Sangria and paella with family, swimming with the kids, and bad reality TV: summer is ecstasy.  We were given 17 days between quarters and today is day 10, but I’m feeling the pressure to get my game face back on and resume my PA training.  Two of my 14 assigned textbooks have arrived (Pharmacology and Cecil’s Medicine, 4400+ pages in total), and more are on the way.  It’s lucky that both books cover treatment options for abdominal hernias, because I’m sure to develop a nasty one just carrying them to the car. Most ominous, however is the arrival of this quarter’s objectives. 

To explain, at UCD, our learning is organized by objectives.  These are written goals for our learning, and they come in two forms.

  1. Clinical objectives–the things we need to be able to perform, to do.  An example: be able to properly examine the fundus of the eye (inside it) with an opthalmoscope.


  1. Cognitive objectives–the concepts we need to understand (often, but not always related to #1 above).  Example: compare and contrast the etiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, diagnostic testing, treatment, patient education and follow-up/referral for the following endogenous infections of the eye: toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, TB, secondary syphilis.

Not all programs use objectives, but I’m glad ours does.  The objective system helps you to clearly understand what you need to know.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking this that objectives make the task easy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are hundreds of them, and most are only properly answered with a lengthy essay. When you get your objectives, they begin to eat away at the lining of your stomach.  They make you chew your nails.  It’s a mountain of material, and there is only a relative thimbleful of time.  So breaks like this one always end earlier than the return date (this is my first break, mind you, but I hear it won’t change much over the next two years). The lesson here for anyone considering taking on PA school is simple: it’s an endurance test, not a sprint.  So for now, excuse me while I settle in with a good big book.  I just need another coat of that bitter nail polish first.