Students doing rotations get a real taste of what each area of medicine entails and what the role of the PA is in that particular setting. Expect to interact with patients, perform history and physicals, and minor procedures, while learning the art of medicine from your preceptors.
This is an exciting yet challenging part of your PA education, so below I’ve included some tips on how to be most successful!
1. Be prepared: Know and understand your expectations
Email your preceptor two weeks ahead of time to confirm your rotation. Take that opportunity to ask for expectations (location, hours, attire, etc.) as well. You should know your program rotation objectives and be familiar with suggested readings.
2. Arrive early and stay late
Remember: Arriving 15 minutes early and staying 15 minutes late is on time. Don’t make a bad impression by arriving to your rotation late or asking to leave early.
3. Be enthusiastic: Attitude is everything
Demonstrate your willingness to learn and practice medicine. Your preceptors are listening and watching.
4. Know the top 10
For each rotation, research the top 10 most common diseases or disorders you expect to see. Learn the etiology, signs and symptoms, labs and work up needed to diagnose and the disease treatment. You’ll be sure to impress early in the rotation!
5. Be assertive and stay engaged
The days can be long, but remind yourself the clinical phase of PA education is the fun part. This is where you get hands-on experience practicing medicine. Soak up everything you can. There is always a learning opportunity to be had.
6. Start studying early
Most rotations are just a few short weeks, so start studying for your end-of-rotation exam early and don’t put it off to the last minute.
7. Practice a work-life balance
After graduating PA school you’ll begin your career as a PA-C. Start practicing the type of work-life balance you want for yourself. Make time for the things that are important to you while excelling in your clinicals. Most importantly, learn to take care of yourself.
8. Take one thing away from every patient encounter
How you practice as a PA will be a culmination of the practices you employ as a student and recommendations from your colleagues. Continually seek opportunities to learn and improve upon what you already know.
9. Be part of the team
PAs are part of a medical team that cares for patients. Embrace this team approach and celebrate the role of the PA and the PA student.
10. Have fun
Finally, you’re set free from the classroom! Enjoy the clinical aspects of PA education: learning new things, getting hands-on experience, writing patient notes, and discovering which field of medicine you enjoy the most! Enjoy your journey!
Melissa Ricker, PA-C, is the president of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
See also: Are You Ready to Practice?