Sunday, July 28, 2013

6 Years Later- I Am Happy

It is hard for me to believe but I did graduate from PA school six years ago! Which means that in order to maintain my national certification I had to pass the PANRE exam. To make a long story short: I PASSED! 

I did struggle with preparing for this exam. Having to study and take such a demanding exam after 6 years of not taking any exams made me very, very, very, very angry! I studied for the good part of two months. Hunkering down two weekends in a row on top of working a full time demanding job during the week was just NOT fun!

I did do the UMDNJ PANCE/PANRE online review course (google it). I had no interest in attending a live course as my days of sitting and listening to lectures for 12 hours several days in a row are over! Luckily, my employer did cover the expense and I did choose the Exammaster option which really was worth it's weight in gold. After sitting for the exam I did doubt whether or not I needed to study. Not because I found the exam to be easy (it was BRUTAL). But because the exam questions were so convoluted, cryptic and ridiculous!

The first 2 blocks were ok. I felt confident. But the last 2 blocks were a free-for-all. I had so many questions about the EYE BALL. Seriously? How many PAs work in ophthalmology??? By the last block, I was delirious. I felt defeated. I was making weird faces at the computer hoping the NCCPA was watching. I wanted to give them the middle finger. To add insult to injury, the Pearson Vue monitor decided it would be a good time to wipe down the vacant computers with Lysol bleach wipes during the last 45 minutes. I am very sensitive to bleach products (as many others are too!) and my eyes and throat started to immediately burn. It was awful. I was angry. I almost ran out of time during the last block because I spent too much time trying to catch the eye of the monitor to give her the finger as well! I didn't have time leftover to review my answers like the previous 3 blocks. I hit submit and left. I did report my experience to the monitor who tried to kill me with the bleach and her response was, "I have to keep the computers clean." There was no apology. I was totally defeated at that point but found enough patience to speak to her kindly but sternly. Kind of like the way I would feel during the 20th hour of a 24 hour shift when a nurse would page me and disturb my sleep for a renewal order of tylenol!

I immediately filed a complaint with the NCCPA they did respond telling me they would "investigate my claim". Even though I passed the boards, I didn't let it go and neither did the NCCPA. I received a letter from them last week congratulating me for passing the boards despite my bad experience and that they are still looking into the matter. I know I'm not the only person with chemical sensitivities so if this spares someone else from that misery...that is all I want.

I get many emails from prospective PA students inquiring how they can get IN a program. I don't have any magic answers for that BUT I do caution anyone entering this field to keep in mind that they to will have to maintain their certification over their career. Which now means taking an exam every 10 years.  Nurse Practitioners do not have to take any recertification exams- EVER. Keep that in mind when debating between the two careers!

Six years later- I can honestly say I do enjoy my career as a Physician Assistant. I have worked in 5 different (very different) fields since graduation and have been working in a very specialized field in women's health for the past 2.5 years. I am making a difference- a big difference in women's lives. I do feel good about the work that I do. It is rewarding. It did take me a few years to find my way and I did experience many unpleasant scenarios along the way.

Would I go back and do anything differently?

Did I have doubts as to if I would be happy as a PA after experiencing such unpleasant scenarios?

But, I never gave up and kept searching for the best job for me.

Six years later, I am in that job...

I am happy!

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Ok, I am in the process of trying to link my email accounts together as well as my blog so it is easier for me to remember passwords etc. Blogger changed my settings and I was locked out of it for a while...but I'm slowly getting it together again!

In the interim I received a lot of emails, mostly from students and I'm working through them. If you emailed me, I will get back to you. The majority of you are expressing your doubts and fears about making it through PA school. YES, I HAD THE SAME FEARS...we all do. But harness that fear and turn it into MOTIVATION. You will have good days and bad days. Days when you question what you are doing and why you are doing it and days when your desire to be a PA are very clear. And guess what? These same feelings will occur even when you graduate and are working as a PA. In fact, I'm sure they happen in every profession. I have learned that its part of the human condition. Again, harness that energy and use it to your advantage. If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed reach out to your classmates or teachers. Its also very helpful to know the people you can count on even before you start PA school. Create an inner circle of people that will support you no matter what and won't get tired of you complaining about all the studying you have to do!

As many PA programs are starting this time of year (mine did)....BEST OF LUCK!!! As I look back now, I have very fond memories...mostly of my classmates who have become lifelong friends. And to be honest, I actually miss the intensity and academia! Work life is very different than student life. Soak it up, make the best of it and shoot for the stars.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Wednesdays are dedicated to the operating room. Since I work two 24-hour shifts per week, I average about 1-2 Wednesdays a month. There is always a chance I can get pulled into the operating room any other day of the week (and it has happened) but there is no clinic on Wednesdays, just OR time.

Needless to say, I love the OR. Luckily, the chief of orthopedic surgery in my hospital is a very kind and compassionate man. He is easy to be around. He doesn't yell or scream or throw things (yes, I have worked with other surgeons who do all that) so working with this surgeon is refreshing. He enjoys teaching & is very patient. So, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm not sure what cases are on the schedule...but I'll give a full report afterwards!

Be Realistic

Since my last posting, I have received a lot of emails encouraging me to continue writing as well as asking me for advice. I'm trying to respond to each of your emails individually but it is difficult. It's mostly difficult because my yahoo address is overwhelmed with SPAM and it's hard for to me go back and find the emails if I didn't respond on the spot. So, have patience with me...I will try to get back to you! And I'll be posting a new email address to fix this problem...I guess having the same email address since 1994 is to blame!

I've gotten many personal questions asking for my opinion on whether or not YOU should go to PA school. I will not attempt to answer that question for anyone. It's a highly personal question and my blog is an attempt to let you know the "behind the scenes" world of PA school. I think there is enough information on this site to give you an idea of what it's like. The BEST analogy I've heard about PA school is this: PA school is like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant!

PA school will require all of your time and attention. You will have more information crammed into your brain than you thought was possible. It's uncomfortable at the time but you get used to it. At this point, almost 3 years AFTER finishing PA school...I MISS IT! I miss the daily grind of information being crammed into my brain. I miss the intensity. I miss the challenge and most of all...I miss my PA school friends. It's a surreal experience and when it's over and you enter back into the real world, you realize how exceptional the experience really was.

The best advice I can give is if you're thinking about becoming a PA...get to know a PA. Shadow a PA. There are way more websites and blogs out there now dedicated to Physician Assistants than when I thought about entering PA do your research. Get your facts. Call your local PA programs and ask them questions. Most importantly, figure out the finances. Do not quit your job on a whim to go to PA school. Think it through thoroughly. School loans are a blessing but you WILL have to pay them back as soon as 6 months be realistic. Figure out the numbers, get on craigslist or and search the PA jobs in your area. Get an idea of the salaries in your area, factor in your loan repayment and once again, BE REALISTIC.

I don't know your reality. Only you do. Make a list of pros and cons. Keep it simple. Keep it real. You'll find the answer.

Be Realistic!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to the Blog!

It's been 2.5 years since I graduated PA school.

WOW...time flies.

I stopped blogging shortly after I graduated and I'm still not quite sure how or why that happened. Other than to say it was a very intense time in my life filled with a myriad of decisions that had to be made and the realities of heading back out into the "real world" were quite overwhelming.

I sure have kept busy though working as a PA. Here is a brief synopsis.

Job #1: HIV/STD Research Clinician-
I worked with a team of physicians and researchers on the development of microbicides to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs. I mostly worked with female patients and conducted more GYN exams than I had ever hoped for! This was a Mon-Fri, 9a-5p, job and I worked there for 1.5 years. Stay tuned for more...

Job #2: Adolescent Medicine at a Juvenile Detention Center-
This was a part time job that I worked on the weekends. Basically, I worked with a medical assistant and was responsible for the health of kids in jail. I would also conduct physical exams on the kids that were newly incarcerated. In order to get to their cell...they had to be physically examined by me. I worked there part time for 1 year. Stay tuned for more...

Job #3: Addiction Medicine-
I worked in the Psychiatry Department on the detox floor. I treated patients going through opiate and alcohol withdrawal. It was a 10 bed unit and I was the sole medical provider with a team of 3 nurses. This was a full time gig, I worked 3 twelve hour shifts a week. After 3 months at this job, I decided to change my full time status to per diem status... Stay tuned for more...

Job #4: Orthopedic Surgery-
My current full time position. It's been 6 months and counting! I work for a private orthopedic surgical group in a NYC public hospital. I do morning rounds, see patients in clinic, first and second assist in the operating room (OR), complete consults from the ER and other units in the hospital. I also take "call". This, by far, is the most unique PA job that I have come across. I currently work two 24 hour shifts per week. I start my day at 7am and end the next day at 7am. I am "on-call" after 5pm. I have a call-room that consists of a bed, TV, computer, fridge, microwave, ortho library and is bigger than my current apartment! Some days I am awake for close to 24 hours....other days it's the complete opposite. I never know how the day will go or when it will end...if the beeper goes off at's my responsibility.

So far, orthopedic surgery is the best fit for me. I really enjoy the physical, hands on approach with the patients as well as the fact that the majority of my patients WILL get better. Having a patient in excruciating pain from osteoarthritis fully recover from a hip replacement is simply miraculous! Scrubbing in and assisting in the operating room is still a humbling experience for me. I often catch myself thinking, "How in the world did I get HERE?!?!"

All in all...choosing a career as a PA was the best decision for me. The transition from being a PA student to now has been a pretty STEEP learning curve. I am just now starting to see what being a PA REALLY means.

Perhaps, that is why I am back to the blog! After 2.5 years working in the real world as a certified physician assistant...I finally have something to say!

Stay tuned for more...I promise!

Monday, October 22, 2007


It's officially official! I've been waiting for my license to be confirmed through the New York State Medical Board. Today I FINALLY received confirmation! They say it takes between 4-6 weeks from the day your test results are released. It took me 4 weeks and 2 days.

I've done a lot of soul searching over the last 4 weeks and have been "cleaning house" in preparation for the next adventure. Although I have a per diem job lined up at a local hospital in Internal Medicine, I've been networking throughout the NY metro area.

Over the last few years I've really learned the importance of trusting my gut. I've developed somewhat of a sixth sense over this past year of clinical rotations. It is that "sixth sense" that I'm relying on now to help me choose the next best path to venture down. I've put myself in a position for change and the universe has been responding.

It is exhiliarating yet frightening.

It is...LIFE.

Life outside of the classroom, life outside of the short white coat, life outside of the "I'm just a student" safety net.


Time for t-rex to get busy with her life again!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Maimonides Award

One award was given out during the graduation ceremony.

The Maimonides Award.

It is not an award based on academic performance.

300 students graduated from various fields (Physician Assistant, Physical Therapist, Oriental Medicine, Occupational Therapist, Nursing, Public Health) and one student from each full-time program received the award.

The Maimonides Award is for the..."graduating student whose endeavors have demonstrated the highest of professional ideals..."

To my utmost surprise, I was selected from the Physician Assistant program as the Maimonides Award recipient.

The Code of Maimonides:

"May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice, nor miserliness, nor the thirst for glory or a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of Truth and Philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim in doing good for my brothers and sisters.

May I never forget that the patient is a fellow creature in pain. May I never consider the patient merely a vessel of disease.

When wiser people teach me, let me be humble to learn; for the mind of man is limited, and the art of healing is vast. May I have the strength, time and opportunity always to verify and correct what I have learned and to increase my understanding. May I always be able to discover today the errors of yesterday, and to obtain a new light tomorrow on what I think I am sure of today.

I have been sanctioned to care for the life and health of mankind. I am about to fulfill my duties; I am ready for my vocation."

I am still speechless.

Physician Assistant-CERTIFIED (PA-C)

So much has happened since the last time I've written!

1) I took the NCCPA Board Exam on Friday, 9/14.
2) My family threw me a SURPRISE party on Saturday, 9/15.
3) I graduated and received a special award on Tuesday, 9/18.
4) I turned 31 years old and found out I PASSED THE BOARDS on Thurs, 9/20!

I've been trying to recover from all of the excitement and surprises ever since. I am officially "partied out!" I found myself retreating to my desk and books this weekend, for no other reason but for the comfort they have provided me for the last two years!

I sent out two resumes last week and received phone calls for interviews immediately. I set up one interview for this week, but today I realized that I'm not ready yet. Last week was such a crazy whirlwind that this week I know I NEED to relax. Actually, I NEED to re-learn how to chill out and relax because I'm still in somewhat of an amped up "I have to study" mode. So many wonderful things happened last week and I want to give myself a few days for it all to sink in. There are so many friends and family members I haven't seen in so long...I need to plug in and reconnect before I throw myself back into the "real world".

I also have a lot of people that I need to thank. First and foremost is my family. My mother, father, and both of my sisters believed in me from the very beginning...and were ALWAYS there for me when I needed them. Whether it be a hug, a home cooked meal, a patient to practice on, or simply someone to listen to me family was always there. I wasn't always the easiest person to get along with during the most stressful test taking times...but they put up with me, learned how to ignore me, and put me in my place when I really needed to lighten up. There were days when I couldn't stand being around me! So, I'm grateful that my family stuck by me, believed in me and supported me through the very end!

I would NOT be where I am right now without them.

I would not be a PA-C!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


There are 360 questions on the PANCE exam. (PA National Certification Exam)

There are 6 sixty minute blocks of sixty questions.

I am allotted a 45 minute break that can be broken up any way I choose. Breaks can only be taken after completion of a 60 minute block.

The exam is computerized.

So...that's 6 hours of questions on a computer! That's a long time. The longest exam I've ever taken in PA school was 3 hours...and that was a paper test. So, this will be a brand new experience.

How does one prepare for an exam that encompasses everything they've learned in the last 2 years??? study study study study study study study study

I basically gave myself 2 weeks to prepare. I probably studied anywhere from 2-4 hours the first week and from 8-12 hours this past week! I've done over 1,000 practice questions and read two review books. My school provided us with the e-PACKRAT exam (assessment exam) and I purchased another online assessment exam from the NCCPA (they make the PANCE). The review books: AAPA purple book, Van Rhee's green book and Appleton & Lang yellow book.

Yes, everyone refers to these books simply by their colors!

Do I feel like I'm ready for this exam?


But, I'm ready to get it over with. If I fail, I can retake the exam in 3 months. Although I am not one to fail...the option is there and that makes me feel better. I've got nothing to lose at this point (except my sanity if I had to keep this up any longer!).

Tomorrow is the day before the exam. I'm going to review Cardiology one last time and review exam questions I already completed to make sure I understand why the answer is right and why the wrong answers are wrong.

The thing with this exam....there are TWO RIGHT ANSWERS! My job is to pick the better of the two right answers. (Doesn't make much sense does it?) And no, there is no partial credit for getting the answer half-right.

Like I've said, there aren't many absolutes in medicine and the way medicine is practiced IS NOT always the way it's written in the book. So, it took a while to get my brain back into book medicine. I have to say that its been comforting going back to the books and re-learning the basics. I've been having a lot of "A-ha" moments. I actually have flashbacks from my rotations and something a doc or PA said will suddenly come to mind and it will finally make sense! It's a liberating feeling.

So, tomorrow will be about managing anxiety. I will probably work out like a mad woman in hopes that I crash into bed at a reasonable hour.

The exam starts at 8:30am.

360 questions in 6 hours.