I just finished reading five books that I wanted to read. I have slept at least eight hours per night and exercised almost daily in the last two months. I have nourished myself with healthy home-cooked meals. And I have re-connected with my husband, friends, and family. This is a snapshot of a Duke PA student in the middle of the second year, just after winter break followed by our month-long Evidence Based Medicine II course; it is in no way representative of the stress and intensity of the 18 months prior.
The didactic year was filled with mountains of exams and valleys of short breaks interspersed with bits of taking care of life outside of graduate school. It was challenging to say the least. But it was also an important and foundational year where basic knowledge, skills, and a community of classmates and faculty helped me establish the tools necessary to prosper in the clinical year. Pediatrics, behavioral medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and primary care rounded out the first five months of my clinical experience. Each building on the knowledge gained from the previous; leaving me with a stronger and stronger sense of myself as a future physician assistant with each passing rotation.
It is with this growing confidence that I approach rotation seven, one of my most feared rotations, Emergency Medicine at Duke. It is Sunday morning February 3rd and I am enjoying my last minutes of freedom without too much structure, trying to sneak in some more pleasure reading or a quiet moment with my husband. I try to calm my nerves by exchanging text messages with a classmate who was just on this rotation. She sends encouraging notes and eases my anxiety for now. I also have a sense of peace knowing that change has become a natural part of life in the clinical year, as this is the sixth time I have had a first day on a new rotation in the last eight months. Practicing medicine is a career which requires flexibility and adaptability and the second year certainly requires the ability to exercise these traits.
As stories of patients in rotations past come to mind, I begin getting excited about the interactions I will have in the ED at Duke and as my clinical education continues over the next six months. I remember the satisfying feeling of finally diagnosing a patient who presented atypically with pyelonephritis during my primary care rotation. On my pediatrics rotation, I recall the relaxed smile on the face of a child with an asthma exacerbation who finally felt herself again after many nebulizer treatments and clinic visits. I think of the gratitude expressed by the family of a woman whose benign ovarian cyst I helped to remove in a surgery while on my obstetrics and gynecology rotation. And I am filled by the countless “thank-yous” I received for simply listening to each patient tell his or her story. It was interactions such as these that initially sparked my interest in becoming a physician assistant and it is these experiences that will continue to bring both challenge and profound reward to my life as I begin my career in just a few short months. I have learned many lessons on many different levels these in my education thus far and I have a lifetime of learning ahead as a physician assistant!