Tips for self care
Tips for PA School’s Didactic Year
Once you start didactic year, it will be nothing but a blur. Days feel like forever, but weeks go by so quickly! As one of my faculty said when I was in school, the first year is like trying to drink water from a fire hose- which is entirely accurate.
You are thrown so much information and material that you must learn, understand, and retain. You are given so much information during this time it’s truly insane.
A large part of PA school was being good at time management. This does take time to master. You must know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage.
Here are a few tips to help you during didactic year.
1. Stay focused and make your PA education your top priority.
- This is your main focus, your job. PA School has to be your number one priority, and if it is not, it can be difficult to succeed.
- I was warned as a student that PA school is the most intense thing I will probably ever do and they were not wrong. PA school pushes you to your limits. Forces you to eat, sleep, and breathe medicine. Taking it day by day, and focusing on what needs to be done first, is one of the best approaches.
2. Take care of yourself.
- This is a HUGE one.
- Putting yourself entirely on the backburner will lead to stress and burnout. Take the time during the day to work out, walk your dog, eat dinner with a significant other. You must have some sort of outlet during this time otherwise you will go crazy.
- I am a workout freak. Initially, I thought I was too busy to work out because I had too much to do. This may be the case, but by taking the 30-60 minutes a day for myself, I was more productive, energized and felt better overall.
3. Be prepared and ready to participate.
- Be prepared for professors to call on you in class. They LOVE putting you on the spot and testing you.
- Take notes during lecture. Not all questions may come from the slides, or textbook references. I have had numerus test questions come from the little tiny, one line notes I typed on the side of my slide.
- ONE NOTE by Microsoft, is an amazing tool for lectures. You are able to upload your PowerPoints as a PDF, and type next to, on top of, highlight, mark up, add pictures directly to the slides. This helped me organize the necessary information more efficiently as well as focus during class.
4. Your old study habits may not be enough.
- In undergrad, I strictly would study from the PowerPoints given by my professors. I would read them twice and call it a day. This was totally sufficient for undergrad, but not PA school.
- The first test was an eye opener. You must take the time to truly understand and learn the material. Simply memorizing words on the paper is not enough. Using multiple sources and performing your own research on the material really helps you understand and retain the information.
5. Collaborate with your classmates.
- Try a finding study group. This does not mean meeting as a group and gossiping for 2 hours J
- Make a schedule, assign different roles. Work to everyone’s strengths. Use images, videos, lecture skills, whatever works best for you.
- If you are a solo studier, read the material on your own, then meet with a group and quiz each other. You will be surprised how much pertinent information you skip over while you study alone.
6. Know yourself
- Know your strengths and weaknesses.
- How do you study best?
- If you are a morning person, get up early and study in the morning. If you are a night person, feel free to study until the wee hours of the morning. During the first semester of PA school, I tried to conform to my classmates’ study habits, which did not work for me. After 9pm, I am useless so I started waking up between 4-5 am to study instead of after an eight hour school day. This changed my efficacy tremendously.
7. Most importantly: HAVE some FUN
o Enjoy this time. Learn as much as possible. Ask as many questions as you want. Use this time to build yourself into the best health care provider possible.
o I have been told these years will be some of the best years of your life. I am currently loving every second of clinical year and my appreciation of didactic year has not become apparent yet- but I think we are getting there.