PA school:

I applied two years in a row for PA School. I recommend (even if you aren't submitting this year) to set up your CASPA account. It is important to understand how long the process will take. I wish that I had taken screen shots of my personal application. I can tell you that the second year I applied the application was much easier to fill out (CASPA also updated their system) than the year before. But it was still a beast. CASPA communication when I was applying was all via facebook, which is very, very frustrating for people applying (especially if you don't already have facebook). CASPA makes their announcements about the site being down or how long it will take to verify your application via Facebook (super annoying).

I printed out my application from the year before in order to re-enter the information into the new CASPA application. I am not sure if now you can roll your information over, but because their was a new system in place I didn't have that option. This was helpful for me because I had already calculated my volunteer hours and remembered all my community service and I didn't want to have to go back through that process.

I tried to ask my reference letter writers in January. That way they had 4 months to work on the letter before they needed to submit it to CASPA. CASPA only takes letters via online. So your letter writers need to post the text into the system, which is different if they aren't used to it.

One of the big things that I wish that I would have taken the time to do (and you should do #epicfail for me) is go to each school that you are interested in applying too and look very closely at their prerequisites. There are minute differences in each school I applied to. When I applied, I really just thought oh I live in North Carolina I am going to apply to a 3-4 radius circle from Raleigh, NC and yes that sounds like the best school. Some schools, which I paid to apply to I later learned oh they don't take online labs (which I took two online courses post-grad) or they don't take courses greater than 5 years ago (I graduated and went to grad school, my undergrad, basic science courses were a long time ago). These are important things to look at.

I kept a notebook with all my schools and what I still needed to do for them. Many of my classmates kept an excel spreadsheet with what still needed to be done: supplemental application, GRE scores, transcripts, reference letters, etc.

I love that CASPA has worked in some of the schools supplemental applications into their system (not all). That is very nice and is so much easier that it is all in one place.

Most of the schools that I applied to worked on a rolling application system. Check with your school! email their admissions and see if they can provide you with any advice. I tried to apply as soon as possible, I thought that my application had a better chance of getting positive feedback and an interview.

These are just a few things that I remember working on last year!

#CASPA #PAschool #PA

enjoy my rough looking photo! Good luck to anyone working on their application this year!


There are several things throughout this last semester that have kept me motivated. Here are a few and why's.

1. The waitlist:
When I initially got into PA school I wasn't on the top 20 for my class. I was 22nd. 22nd for a 20 class group. I spent the first month and a half really pushing myself and really doubting my abilities and the reason that I was there. I felt as though I needed to prove myself. It is the hardest that I have ever worked in my life. Which is probably why half way through the semester I was feeling very burnt out. Succeeding in school with my exams and making friends really helped me to feel like I belonged.

2. Spring break
Although this may seem silly having a week break halfway through the semester is definitely necessary for mental health. I feel as though if my class didn't have a break we would have imploding on each other. Every day is so long and the exams are so stressful that having a break is necessary. I spend 8-10 hours a day with the same 20 people everyday. And we all need to pass our classes to stay in the program.

3. Meeting with the pre-PA group
Last week I had the chance to meet with the pre-PA group. It was a nice reminder of why I have chosen the path that I have and how many people wish that they had my seat. It makes you think that the small things that you complain about everyday 900 other people (the number of applicants to the program) are wishing they were sitting in your chair. Meeting with the pre-pa students made me smile and again remind me of the choice I have made to get to school, all the hard work, the applications, the hours, the shadowing... I am literally living my dream (and theirs).

4. Patient experiences
This is my favorite. Any chance that I have had the opportunity to talk with patients had made the rest of the week a more happier place at school. That is why I am here. To work with patients and help them, to learn how to treat illnesses and hope that it will make a difference. Most people who are willing to work with a student are very kind and enjoy having the opportunity to tell their story. There isn't much more that I can ask for at the end of the day.

School - life balance

This is a topic that I am still feeling out. I realized while looking back on the past month of my life that I have been really hitting the studying hard. Every weekend in January I would wake up Saturday morning, have a cup of coffee, and head upstairs to my office to work on studying. I'd spend hours reviewing the recorded lectures, taking notes, making notecards, and then using the whiteboard to replicate and try to reproduce what I learned.

I had a lot of school and not much life balance.

I think that my brain last weekend told me that it needed a break. I found that no matter how hard I concentrated I could not make myself focus on school. I needed a mental recuperation day over the weekend. I actually cleaned the house, cooked dinner, and watched Friends. It was amazing how relaxing the mundane can seem when you're constantly stressed, tired and feel as if you're running out of time.

I sometimes like to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture. I know that I will make it through PA school. I know that I can pass the next test. And I know that if I take a few hours to relax mentally, then it will not affect my grade either was too dramatically. (If anything taking a break may help me to study harder when I come back from it).


I wrote the above posting several weeks ago. Now I can add a little refresher on how I'm feeling since deciding that I am mentally burnt out. I can assure you even though I am not studying as much I am still burnt out and mentally exhausted.

I think this is because of several reasons:
1. I am near the end of the semester. The first finish line is in sight. I see the line... I am very out of breath and tired... but I am hoping that in a few more weeks I can have a few days of rest before a lighter summer semester
2. My grades have definitely uh have not been as better. I think this the sacrifice for time that I am making. Although I am not failing I am not making high B's and A's right now.
3. I need to get back on track. I took about a 2.5 week hiatus from heavy studying, but I am trying to get re-focused for the home stretch of this semester
4. I can tell that my whole class (20 students) are exhausted. Things that I know would not have seemed a big deal in January are huge now... study sessions, friendships... many of these things seem like a huge deal, but I think its because everyone is so exhausted any time a perceived slight occurs it is easy to think that everyone is out to get you.
5. I am still loving that I am here in school.

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