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Physician assistant students – Finding the motivation to study


If you are in PA school then you either fall into one of two scenarios:

  1. You are in lecture from 9 am – 5 pm.  Literally sitting there all day listening to people talk about topics you know nothing about.
  2. You are spending anywhere from 8 – 24 hours at the hospital while on rotations.  You are being pimped, doing things you’ve never learned before, and trying to get a little reading in between patients.

Whatever the case, you are physically and emotionally drained.  The problem?  You still have tests you need to study for.  So, how do you get the motivation to keep studying after such a long and exhausting day?

The good thing is that if you’ve been actively doing procedures, seeing patients, and looking things up throughout the day, then you HAVE been studying.  If you have been seeing patients, then you have the added benefit of actually seeing the disease process.  Believe it or not, but you will learn exponentially more on rotations then you did during didactic year for this very reason.

Reading about something just isn’t the same as seeing or doing something.

But, nonetheless, your rotation can’t be your sole method of studying, can it? Probably not.

What about those in didactic?  How do you leave 8 hours of lecture only to go to the library and study for a few more hours?  Its the same way you leave a 16 hour rotation and still get one more hour of reading before bed…

There are a couple of things you have to realize.  Being a PA student is HARD.  It’s no walk in the park.  I can sugar coat it and give you some “magic formula”, but sadly it doesn’t exist.  How do you become successful?  Hard work.

The next thing you have to understand is that you have to love what you do.  The passion and drive to learn more is what will fuel you and give you the energy to keep learning.  If you don’t have that fire, then it will be extremely difficult, and you will start to see that reflected in your grades, and in your performance while in clinic.

Lastly, realize that success is a habit.  Its much better to put in 1-2 hours a day of deliberate learning then a whole cram session over the weekend.

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out”     

Not sure what dedicated learning is?  Check out this blog post I wrote here where I discuss the difference between “deliberate study” and “studying”

I’m sorry to tell you there is no magic formula to getting things done.  You just have to do it.  Thats why its so hard to get into PA school.  That is why it is so hard to pass your exams.   That is why it is so hard to get through the PANCE.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.  Your program needs to make sure you really want it.  They need to make sure you are dedicated to continuing a life long journey of learning.

School is only prep for what will come after graduation.  The real learning begins after you pass the PANCE, and get that -C after your title.  Once you start seeing patients you will realize how much you DON’T know.  But, your goal should be to minimize that gap as much as possible.

Listen, if I can do it, YOU can do it.  Believe in your abilities to get things done…