It’s 4:30 a.m. when the soothing sounds of Jack Johnson drift into my half-conscious thoughts. I know that I should turn off my alarm, but the melody is slowly taking me to a beach far, far away from the grueling demands of PA school.
Then it hits me: Today is Friday! That means it’s surgical skills day! No eight-hour-day of PowerPoints, no tests; just pure knowledge application and skill acquisition. I hurry out of bed, exercise, shower, smirk at my normal business casual wardrobe and don my beloved scrubs instead. After a quick breakfast, I kiss my sleeping wife and children goodbye and head out the door.
While driving to the Duke Physician Assistant Program’s building, I think back to sitting through my undergraduate biology and anatomy courses, yearning for the day that my professors would apply all of this information to medicine. I think back to working in the emergency department, watching wishfully as providers placed chest tubes and admitted patients for emergent surgeries. A grin spreads across my face knowing that today I will be instructed by surgical experts on how to apply my knowledge of biology and anatomy to placing chest tubes and performing those same emergent surgeries.
I arrive around 6:30 a.m. and study for an hour and a half before getting on the buses that shuttle us over to Duke’s medical campus. Once we arrive we head to the fresh tissue lab, where we all gown-up and receive some brief instructions from the course coordinator. We are teeming with excitement as we walk into the lab and meet our “patients” who selflessly donated their bodies to aid in our education.
There are five stations, and each is maned with a fresh cadaver and a skilled surgical PA or physician. The next three hours are bliss as we learn the basics of performing knee arthroscopies, removing various internal organs, and placing chest tubes. We also get the chance to review all of the surgical tools and suturing techniques that we have been practicing throughout the course. Many of us are so enthralled with the lab that we have to be kindly reminded that we will miss our bus if we don’t hurry. We reluctantly shuffle out and head back to the program building.
As I sit on the bus, a grin spreads across my face again, and I thank God for the blessing it is to be here at Duke. Some days I wonder why I decided to torture myself and go to PA school. But not today. Today I am reminded why I love this amazing and diverse profession. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be a part of a program that works hard to ensure we receive the best possible medical education. My grin widens; I’m glad I left my fanciful beach this morning.