Today, after two very long weeks of waiting and enduring spontaneous heart palpitations every time I received an email on my phone, I finally found out that I passed the PANCE and that I am officially a certified physician assistant! Between graduating from my program, passing boards and accepting my first job, words cannot describe the immeasurable weight that has been lifted off of my shoulders!
Last night, I was talking with one of my old residents from when I was an RA in college who had just been accepted into PA school, and she was asking for advice on paying for school, different apps to use to help when studying, etc. and it kind of hit me all at once; how far I’ve come, how much I’ve achieved and how hard I worked to be where I am today. I remember she asked me, “do you think [my] two years of PA school will flash by in the blink of an eye?” and I reflected on how quickly the past two years did go, yet in hindsight, I remember the sleepless nights thinking that I would never make it out of PA school alive. All I can really say is that PA school was the best and worst two years of my life (so far!). I am amazed at how much my knowledge base has grown, the friends that I’ve made, the people that I impacted and impacted me. But then I also think about the struggles that made me question everything that I was doing. By the end of my first year of PA school, I was diagnosed with panic disorder and major depression, my fiancé and I encountered our first break up after a seven-year relationship and I faced multiple threats of homelessness and failing out of school because the financial burden and lack of motivation to get out of bed most days really took a toll on my physical and emotional well-being. But in the end, I had an incredibly supportive fiancé, family and friends that I know for a fact I couldn’t have gotten through school and passing my boards without!
Switching gears a little bit, I wanted to write a blog post while I was studying for the PANCE about how I best prepared and what the experience was like for me on test day. Since I was also plagued with the thought of failing my boards and having to retake them, I decided to wait to write until after I found out for sure!
Studying for the PANCE: I had been working on various practice questions using the HIPPO ED board review course for several months, but really cracked down two weeks before the PANCE using HIPPO, and two board preparation books by Dwayne A. Williams: PANCE PREP PEARLS (which is basically, in my opinion, the holy bible for test prep) and PANCE/PANRE QUESTION BOOK (which was actually given to me for free after winning a contest on Instagram hosted by Andrew Reid (from PAboards – another really awesome resource I used for studying) and Mr. Williams. A couple of days before my scheduled test date, I was starting to second guess myself and considered rescheduling my exam. I decided to purchase and complete a practice exam from the NCCPA which helped me feel more confident and dissuaded me from rescheduling.
On Test Day: I got up extra early to get myself around and make the two hour drive to Harrisburg, which was the closest Pearson Vue testing facility near me. Once I got to the testing center, the two women checking other test takers in and running security greeted me with kindness and helped me feel less stressed about taking the PANCE. I felt that the first two 60-minute sections started out really good, and I felt increasingly confident with each question. I took advantage of each 15 minute break between sections by walking around in the hallway, grabbing a snack or a few sips of coffee. Each time I reentered the testing room and sat down at the computer, it was like the flood gates would open and there would be more and more rushing water coming my way. By the third section, I noticed that I started double checking lab values that I knew by heart, which consequently took up more time, resulting in me having less time for more complex questions. I started to get flustered but kept pushing on through each question. With each 60-minute block, it felt as if only ten minutes went by! It seriously went that fast! By the end of the exam, I felt absolutely exhausted and had the worst tension headache ever (P.S. Remember to take some Tylenol or IBU with you; you’ll thank me later!). I barely remember the drive home. I just continuously kept thinking about questions that I got wrong, and how there was so much at stake with this exam because my employment was completely contingent upon passing! It was, without a doubt, the fastest five hours of my life! I am really happy that I didn’t reschedule the test, because I felt prepared with the material that was on the exam. What I was not prepared for was the exhaustion that took place afterwards! That test is truly a marathon, and although I made a strong effort to pace myself during practice questions and be in a quiet environment to simulate the exam at home, that test still kicked my butt!
Waiting for the Results: Everyone in my class that had already taken their boards had their results within one week (even though the NCCPA says it takes two weeks). I was hoping for the same, but actually ended up waiting the full two weeks, which was torture! There is a huge part of you that just wants to know, but also feels like you may be better off not knowing! Especially when you have two whole weeks to reflect on the test and falsely convince yourself that you probably failed! I knew that today was going to be the big day; I was absolutely terrified. I got the email on my phone and I yelled for my fiancé. I messed up signing into my account a couple of times because my hands were shaking so much. Once I logged in, all I saw was ‘PA-C’ and I screamed and burst into tears! We both did a ‘PASSED the PANCE DANCE’ and I instantly felt this HUGE weight lift off of my shoulders! It was the best feeling in the world!!
After calling family members and posting a heartfelt update on Facebook, I emailed my employers who were equally ecstatic! First we celebrate, but then comes the mountains of paperwork! Today I finished filling out my applications for medical liability insurance, supervisory agreement, PA written agreement, and my DEA certificate. It’s another weight off my shoulders to get this paperwork finished and starting the credentialing process! One major hurdle down, many more exciting ones to come!