Student Voices
Posted by PAs ConnectComment

bouve_logoWhat’s on the mind of some PA students at Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.

Help Wanted−Medical Interpreters

By Sarah Kolchinsky, PA-S

A crucial role of PAs in healthcare delivery is ensuring that patients comprehend what is going on throughout our entire interaction with them. Many patients are overwhelmed and confused when they go to the hospital or private practice, and are spoken to in medical terminology. However, this can be difficult and scary for patients who do not primarily speak English.

Most hospitals provide medical translators to assist with these patients, but the number of translators is limited. During one of my clinical experiences, I noticed that translators would frequently be late, or not show up. When I inquired about this problem, my preceptor informed me this is often due to communication problems with the agency that provides the translators. Since the number of translators is limited, priority is given to patients in emergency situations rather than patients undergoing basic medical evaluations or procedures.

When an agency redirects a translator who was originally scheduled for a non-emergency appointment to the emergency room, it can be problematic for the practitioner and patient who planned on having a translator present for the appointment, especially if the agency does not inform the practitioner about the change of plans. For hospitals that serve large populations of immigrants or patients who do not primarily speak English, this can be devastating.

A system should be put in place to ensure a medical translator for all patients who need them, i.e., adding a separate group of translators who work on call in the emergency room. All patients deserve to be able to understand what is going on in their medical care. Hopefully, with time and funding allocated to resolving this problem, changes to the system can be made sooner rather than later.

On PA School Burnout

By Emily J. Smith, PA-S

The other night, I sat in my clinical preceptor’s office, a blinding migraine over one eye, and 18 exams still ahead of me, when he turned to me and said, “At some point, you’re going to want to quit.” I wondered if he could see the defeat, or maybe, just the fatigue that was clearly poorly hidden on my face. “There are 40 people in your class, right? Thirty-five of those are saying the same thing. And the other five are lying.”

The most definitive thing I’ve learned in the six months since I started my program is that PA school burnout is not just a myth. The second-years tell you as a badge of honor. It’s real. It’s as real as the late nights, the cups of coffee and the endless group projects. So, how is it then that so many PAs not only graduate, but go on to pass their PANCE and continue their career year after year?

I’ll be honest—there are times, particularly right in the dead center of didactic year, where you really can’t go any further. And one more lecture might just be the end of you. There are mornings I wake up, and the idea of watching Netflix in beds sounds much more appealing than listening to 8 hours of adjunct professors talk about hemophilia. But, every day, I manage to get through. And so do my 39 classmates who make it in day after day.

Why do we bother? We do it because we know there’s a light somewhere at the end of this long tunnel. And each exam gets us one day closer to swapping that “S” out for a “C.” We do it because everyone before us has done it, and those who come after us will as well. We do it because it’s not supposed to be easy—and that’s why we were selected over so many others.

The burnout is real, folks. But so is the end result. And let’s not forget we’re exactly where we’re meant to be.

Study Tips

By Stephanie J. Laurer, PA-S

My academic advisor once said, “Remember, it’s about studying smarter NOT harder.”

Nothing could be more accurate when it comes to the didactic year. A lot of time can be wasted when you don’t have a plan. In my second semester, I have finally found my individual recipe for success.

Step 1: Be present during lecture. That means fighting the urges to check your email/iMessage/Facebook or studying for an impending exam. I have found turning the Wi-Fi off on my computer helps me combat these temptations, especially when it’s a lecture at the end of a long day.

Step 2: Make study goals and reward yourself when you achieve them! I like to make a checklist of what I would like to accomplish in the week and include “carrots” that I can dangle over my head to keep me focused on the task at hand. I find having something to strive for, such as dinner out with my friends or a study break with a cup of tea, helps motivate me to stay productive.

Step 3: Once you have independently studied the material, don’t forget to “talk things out” with your PA-S confidant. You would be surprised how many things you can overlook that can be brought to your attention by your peers. It’s true that PA school is like drinking from a fire hydrant, but finding a study method that works for you allows you to be able to drink up as much of it as possible.

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