Thursday, October 27, 2011

Waiting game...T-17 and counting.

It's the waiting game for many of us PA wannabe types right now.
Whether you are waiting on an interview appointment or to hear about an acceptance the sound of the clock is deafening!

It is T-17 days and counting now until my interview at Yale.
I am very excited about this.  The nerves haven't quite hit yet though.  I can still sleep at night!  This must be the pre-interview honeymoon phase.

Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
Well, I am off to Baton Rouge, LA to see family and friends this weekend and a my cousin's wedding at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA.

At least I know it will be considerably warmer there than here in Buffalo.  Perhaps the clock will tick faster while sipping  mint juleps on the balcony at Oak Alley!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interviews....can't live with 'em can't live without 'em!

You get so excited when you find out you have been selected for an interview, that you have the urge for a mini-celebration!  Then the anxiety sets in and the sleepless nights start.

Then the preparation and the trying on of the "perfect outfits" for the all important interview.  Skirt or slacks?  Flats or heels?  Since most of these choices are subtle and probably are not ever as important as how you present yourself in person to the interview committee, here are a few of my interview prep techniques:
super helpful book.
  •  Scour web sites such as these for common interview questions  (here are a few of my faves)
  • ordered this book--
    The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School, Third Edition
  • Then I made a list of basic questions and wrote out potential answers for myself.
  • I went over the school's web site carefully.  Reviewed faculty names and pictures. Looked over their PANCE passage rates and other pertinent facts about their program.
  • Prepared questions I could ask of faculty/interviewers about their program if given the opportunity (and I was).
  • Read up on current issues facing the PA profession.  
  • Practiced answers to "behavioral questions" that I hear are popular in interviews.
  • Went to bed early and slept well the night before.
  • Made sure my confidence was in gear but not in overdrive--don't want to seem cocky or too sure of oneself.
  • Practiced making good eye contact
Though I over prepared for my first interview, I felt good that day.  I wasn't nervous. I made sure to offer my hand to shake whenever appropriate, spoke to other applicants while I waited and generally worked on being relaxed and genuine.

Some of what I read indicated that being genuine, likeable and trustworthy  is the most important part of interview.  After all, they have basically already assessed your academic ability to accomplish the work in the program or you wouldn't be invited to interview!
This seemed to be true at my first interview at D'Youville College in Buffalo, NY.  The director assured all the nervous applicants right from the beginning that this was our chance for them to get know us individually and that this would be the basis of the questions asked of us. 

The interview started off with everyone writing bullet point answers to ten questions.  Only one of them was a behavioral question.  All the others were basic garden variety:  "What is the difference between the PA and NP education process?"  "Why do you want to be a PA?" etc.   Then we were interviewed in groups of three.  At first this felt strange to have other applicants in the interview with me.  But the advantage is it gives you a moment to compose yourself and your thoughts while the others are speaking.

If you have an interview scheduled, pat yourself on the back!  You have made it through the initial step of a very rigorous process and the odds are now in your favor.

Shadowing...being invisible to learn.

I recently shadowed two PAs.  Both recent graduates, thus they could share their school and work experiences readily.

shadowing puts you "in the background" to learn

Shadowing for me was not about "do I want to enter this profession" but rather to let me see what working as a PA is like(in part so that I can better prepare myself to continue to interview well and do well in school).

One PA was in an ENT practice and she treated a lot of sinus infection patients. Their practice was working on integrating electronic medical records into their practice and she has been integral in some of that transition.  I got to see a larynx through a laryngoscope.  Was pretty cool!

The other shadow was in primary care.  She saw several patients with COPD and asthma (all smokers).  I am amazed at how many people smoke in Western NY!

I learned a lot from both of these observations about time management, listening, charting and redirecting patient inquiries, concerns and fears.

I can certainly see the importance of shadowing now more than ever.  Not only do you get to observe the new PA in action, but you get to see how they interact with their supervising physician and how that progresses for them through their training period and how much autonomy they actually have.  I can see that as a student PA and a new graduate, you better get really comfortable with constant observation and evaluation.

I'm definitely going to keep shadowing as much as I can.  Plus, it never hurts to network!

(Oh and don't forget to send that ever important "thank you" note to your host PA.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hello PA Wannabe world

Spring of 2008, I decided to close my maternity and lactation consulting business, Mother's Best, when becoming a physician assistant became my new aspiration.

I made the transition back to clinical lab work in microbiology, with the firm goal of readying myself for PA school.  Before I finished the closing of my store, Mother's Best on Jefferson Hwy in Baton Rouge, I was working in microbiology in two hospitals--Lane Regional Medical Center and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
Reading a fungus culture.

Having worked for myself for 15 years, the transition to a heavily structured, micro-managed (no pun intended!) work environment in a large hospital was an eye opener.  However, I embraced all the changes in my schedule, my work, my philosophy, indeed my raison d'etre.  Everything pointed to PA school for me.  I got through some tough days by knowing that each day I was doing something in my effort to get to PA school.

I began taking my remaining prerequisites for PA school.  I took Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Statistics, A & P Lab, Medical Terminology at Our Lady of the Lake College  while working at both hospitals and teaching fencing at Baton Rouge Fencing Club.  I also established a youth fencing program at the AC Lewis YMCA in Baton Rouge.  So it was all work, study and fencing!

Every quiz, every test and case study brought me one step closer to my goal of PA school....and that is what kept me going.