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3 Surprising Facts about PA School

The attributes that got you accepted to PA school may not be the skills that help you succeed as a PA student.

What is the hidden curriculum of PA school?

One of my many anatomy drawings.

If you are starting PA school, you probably spent a substantial amount of time and energy on the application process.

You practiced interview skills, polished your essay, composed your thoughts about what it means to be a PA and why you want to be that person.  Indeed, you practiced saying these things in a professional manner in front of a mirror. You managed deadlines, submitted transcripts and letters of recommendation and finally got on a plane or in a car – made it to the interview and PULLED IT ALL TOGETHER! And no doubt you arrived on the first day of PA school fresh-faced, unstressed and ready to take it on, thinking “I can do this!”. Hard work got me here, and hard work will get me through it.

And you are RIGHT.
But, SURPRISE it isn’t the same type of hard work.  Those same skills that got you to PA school may not be the ones you need to help you succeed in PA school. You may need to re-tool your study processes. And here’s the thing– the skills that got you here aren’t the skills you need to succeed as a PA student. Wow, you say – how could that be?!  I’m smart, dedicated and hardworking…

Being a perfectionist can work against you

#1  Being a perfectionist can work against you

We all know what being a perfectionist is about.  You want all your pencils sharpened, you want between a 93 and a 100 (or better) on every exam.  And you are accustomed to working however hard (really, really hard) it takes to make all this happen. Well, get ready to give it up!  The fast paced feed of classwork and study demands in PA school will force you to give up this mindset.  Time constraints force you to quickly give up perfectionist ideals.  The sooner you put aside perfectionist ideas here – the sooner you will succeed in joining “the pack” here and by that I mean learning what you need to know to be a PA.

Being a perfectionist can work against you here because it takes extra time to be sure that every thing is just right – time you don’t have.  So consider giving it up – or at least parts of it. 

Being Well-rounded

#2 Being Well-rounded

The name of the game in PA school is to learn the material to the best of your ability and stay on the island.  Everyone will find their own unique way of doing this.  And there is no wrong or right way.  Just learn and know your stuff.  And there’s a lot more STUFF now!

However, being well-rounded  – interested in many things – may not be your best attribute here.  You will have to block out competing demands for your time and attention – things like movies, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents, spouses and children, housework, even fitness and gym time, personal appearance will all need to take a backseat at some point to your schooling.

Being well rounded can be the enemy of being intense.  If you are getting ready to go to PA school, get ready to be intense!

Relating to others the hidden curriculum

#3 Relating to others & the hidden curriculum

You may have heard that Drs. are not known for “playing well with others.”  It may have something to do with ego, huge responsibility, or lack of time.  But MDs, especially residents and young physicians can be abrupt, non-listeners who like to interrupt and jump right to the point – whether it is what you were talking about it or not. (Disclaimer:  this is a personal observation of mine.  You may choose to disagree or be offended.)

Physician assistants (PAs) on the other hand have the reputation of being good listeners, of taking the time to hear you out, validate your concerns and work with you towards your best treatment. And likely these were attributes you displayed and practiced during your PA school interview process.

Now in PA school you may need to temporarily take off your “listen and socialize cap” and adopt the medical student’s attitude of “if it ain’t in the notes – I don’t need to talk it about it” right now. I emphasize right now because as you move out of the didactic portion of your PA school years you need to get ready to reacquaint yourself with your peers, your classmates and your patients to be.

Please note this is a temporary adjustment to your learning strategy – one you will employ to get you through anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology- rather tedious topics that aren’t what you came to PA school anxious to learn.  It’s all about focus and not getting distracted while you learn some of the necessary but tiresome memorization that lays the foundation for your medical education.

Some hint that is part of the “hidden curriculum” of medical school such as my fellow blogger Ken Noguchi, a father, husband and medical student who writes and thinks at SidenoteLife. His blog is kind of a thinking medical students response to his environment.  He ponders why the process is how it is and why there is a hidden curriculum. I think Ken will make a great MD, one who listens and is responsive to his patients.

I think that the hidden curriculum of PA school is that the attributes that got us in may not be the ones that make us successful in completing and getting out of PA school.  Once you know this, it will be easier to change to meet this challenge when you face it.

Author of article – buffchic

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