On the change in season

I had doubt I could articulate my thoughts in a manner worth reading, but with the transition to this autumn season I found my reservations about blogging fade. With the days getting short, I don’t get much opportunity to savor daylight outdoors, but I’m savoring my days as a physician assistant student nonetheless and blossoming with other opportunities. This week I had the privilege of speaking to a group of dynamic college students for the implementation of my Community Outreach Project. The project entails designing and delivering a presentation on a health promotion or disease prevention topic for a specific audience, then analyzing the results and outcomes.

I found my community group audience to be remarkably interested and passionate. They posed some insightful inquires about the topic and its implications for their lives.  After concluding the formal portion of my presentation, I was able to discuss the PA profession and OHSU’s program in a bit more detail with about 20 students who stayed to find out more. One particular question about networking to find a practicing PA to shadow made me realize how lucky I have been in my own experiences. Prior to applying to PA school, I was introduced through various means to a range of PAs and physicians who allowed me to be part of their work. I am still grateful for the opportunities they provided to me. (To answer her question: talking to family and friends, coworkers/colleagues, volunteering, and university or alumni groups can help to provide connections. State or National PA organizations are also great resources for information.) One member of the audience asked me about  personal medical interests and I found myself reflecting on what I have felt most passionate about to date. Others asked about what my day-to-day life as an academic year student had been like, what clinical rotations are all about, and how PAs and physicians work together to provide care for their patients.

The question and answer portions of the evening were the only components of the experience that initially gave me a knot in my stomach. However, as the evening was passing, I realized I had deeper level of confidence than I had anticipated and no knot after all. Now that I’m in my third clinical rotation, much of my former self-doubt has left me and been replaced with a focus on others.  I find I am much more able to live in the moment and relate to my patients rather than get lost in my head trying to anticipate my next step. While self-reflection has become a near-constant companion in my life now, I find I am able to keep it at bay when talking to others and then think deeper than before when my task is done and I find a moment to collect my thoughts. Throughout the clinical year, we as students are asked to identify difficulties encountered, significant learning experiences, and set goals.  Identifying strengths and weaknesses is not just something I am doing as I wrap up my Community Outreach Project, but have been throughout my journey as a PA student and will continue to do as a practicing PA.

Reflecting after speaking to the community group this week, I have a deeper appreciation for the phenomenal mentors and patients who have played roles in my clinical year education thus far. I am truly grateful to the many patients I have seen for allowing me windows into their worlds, especially on deeply personal topics and at life-altering times. Individuals who stand out in my mind range from a young person with an unexpected cancer diagnosis, to a family welcoming their long-anticipated first child, to an older person who has spent decades grappling with serious illness and its ramifications. My preceptors have been examples of clinical excellence and humanity, providing for the needs of their patients and confronting the many ways health and illness impact our lives. While I may not be entirely ready for cooler weather and rain as the fall continues, I look forward to my personal growth continuing.

Happy PA Week everybody!

About the blogger:
Amanda is a second year physician assistant student. She loves Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania and is not sure how to answer where “home” is these days. She enjoys hiking in the northwest, cooking, sipping coffee, her classmates, books, and trying new restaurants and recipes. She sheepishly admits to keeping up-to-date on Grey’s Anatomy and The Office.