6 Things I Would Have Done Differently in PA School

We asked current PAs for their best pieces of advice

Oct 11, 2016 - Doximity Blog


PA School is an experience unlike any other. In honor of National PA Week, we reached out to PAs and asked them to share their best pieces of advice for those currently in PA school.

Here are our top answers from PAs who have been in your shoes:

Utilize your classmates

“Every new student of medicine - no matter how green - has unique talents and gifts. Each member of my class at UC Davis was an expert in some corner of medicine that I knew nothing about, and they were always glad to teach me if I asked. It took me a little longer to see that I was an expert in some things that others in my class didn't know much about, and that I could help them in turn.” - Paul Kubin

Try and maintain a good school/life balance

“While PA school can sometimes be overwhelming with midterms, exams, and having the constant anxiety of always studying, at the end of the day you are still a human being. You need "you time" to clear your mind, feed your brain and stay healthy mentally and physically. PA school will be always be a challenge, how you go about that challenge will make it more bearable. “ - John Dao

Be assertive

“Don't be afraid to be honest about what you want to do. Tell your professors and preceptors if there is an area you see yourself working in, and pursue it wholeheartedly. This goes for contract negotiations too. You'll never know what could happen if you don't ask.” - Savanna Perry

Remember the importance of networking

“Network with others in the profession sooner rather than later, and don’t be afraid to tell them what you are looking for. In a huge field like healthcare, much of your direction is shaped through personal connections with people you know - not like an "old boy" network, but like an "I know just the person you should speak with about that" network.” - Paul Kubin

Focus more on being a “practitioner” instead of just a “student in training”

“PA school can be viewed by many as an accelerated version of medical school with rotations ranging anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Quite frankly, this isn't enough time to master your skill set. So when you make that transition from didactics to clinicals, mentally prepare yourself to fully engage in that "practitioner" mindset no matter how difficult that speciality may be, because you will not have this opportunity to when you’re done with school.” - John Dao

Spend some time to reflect and appreciate

“Stop every now and then and take stock of where you are. School only lasts for two or three years, so savor this time when your biggest responsibility is to your own learning. Soon your biggest responsibility will be to your patients, which is wonderful too, but in a much different way.” - Paul Kubin

Keep these helpful hints in mind as you navigate your way through the challenging and rewarding experience of PA school.

Share your own advice and thoughts below!


Paul Kubin, MS, MFT, PA-C is a primary and urgent care physician assistant who writes and speaks passionately about physician assistant careers. He is the founder of a well-known and visited PA blog, MyPATraining. He lives, practices, and coaches pre-PAs in Sacramento, California.

Savanna Perry is a member of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, Georgia Dermatology Physician Assistants, American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants. She hosts a website called The PA Platform.

John Dao is a Family Medicine PA in San Jose, CA. He graduated from Touro University Mare Island in 2015.

PA Week 2016: How this Emergency Medicine PA Works

Continuing our "This is How I Work" series, see how this PA balances his two passions: writing and medicine

Oct 10, 2016 - Guest Author


Harrison Reed is a physician assistant who practices emergency and critical care medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center. You can follow him on Twitter at @HarrisonReedPA.


Choose one word that best describes your work style:

Dedicated. I have been writing and editing professionally for about 10 years and it’s something I never plan to quit. But I think the trap that comes with experience is the assumption that any prior success will lift up your current projects. I try really hard to not become complacent, to keep reinventing myself, to experiment and take risks. I never want to assume I get a pass because someone is familiar with my previous work. I write every article or essay with the assumption it will be the only sample of my writing you will ever read. I want them all to leave a great first impression.

What is your device of choice?

I always have my phone, but if I leave the house for more than one day I tend to bring my laptop. A phone just can’t handle word processing like a computer with a full-sized screen and keyboard.

Favorite apps & software?

People interested in medicine and writing can follow me on Twitter. For clinical apps, I like to use the PEPID Emergency Medicine suite. It’s a lot of information organized and formatted for the chaos of the ER.

What’s your secret to staying productive?

Consistency. Like exercise, writing and clinical medicine are much easier if you do them on a regular basis. Sometimes that means scheduling time to write or edit even if I’m not in the mood, or making sure I have time alone on my days off. The difficult thing is anticipating my own energy levels and acknowledging when the most productive thing is to get some sleep.

What do you wish you knew when you were younger?

That healthcare is a business. There are a lot of romantic ideas around the healthcare industry and in many ways medicine can be a very noble pursuit. But it doesn’t happen without budgets and sometimes even profits. As someone who had a more human-centered motivation to enter this line of work, that realization was tough. We can still put patient care first, but we must acknowledge the other forces at work in our industry so that we are not blindsided by their effects.

Who is your mentor?

I’ve had some great managers, editors, and teachers at various stages of my career. But my most dedicated and loyal mentor has always been my mom. She is still my toughest and most honest editor to this day.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

If it’s a work day I turn off an alarm that has been ringing for way too long.

On my days off, I walk down the street to my favorite café. The coffee is great and the owner works the cash register every day.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I wish I could say I have some sophisticated ritual but I just plug in my phone and make sure at least three alarms are set. There’s nothing worse than the cold sweat when you realize you’ve overslept.

How do you decompress?

I run outside when the weather allows it. But my favorite thing to do after a long day is play video games with my teenage nephew. I think he puts a lot of effort into making sure I don’t feel too old and out of touch.

I can’t live without...

My house definitely feels empty when I run out of hot sauce. There is also a void in my life when I don’t have a working pair of headphones. I could survive a post-apocalyptic world without those things but I wouldn’t be happy about it.

What are you currently reading?

In the fictional world I’m reading “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese and for nonfiction I am reading “How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark.

What’s your favorite book?

Roy Peter Clark’s “Writing Tools” changed my understanding of writing more than any other book. But the book that stands out in my mind is “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. Card created a fantasy world without losing any of the grit and heartache of real life. It’s not often a book is both relatable and an escape at the same time.

Do you have a favorite song?

People are sometimes surprised to hear that I am a huge fan of hip-hop. I like Jay-Z’s music, specifically The Blueprint through The Black Album. But a song outside the genre that I really love is Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way. It still gives me chills.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Dare to be different.” My mom always says that. It’s good advice and I use it as a personal challenge. I think it is important to be something the world hasn’t already seen.


Harrison Reed is a physician assistant who practices emergency and critical care medicine. He is the Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and a regular blogger for the New England Journal of Medicine's Journal Watch. He currently lives and works in Baltimore, MD.

Building a More Satisfying Career as a Physician-Writer. Can Recruiters Help?

Sep 30, 2016 - Guest Author


This article was originally posted on Doximity TalentFinder's blog. You may view the original post here.


The culture of medicine today has led to the erosion of career satisfaction among physicians. Dissatisfaction comes from the gamut of physicians, young and old, male and female, family practitioners to cardiologists. In fact, burnout is more common among physicians than other workers throughout the country, but is career satisfaction something a physician recruiter can help with? Absolutely.

In an earlier article, physician on-the-job unhappiness: how physician recruiters can help, we wrote that physician burnout stems from multiple interrelated causes: excessive workload; loss of autonomy; administrative burdens and consequent inefficiencies; difficulties integrating personal and professional life; and more. Salary is primary discussion about job satisfaction, too, but salary is the tip of the iceberg. Kevin Pho, MD, says career satisfaction isn’t even about being liked, or being respected. The key to satisfaction is the “v” word – being valued. Interestingly enough, Dr. Pho is the leading physician voice in social media today, blogging at KevinMD.

Physicians don’t live by medicine alone. They have interests, passions, and pastimes outside of medicine that are engaging and satisfying – things that differ from their daily grind. Many write, and many who don’t write often ask us and physician recruiters about writing. Specifically, blogging.

John Mandrola, MD, who blogs at Dr. John M, wrote an article Six Reasons Why (I) Doctors Blog. Among his reasons: to educate, to better mankind, to give a look behind the curtain, to achieve useful information, and to display our humanness. A cardiologist, Dr. John M says, “I like to write about the paradox of being a heart doctor: Here we are every day using skills and technology to save people from a disease that could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. As a cyclist, I have learned that success depends on making choices. It’s the same for being healthy. (Of course, both cycling and health also depend a bit on luck.)”

So could blogging be an uncommon cure for physician burnout? Bryan Vartabedian, MD, thinks so. A pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital and one of healthcare’s influential voices on technology and medicine, Dr. Vartabedian’s blog – 33 charts – is “a sandbox for his evolving ideas.” He is passionate about communication and believes it’s a critical part of how the world works today. He writes, “On some level, writing and making media should be seen as part of what we do as citizens of the Information Age. Not only is it how we’re understood, it’s how we’ll help others understand. Doctor means teacher.”

Anton Chekov, who may have crafted the first career as a physician-writer back in the 19th century and is arguably one of the most famous physician-writers, once wrote, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress.” On the subject of writing, he also wrote: "To advise is not to compel." So if physician candidates are asking you about writing, consider pointing them to a blog. A great place to start is KevinMD, a platform for a lot of physician writers. Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, writes a blog called Seattle Mama Doc worth reviewing. There’s also a nice round-up of 59 top physician blogs worth reading worth sharing with candidates, too. Dr. Vartabedian also wrote this article your physician candidates might find helpful: 7 Reasons Every Doctor Should Write. Doximity’s blog also hosts many physician-written pieces (if your physician is interested in writing a blog, they can reach out to ali@doximity.com).

If it seems a little out of the realm of a physician recruiter to talk about writing with your candidates, let us remind you of something recruiting guru Lou Adler tells recruiters frequently: “You’re managing their life!” – career satisfaction included.

PA Week 2016: How this UNC Clinical Assistant Professor Stays Centered

We're kicking off National PA Week with Janelle Bludorn, the first PA in our "How I Work" series

Sep 30, 2016 - Guest Author


Janelle Bludorn is an Emergency Medicine PA. You can find her on Twitter @janellerblu.


Choose one word that best describes your work style:

Millennial. My work style is certainly that of my generation: innovation-seeking through technology utilization, multitasking, and collaboration.

What is your device of choice?

iPhone. I often refer to it as my peripheral brain.

Favorite apps & software?

The usual suspects: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat. I’m not really a big Facebook user, comparatively. In terms of medical apps/web-based platforms, my favorites are Doximity and UpToDate. As a yogi, the MindBody app is a great tool to ensure I never miss my favorite vinyasa class.

How does Doximity help you in your work as a clinician?

As one of the very first physician assistant members of the Doximity community, I have grown accustomed to using it as my go-to source for discovering which topics are currently abuzz among my colleagues and then joining the discussion with some of the best and brightest medical minds. The new CME feature further incentives continuing using the platform in this way. Doximity also helps me to connect and communicate with my colleagues across the country in a simple and secure way, whether for patient care, professional development, or even just networking.

What’s your secret to staying productive?

Staying busy. It’s an odd phenomenon, but the more things I have on my plate, the more productive I tend to be. I think that this stems from my clinical work in emergency medicine; the more hectic the department, the more “on your game” you’ve got to be.

What do you wish you knew when you were a student?

Now that I have transitioned my primary role to medical educator, there are a lot of things I wish I would have known as a student! I think that the thing that has struck me the most is how much of myself I invest in my students and their education. This is certainly something that I wish I would have realized about my professors and preceptors while still in my training.

Who is your mentor?

I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by so many strong women in my life, many of whom I consider to be mentors. Professionally, two immediately come to mind: surgical physician assistant Gina Grossi and emergency medicine physician Leslie Milne. Both of these successful women balance a persona I strive to emulate, characterized by fierce independence, genuine empathy, sound clinical judgement, and ability to transform the clinical environment to a learning environment.

You started in a community health setting and have since moved to an academic one. For PAs who are looking to transition practice settings, what tips or advice would you have for them?

I’ve always believed that the lateral mobility afforded to physician assistants due to our generalist training is one of the most unique aspects of our medical profession. That being said, a PA can’t simply jump from a specialty or practice setting without preparation. You’ve got to set goals and then set yourself up for success. Create ambitious long term goals and achievable short term goals to help you along the way. Invest in yourself in terms of meaningful clinical experiences and continuing medical education to give you the exposure and experience needed for a transition. Lastly, never underestimate how far a little confidence can take you.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Since I’m usually woken by my dog, Roscoe, I’ll give him a little love and affection, then spend some time with my husband before we caffeinate and head out the door to start our work days at the University of North Carolina.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I know that the data says screentime before bedtime is a big no-no, but I can’t sleep unless I feel caught up on current events and happenings in the world of healthcare and medicine. Thus, my nightly rounds on Twitter and Doximity are usually what help me wind down before I turn in for the night.

How do you decompress?

A few years ago I discovered the power of mind-body techniques and meditation. Paired with my yoga practice, these tools have kept me grounded whether balancing life amidst busy urban emergency department shifts at Massachusetts General Hospital or making a career transition into medical education at UNC.

I can’t live without...

See answer to question #2.

What are you currently reading?

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. It is an honest and eye-opening account of the degree to which our society has medicalized the end-of-life experience, creating an argument for clinicians, family, and friends to advocate for aging and dying with dignity.

Do you have a favorite song?

You know, I don’t have a single song that is my favorite. My musical preferences are quite diverse and ever-changing based on my mood. When I need to get work done, I turn on Brooklyn Duo; in times of pensiveness only Leonard Cohen will do; when I’m feeling determined or triumphant, I’ll opt for Beyonce.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A wise physician once told me: “If you’re not learning something new every day, you’re probably not doing it right.” I’ve been able to apply this advice seamlessly to nearly any facet of life: education, clinical practice, and both personal and professional relationships.


Janelle Bludorn is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and practices clinically with the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine. You can find her on Twitter @janellerblu.

How I Work: This PA Preceptor’s Secret to Staying Productive

In our second PA Week "How I Work" post, family medicine PA Jeffrey Manese describes how he stays efficient while mentoring students.

Sep 29, 2016 - Guest Author


Jeffrey Manese is a Family Medicine PA at Sutter Health Pacific Medical Foundation. He is based in San Francisco, CA.

Choose one word that best describes your work style:

I have a conversational style practice.

What is your device of choice?

iPad or iPhone.

Favorite apps & software?

Probably my iBooks and Pandora.

How does Doximity help you in your work as a clinician?

Doximity helps keeps me informed of new issues or topics that pertain to my type of practice.

What’s your secret to staying productive?

Keeping a positive attitude.

What do you wish you knew when you were a student?

Tricky question, probably how to navigate insurance related issue.

As someone who is heavily involved with precepting, how do you recommend students to find preceptors?

I ask students and mentors to interview each other, to look at their style of practice, population they work in or want to work in, past experiences, and expectations. I refer potential students to AAPA, CAPA, and SFBPA for potential mentors. An app like Doximity is another tool that can be used to help connect with clinicians for potential rotation sites.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Coffee ️:)

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

Usually watch Netflix or reading sci-fi novel.

How do you decompress?

Exercise.

I can’t live without...

My iPad and my headphones.

What are you currently reading?

Sci-fi books, but usually no particular author.

Do you have a favorite song?

No favorite song but love a good beat.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

To find a job that you can enjoy and like, no matter what that job may be.


Jeffrey Manese is currently a Family Medicine PA at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco, CA, and an adjunct professor & clinical preceptor at Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, CA. Manese completed his PA Training at Stanford University.