Next Up: Final Exams (Pass the Maalox)
Posted By: Paul
These are desperate hours, friends. For the next few days, we will jam the last bits of information into our heads — heads that are already swimming with information.
How Do Final Exams Work For PA School?
Where did the bruise on my head come from?
My exams this quarter:
- The toughest one first. It’s a computer-based multiple choice exam on Primary Care Medicine. “It’s multiple choice – how hard could it be?” I hear you cry. Trust me, they’re hard. This covers head, ears, eyes, nose, throat, dermatology, hematology, and pulmonology. We will be responsible for knowing the various diseases, their etiologies (caused by Moraxella catarhalis, cytomegalovirus, trauma, autoimmune problems, genetic defect?), diagnostic tests, treatments, differentials (how to tell that it’s herpangina as opposed to herpetic gingivostomatitis or aphtous ulcers, or oral lichen planus, etc, etc, etc… This class is a butt-kicker.
- The wild card: my computer-based exam on pediatric primary care. I’m nervous about this one because there are acres of material on vaccinations, how to examine kids of different ages, developmental norms, typical and atypical physical examination findings, etc, and the exam is only 50 questions! Wait, what? That’s right, you read me: 50 questions.
- A computer-based multiple choice, essay, and fill-in exam on behavioral health topics like motivational interviewing and substance abuse. To be brutally honest, we have all pretty much “triaged out” this class, and I have only the vaguest idea what I will be tested on. If worse comes to worse, I’ll lean on my psychotherapist background and hope for the best.
Finals are upon us
- The most intimidating exam: My oral practicum. Here, I meet and greet a standardized patient (if missed out on what that is, read about standardized patients here). The patient will be visiting our skills lab, which is essentially a modern clinic with waiting room, and will have a specific complaint. I will be given their vital signs and a sentence or two about what brings them in. This complaint may come from systems we have covered: head, ears, eyes, nose, throat, dermatology, hematology, or pulmonology. Beyond that, I won’t know anything about it in advance. As I examine them, when I check something relevant, they will be trained to give me a slip of paper that tells me what I found (for example, when I examine their lungs, I may get a note that says I notice increased tactile fremitus). I will then interview the patient, take a focused history, make a diagnosis, write out orders for any labs or treatments that I deem necessary, make recommendations for health maintenance (flu shot, blood sugar, cholesterol check, etc.). When I leave, I will have a limited amount of time to write a chart note about the visit. Finally, I will present this patient verbally to a faculty member, as I will be doing soon at my preceptorship. All this in 75 minutes. My instuctors will observe me via video, and score me on what I do, and the patient will score me on several dimensions, such as my listening ability, my ability to explain to them what I am doing, etc.
- After these, the quarter will be pretty much over. Pretty much, I say because even after all my classes are over*, I have an assignment due for my professional development class. Why? Because this class is year-round, so it doesn’t care that all I want to do is go guzzle beer with my friends to sit around in my underwear watching the episodes of the Amazing Race that I missed during school. And oh yeah, go home to my family for the first time in a month!
In case you’re wondering, I’m still having a blast, and I would rather be doing this than just about anything. But man, this is going to be a long week!
* In PA school, that never happens — they just pause long enough for you to buy more books.