My experience at Duke’s PA program has been a unique one. As a recipient of the program’s Underserved Community Scholarship, I spend six months of my clinical year in Oxford, NC completing my primary care rotations. I’m currently wrapping up my third month at Duke Primary Care Oxford. The program provides me with an apartment in the area so that I can fully integrate myself into the community. The opportunity has been invaluable for me. It was my dream to practice family medicine in NC before I came to PA school, and my extended rotation has allowed me to develop deeper relationships with both my patients and preceptors.
My day begins at 7:20 each morning, and I’m out of the door by 7:50. I arrive at the clinic and check my calendar- I’m working with a physician in the morning and a physician assistant in the afternoon. My schedule is typically weekdays from 8:00-5:00. I also work at least one Saturday shift per month, when the clinic offers urgent care walk-in hours to patients with more acute illnesses. One of my favorite aspects of family medicine is the variety. From toddlers with ear infections to 90-year-olds with hypertension, I have gained experience managing both acute and chronic conditions in a wide range of patients. My first patient of the day greets me by name as soon as I walk in the door- it’s a diabetic patient who I’ve seen three times before. After a brief history and physical, I discuss her insulin dosages with my preceptor, and we go back in the room together. I can’t help but feel a little triumphant when I realize how much I’ve learned about diabetic treatment options in just a few short months. Several patients later, I find myself in the clinic’s procedure room, biopsying a suspicious mole while the physician offers advice on how to numb the patient’s skin.
After lunch outside in the spring sunshine (and pollen!), I spend my afternoon with the practice’s PA. I find my time with her especially valuable as I get a sense of her role within the practice, particularly her independence, vast medical knowledge, and rapport with patients. Between sinus infection and bronchitis appointments, she gives me a brief lecture on respiratory antibiotics. We later perform a newborn well child check, and offer reassurance and guidance to the new, exhausted parents. Counseling and educating patients is a cornerstone of family medicine, and motivates me to learn as much as I can about diseases and treatments.
After my afternoon in clinic has sped by, I say goodbye to the office staff and drive to the Oxford Masonic Children’s Home down the street. It’s Tuesday, which means it’s my day to volunteer as a health educator with a group of 5-10 year old boys. While not a requirement of my rotation, I thought volunteering within Oxford would be an excellent way to give back to the community that has been so welcoming and has taught me so much. I look forward to seeing the boys each week, and spend over an hour teaching about the importance of hand hygiene as part of my “healthy habits” education series.
As I make the drive back to my apartment in Henderson, I reflect on my day and how far I’ve come in the past 20 months. A year ago I was in the throes of didactic year, with days full of lectures and anxiety about beginning my clinical rotations. Now, well into my clinical year, I have pulled my knowledge base from first year lectures into actual practice, and reaped the benefits of a challenging year of hard work, studying, and continuous learning. As I begin my job search, I look forward to the brightest of futures in a field I am passionate about. Each day I become more confident that the choice to become a physician assistant was one of the best decisions of my life, and Duke has helped shape me into the provider that I have always dreamed of becoming.