I am currently in my Geriatrics rotation at a local prison. I'm working in oncology and chronic care management. I have to say that I am learning the art of medicine in the rarest form. Not only am I appreciating that medical care must extend to all humans despite how difficult their pasts may be, I am also working with dying patients. It has been an honor to learn from a preceptor that respects and cares for her patients, despite all the complexities of working in a prison. Moreover, because we are working with severe cases of cancer, I'm learning that death is a part of our job. We must inform our patients of their prognosis but also stand alongside them in the stages of the dying process. This rotation is by far the most challenging for its unique patient population and medical field. Despite the difficulties, I have loved every moment of it!
Margaret Potter, PA-S, Class of 2012
This is now my fifth week on my Emergency Medicine rotation at a hospital in a rural town in eastern North Carolina. I've gotten to see everything from life-threatening emergencies when a patient comes in unresponsive with urosepsis to minor illnesses such as a simple muscle strain. I am learning how to rule out the life threating processes, order diagnostic tests appropriately and am constantly practicing and sharpening my physical exam skills. I have worked with at least seven different ER physicians, which has allowed me to see their different styles of practicing medicine and incorporate aspects of each in order to form my own unique style.
This rotation has been a combination of both procedures and medical decision making— from starting IVs, putting down NG tubes, giving IM injections, and suturing to the thought processes that go into patient evaluation, choosing correct diagnostic tests, and developing a differential diagnoses. Variety is probably what I have enjoyed the most about my ER rotation—the variety of diseases, severity, patient demographics, and pace of the day. You never know what the day will hold, so you have to be prepared for anything and everything. I still have six other rotations to go, but I could definitely see myself working in an Emergency Room in the future.
Karis Van Althuis PA-S
Class of 2012
During my orientation Mr. Carter said, "this will be the hardest thing you have ever done." I believed that this experience would be challenging but I could not comprehend it being my most difficult hurdle thus far. I just completed my first semester and this experience truly has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I was challenged mentally, emotionally and physically. I had to learn how to optimize my time in order to thoroughly understand all my academics, I had to learn to keep a clear mind to stay emotionally on track (despite my personal life, namely transitioning) and I had to learn how to keep running appropriately in my schedule. My new PA family really helped me through this first semester and I am excited to see what next semester brings, knowing what I know now.
Ashley Murr – Class of 2013
As a much older, non-traditional student, returning to school and the physician assistant program in particular, is nothing short of a dream come true. I've always tried to inspire others to follow their dreams and ambitions because the only thing worse than failing is not trying at all. Now, don't get me wrong, returning requires more strength and determination than you can imagine, but I believe it's within us all if we give ourselves the chance to discover our own true path. If I could give just one thing to anyone that asked, it would be the chance to work in a field that they are passionate about.
Class of 2013
Most of my health care experience prior to PA school was in biomedical research at the National Institute of Health. This experience provided me with a great foundation for the general science taught in the first semester, but it didn't expose me to the clinical "jargon" or ways to communicate with a patient. It took a little extra work on my part outside of class to look up those things I didn't know, but I'd say overall it's been my passion for wanting to become a successful PA that has fueled me throughout the first semester both in and outside of class.
Feeling the need to bring more awareness to the PA profession in Greenville, I proposed and organized the mayoral Proclamation to annually make October 6 PA Day. And in the coming year, I plan on extending my energy and enthusiasm for making positive changes for PA students beyond the local level. With a little persistence and creativity, I believe you can accomplish anything you put your mind to!
Melissa Ricker – Class of 2013
I live a double life. My student life in Greenville consists of coffee, highlighters, classes, scrubs and studying. My days start at 7am and normally don't end until 1am. I try to eat and exercise when I remember. But by Friday afternoon, I close my books, cap my highlighters and make my weekly pilgrimage back to my real life in Raleigh. I spend my weekends relaxing with my boyfriend and catching up on sleep. So with a little organization during the week, it is possible to maintain your sanity during the 2 ½ most academically challenging years of your life.
Ivy Todd – Class of 2013
On a typical school day I'm up at 7am to get ready for class. Classes go from about 9am to 3:30pm. After class I usually review lectures and study until 7:30pm. I take an hour break to eat dinner and watch some television, then it's back to studying until 11pm. My days are definitely full and challenging here at ECU but I love the experience. We are getting so much information in a short amount of time and our program does a great job at helping us manage the material. Our faculty is great and I love my classmates!
Shrinal Patel – Class of 2013
I am the type of person who gets stressed picking out what clothes to wear in the morning. So in the run-up to my first semester of PA school, I was anticipating 24/7 stress at levels topping the stress of being a student athlete at Emory University. First semester did not disappoint. It was, without doubt, the most challenging and stressful four months of my life. So did the stress get the best of me? No. I embrace stress. Stress motivates me to work harder, to study for longer, and to read more carefully. Stress brings out the best of me and gives me the focus I need to complete this program. It also makes breaks from school that much sweeter. The feeling of relief and accomplishment at finishing my first semester was every bit as intense as all the stress-filled days combined.
Sarah Wilkerson – Class of 2013
Before starting PA school, I thought that my previous experiences and lessons as a collegiate swimmer and a recent graduate with a Master's degree had prepared me for what was to come. However, I spent time first semester feeling overwhelmed with the volume of material we covered in such a short time. I felt torn between studying, reading material for class, and things like doing laundry, grocery shopping or working out. I have come to realize that with a lot of time management and self-discipline I'm much more effective in my day and that most days I can get through a lot of school work and still enjoy my personal time that I chose to spend working out.
Kelly Swain – Class of 2013
Having completed the didactic phase of my program here at ECU, I am now getting the chance to put all the knowledge I've accrued over the last year and a half to work with real patients. All the stories about the didactic phase you hear are true – the late nights, the piles of textbooks (especially anatomy) covering your floor, the gallons of coffee – however with the desire to succeed, a great work ethic, and support from classmates and faculty, it's a wonderful experience that will impact the rest of your life.
All the hard work comes together when you get out into the real world on rotations and start finding out what it's really like to be a Physician Assistant, and you also get a taste of what field you'll want to work in. Two months ago I was cramming for exams, and now I'm helping to deliver babies! My class and I are experiencing new things everyday while on rotations, and I know this year is going to fly by!
Lisa Wharton PA-S
ECU PA Class of 2012