On June 28, 2011, I crossed the halfway mark to completing PA school.  In honor of this momentous occasion here’s list of just ten awesome things I did during my first year in PA school (click the red links to read a few of them):

  1. Wrote my first prescription.  Since I was still a student, my preceptor had to co-sign it, but I wrote it myself and presented it to my patient.  It was for a powerful antibiotic.  It read: Levaquin, 750 mg, #14.  Take one tablet by mouth once daily X 14 days for pneumonia.  No refills, No substitutionsNotice that I didn’t use Latin abbreviations for it, like PO for “by mouth,” or qd for “once daily.”  These abbreviations are (slowly) being abandoned in medicine because they can lead to misread errors by pharmacists.
  2. Performed my first pelvic, breast, testicular, and rectal exams.  Okay, not what you might have expected when I wrote “Awesome” in the title, but it was a big deal, and I was proud to be trusted with such a personal and private aspect of another person’s life.  That’s an honor that only doctors and PAs receive.
  3. Learned to suture a lacerationWe learned on pigs feet, and I haven’t yet sutured a human yet, but that’s just my bad luck – many of my classmates have already.  Suturing is a pretty easy skill to learn, but it takes lots of practice to do well.  I practiced tying finger knots with PAM cooking spray on my hands – it replicates the greasy slipperiness of subcutaneous fat.  I should be suturing a real patient one of these days very soon, depending on what walks into my new clinic.
  4. Made my first big diagnosis.  It’s not too often that you’re lucky enough to be the first person to make a significant diagnosis on a patient.  Sure, there are plenty of ear infections and broken bones, etc., but the life-changing illnesses are usually too hard to spot when you’re in training, or already made and charted by others.  My find?  I interviewed a patient who thought she had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)*.   The story didn’t quite add up to me, so I asked a her few of the mood assessment questions that I got from a psychiatry lecture.  It became clear she didn’t have ADHD at all – she had bipolar disorder.  It was an important discovery for the patient and for me.
  5. Learned to read a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG).  You’ve seen them – those squiggly black lines on pink paper that show you the electrical activity of the heart.  They’ve always been a mystery to me (I was an EMT, but never a medic), and I took particular joy in learning to make sense of them.  I’m no expert yet, mind you, but it feels good to look at a tracing and say, “Gee, this patient had a heart attack some time ago, and right now probably has pericarditis.”
  6. Made Friends for Life.  As we’ve told you, PA school is intense.  Hours studying, stressing, and learning with other students helps you bond quickly, and lifelong friends develop.  There’s fun too – meals together, drinks together (just a few – aHEM), watching GLEE together – it’s been a blast and an absolute privilege.  Cheers to my classmates of ’12.
  7. Went to Las Vegas for the Annual Convention of the AAPAA mind-blowing, brain-fertilizing event for a baby PA like myself.  I realized how many skilled clinicians are out there doing great work.  I was courted by drug and medical supply reps (BOW TO ME, BIG-PHARMA SLAVES!), and watched the annual “Challenge Bowl,” a rowdy PA version of Jeopardy for second-year PA students from all over the country.  And we danced the night away at many a club…
  8. Volunteered at student-run clinics.  I spent time in two different UC Davis student-run clinics – one devoted to the needs of the Latino community, and one to IV drug users and sex workers.  These populations were so patient with my gaffs and rookie moves, and grateful to be getting help.  Although I was learning as I did it, I felt like I was providing a much-needed service.  Talk about a win-win!
  9. Got my white coat at our first ever White Coat CeremonyIn medicine, getting your white coat is a right of passage marking the official start of your work with flesh-and-blood patients.  We were “coated” by the second-year students, who put the ceremony together for us.  I was a little sad that my dad couldn’t be there, but I knew he was watching from somewhere overhead, and it made me proud.
  10. Blogged about it all to you.  We never expected Inside PA Training to take hold like it has, and it’s been a blast.  So please keep reading, asking questions, participating on the forum, and telling your friends.  And let us know how your PA journey goes…
*Details changed to protect patient privacy