A Day in the Life of a PA Student

Nephrology studying currently has me like:


Fingers crossed my exam is passed, even if studying for it is as painful as a kidney stone (jk nephrology is actually super cool)

When I started PA school, I was incredibly overwhelmed by what I was getting myself into. I was afraid that I would never find enough time to study, I would never find time for my family and friends, and basically find myself wasting away in the library. NEWSFLASH: first off, take a darn chill pill, Jo. PA school takes a lot of dedication, yes, but there is still plenty of time to have a life as well! Rest assured, if I can do PA school, so can you!

So today’s post is going to give you a glimpse into the oh so glamorous life (lol jokes) of an average PA student! Back at the beginning of my didactic year, I would have been a lot more chill if I would have been able to see what the “average” day of a PA student looked like (fear of the unknown, am I right?) So from one PA student to a future PA student…I would love to help settle all those fears and worries you have about school!

So without further ado, I present to you my schedule on any given day:

6:30 AM – wake up, shower, eat breakfast

7:20 AM- grab coffee, drive to school

8:00 AM to 11:50 – class

12:00PM- lunch break/nap

1:20-3:00PM- class

3:00PM-4:30PM- drive home, putz around, think about what I want for dinner, nap

5:00PMish- eat dinner

5:30PM-7PM- study/debate whether I should workout

7PM- (after much deliberation) workout

8PM-11PM- study/faceplant into my books as I’m dozing off

12PM – SLEEP (aka my fav part of the day)

Ta-da! This is what my schedule typically looks like! It does vary from day to day depending on what module I’m going through and when lecturers/classes have been scheduled. One beautiful thing about PA school is that no two days are the same. I love the variety and change up, so PA school really rocks in that sense!

To demonstrate that, I took a pic of my schedule for this week:

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As you can see there is a lot of variation from day-to-day. Some days are jam-packed and others are fairly chill. This schedule is a bit on the relaxed side, as we only have one exam this week instead of two (yay!) and I do not have any clinical skills scheduled (which usually takes up my Wednesday afternoons from 12-6pm)!

See, it is not so bad!

But, if you are saying ‘oh my goodness that looks hella nuts’…that is totally a-ok too!  I’ve learned the best way to tackle PA school is to just take it day-by-day. If you start looking too far ahead, you are going to get overwhelmed! I believe this semester we have 24 exams scheduled (um yikes, even counting that high of a number in exams is making me anxious). But you know what, you can do it!

My philosophy every day is this: do what you can in the time you have. Now, do not take that phrase as “cram as much studying into a day as I can and do not make time for me or anyone else in my life and get no sleep”. If you do that, you’re going to buy yourself a one-way ticket to a burnout. PA school has been described multiple times as “drinking out of a firehose”. In a way, that is pretty accurate. Your program is going to give you as much information as they can in a short amount of time (spoiler alert: there is no humanly way possible you are going to retain each and every detail presented to you…so please do not try).

So with my “quality over quantity” studying philosophy, I approach each studying session with these questions in mind:

  1. What were big picture topics we covered today? I make sure to get these down before I start filling in the smaller details.
  2. What material do I not feel comfortable with? (AKA usually pharmacology). It is easy to make yourself feel confident in the material by studying what you have already conquered. Sorry to be Captain Obvious but that approach is definitely not going to work. By chugging through the hard stuff via different modalities (watching YouTube videos, drawing pictures, re-learning the powerpoint slides), it is easier to get a grasp on the material you find challenging!
  3. Do I have a snack with me? Nobody can study when they are hangry (which is me all the time…snacking is a true passion of mine)
  4. Do I feel like I can sit down and concentrate for X-amount of time? Sometimes you can’t force yourself to study. If this is the case, you might as well go do something for yourself and try again later. Taking a break is totally ok, as long as you are willing to buckle down and put in some serious study time later!
  5. What time am I going to be done studying? I’ve found that by putting an end-time on my studying sessions, it gives me a little extra motivation to crack open my books and get more done!

Yes, there are questions on exams where I do not know the answer…and there are topics that I need to work on before taking the PANCE, but this approach has been successful for me so far! Granted, you need to find whatever studying approach works best for you…and every student studies differently! Once you get in the groove of studying and exam taking…it all goes pretty smoothly!

Yes, some days are going to be more stressful than others and some days you are going to question the madness that you signed up for (I know I have). But when that day comes where you can write “PA-C” after your name it will all be worth it!



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