Sunday, April 6, 2014

Last Day at the Maranatha Medical Plaza

Many of you may not know that my first job out of PA school was also at the same clinic as my first job in the medical field 5 years ago.  When I started as a medical transcriptionist/student intern at Dr. M's clinic, I barely knew anything about medicine.  As I recall, I asked the PA student intern there if pulmonology dealt with the heart.  Boy, was I a newb!

I worked there for a year learning different aspects of pulmonary function such as pulmonary rehab therapist, sleep technician for their sleep lab, medical transcriptionist, triage nurse, and I also did phlebotomies and labs with the head nurse Melba.  It was a great step towards practicing medicine and it gave me a great advantage and experience prior to PA school.

A lot of great memories came from this office during that small time frame.
Irene, Rosalia, Dr. M, Judy and Melba
That experience along with an awesome letter of recommendation from Dr. M got me into Barry's PA school.  After two and a half years and a PANCE exam later, I started my search for a PA position.  I searched high and low in various cities in Georgia, and finally decided to return to my roots in Valdosta and work alongside some of the best crew I know.  I couldn't turn down the offer to work with Dr. M and his crew.  These folks were like family to me before, and were so encouraging along my path towards becoming a PA.  So I took the job, and I am SO thankful I did. 

I started the position letting Dr. M know that I would most likely only be able to offer a year if Benji matches into a residency program the following year.  He said that he already knew that since he has been following us for a while, and he was okay with it, which was a huge relief off my chest.  He still accepted me in as his PA and understood that I was new to practicing medicine.  I asked him countless number of questions about lung diseases, lab values, primary care diseases and more, and he even gave me assignments to present to him regarding different diseases so that it would help me remember them in the future.  He spent a lot of time teaching me, and he often times took me under his wing as like his personal resident. 

Nearly a year later, I still love my job.  I love the patients, the staff, and practicing at this clinic.  I'm sad that I will be leaving here especially knowing that there is most likely no chance of me being able to return in the future as our future now lies in Macon, GA starting in a couple of months.  What makes me feel better tho, is knowing that I will be taking on a new position soon as a mother.  I am now 40 weeks and 1 day pregnant, expecting our first baby girl.  It'll be interesting switching from a job at a clinic to a job at home for a while. 

Dr. M and me in 2009

Dr. M and me in 2014
On my last day, the crew threw Baby Gungho a baby shower!


I will for sure miss the Maranatha Medical Plaza and the crew there.  I wish I could stay, but a newer city and a newer boss is calling me...Macon and little Baby Gungho.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fly Hater

Warning: This is really gross but so interesting!!

Like most folks, my home has a lot of flies swarming around our outside trashcan. We've tried everything to get rid of them, but they are persistent at eating our rubbish.

I decided to look online to see what more we could do about it. I checked and came across the rescue fly catcher. After reading the reviews, I was convicted that not only was this a solution to our problem, but it would also serve as one of those cool home experiments for us. I purhased two.  One for me and one for my brother, Michael.

After one day of installation, this was our outcome. I was so excited and happy that morning and showed this picture to some of my co-workers. They probably thought I was the weirdest girl in the world. I also showed it to a Pastor who also has an office in our clinic. The next thing I know, he's calling me a FLY HATER.   

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beware of cute 90 year old females

The cutest 90 year old female came in to the clinic today for a regular appointment.  Little did I know about her and her cane. As I ran to the front desk to make sure she got her medications, I tripped over her cane sticking out in the hallway.  After catching myself from falling face forward into the ground, I glanced up to see who this fool was with their cane out in the hallway.  It was the cute 90 year old patient I just saw..she immediately responded with, "oh!  was that me??  Maybe I shouldn't be sticking my cane out in the hallway killing people..."  She was no longer cute, she was adorable and I couldn't stop laughing at this little old 90 year old lady getting so much amusement from tripping people with her cane.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hereditary Hiatal Hernias

As a newly graduated physician assistant with just 2 months of clinical experience under my belt, my supervising physician Dr. M has made it part of his mission to teach me everything he knows about medicine.  I think that would take an eternity!  

Much like his own personalized residency program, he often asks me to do research, read articles, and to look up information about certain diseases, symptoms, causes, and treatment options.  He also encourages me to challenge and discuss with Benji those topics as well so that we can better serve our future patients.  He's a fantastic mentor.

The topic he wanted me to research today was hiatal hernias.  He told me that he has a hiatal hernia and so does his son, and he has an inkling it's hereditary.  

First off, a hiatal hernia is best described as a bulging of your stomach sticking out of the superior portion of the diaphragm.  The diaphragm is simply a sheet of muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and helps you expand your lungs as you inhale.  And for all my Barry PA classmates out what level does the esophagus puncture the diaphragm?  That's right! T-10....  Here's an illustration:

So, there are two types of hiatal hernias:  the sliding and paraesophageal hernia.  The latter is the more serious one because the strangulation of part of the stomach could lead to a decrease in blood supply which would result in intense stomach pain and possibly death of that part of the stomach.  Yikes!  Nonetheless, patients with one or the other could present asymptomatically and could also be easily misdiagnosed.  Normally, symptoms of hiatal hernia are very similar to heartburn symptoms which include chest pain especially after eating, difficulty swallowing and/or pain while bending forward or lying down.  Folks who are overweight  have a higher risk of developing this; however, anyone can develop this too.  

Cause of a hiatal hernia is unknown and anyone can get it.  It's important to understand that symptoms presenting as a hiatal hernia can be easily mistaken for heartburn.  Additionally, heartburn can easily be mistaken as a heart attack.  Each will present with chest pain and/or pain that can radiate to the jaw, shoulder or arm.  The only way we can really specifically diagnose hiatal hernia is with two things: a barium swallow or an esophagogastroduodenoscopy aka EGD.  Whew!  Say that five times fast.  Of course, the main important thing is to rule out the possibility of a heart attack first, then you can proceed on to those tests.  

If you are diagnosed with hiatal hernia, have no fear because there is treatment and ways to reduce the symptoms.  You can add proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole, acid reducing medications such as pepcid, avoiding heavy meals, not lying down or bending after meals, and/or avoiding spicy, acidic, and heavy greasy foods.  There has also been proven benefit with weight reduction and smoke avoidance, as we all know smoking can cause a lot of bad things to our bodies.  Don't even get me started.

If all that fails, you can have a procedure done called the Nissen fundoplication which essentially reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter (a valve that keeps the acid in your stomach and not creepin' in your esophagus) and that can be done laparoscopically aka without cutting you halfway open.  

So back to the main question...are hiatal hernias hereditary?  Yes, they are.  A research article produced in 1999 in Northern Ireland proved that hiatal hernias are indeed hereditary.  So if your grandfather had a hiatal hernia, you may very well have one too.  They are very common, but the good thing is that they are treatable.  


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What brings you to the clinic today?

Today, I saw a couple of new patients and worked them up.  When I approached one of them, I naturally asked, "so, what brings you in to see us today?" like I do all the patients I see.

He replied, "I don't know.  My doctor just sent me here."


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Say what?!

Patients say the funniest things...

An 82 year old patient I've been following had just finished a pulmonary rehab session and asked me:

"PA Irene, you wouldn't happen to know anything about bladder spasms, would you?"

I replied, "Are you talking about urinary incontinence?  Are you leaking?"

Patient:  "No, I'm talkin' 'bout spasms... you see, I use a vibrator and I'm worried about bladder spasms."

Me:  *trying hard to keep a straight face and not laugh*

Patient:  "I'll let you think about that and look it up...bye bye!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A quest for a job as a PA-C

Once I graduated from Physician Assistant school and passed the PANCE, Benji and I jetted to Europe for his three month rotation in surgery and to travel Europe.  Boy, did we travel!
Benji and I at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

In between traveling, I tried to apply for PA positions so that I could start work as soon as I returned from Europe.  I aimed for jobs in the Atlanta, GA area so I could be close to my sister and her family while Benji finished up his rotations in Gainesville and NY.  I also thought Atlanta was a great city to start my career as a PA with its top notch teaching hospitals and its great community of PAs already established there.  I had plans to join the Georgia Academy of Physician Assistants (GAPA) and to get involved and even run for an office position. But finding a job in Atlanta was a lot harder than I had anticipated.

First of all, I was a new PA graduate...this meant that whoever wanted to hire me must be willing to teach me as if I were going through a residency.  This can be good too, though.  Lots of physicians/surgeons actually like hiring new graduates because they're a lot easier to mold into what they want practiced in their office or clinic.  On the other hand, it's a lot of time spent for training and educating.  So, it's kind of like a residency program.  Your supervising physician has to be willing to teach you.

Second, Atlanta has Emory University's PA program full of great PAs with a great name to back them up.  So, essentially, I was running up against new PA graduates from Emory University who already established connections at various hospitals and private practices through their clinical rotations which made it easier for them to hear of any and take any open PA positions in the Atlanta area.  

Third, Atlanta is the largest city in Georgia and a lot of PA graduates are young so naturally most of the young new graduate PAs who want to stay in Georgia will most likely choose Atlanta to work.  And like I mentioned before, Atlanta has a lot of great teaching hospitals, network of PAs, a lot of respect and autonomy for the PA profession and it's a fun and growing city.  Who doesn't like the home of the Braves, good ole' sweet tea with lemon and Gladys Knight's chicken and waffles?

Well, I searched and spoke to a handful of recruiters, and they all told me that I should wait to find a job until I returned to the States because it would be better for interview purposes.  This made me nervous because I basically wanted to get a job before returning to the states so that I could start work right away.

So, as soon as I returned, I applied to jobs like crazy.  At that time, I reconsidered working in cities besides Atlanta like Macon, Valdosta and Savannah.  I managed to get an interview with a huge orthopedics group in Macon, GA.  The interview with the CEO and orthopedic spinal surgeon went really well and I even came back the next day to shadow the surgeon to see how he interacted with everyone in the office including his patients.  I fell in love with the group and this job, and I really wanted it.  I followed up with a thank you note to the CEO for the interview and waited, waited and waited.  Two and a half weeks later, I hadn't heard from him and I began to think they had chosen another applicant for the position.  All my confidence was tossed out the window -- I thought I wasn't qualified, I thought I had waited too late to start applying for jobs, and thought going down to Miami for PA school was a bad decision.  

I decided to not put all my eggs in one basket and applied to various other spots.  Through recruiters, I managed to get two interviews set up.  One dermatology position in Valdosta and the other was a primary care position in Ocilla, GA.  To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled with the positions and what they had to offer.  I decided to take matters into my own hands and start dropping off my resume at various offices in Valdosta.  I also emailed Dr. M whom I had worked for previously as his medical transcriptionist/medical assistant prior to PA school.  To my surprise, Dr. M needed a PA and wanted to hire me!  On top of that, one of the offices I dropped off my resume at also was looking for a PA.  They immediately wanted to interview me.  They also gave me a tour of their office and offered me a position right then and there. They said they had been looking for a PA for the past three months all over the nation but no one wants to come to Valdosta.  I said, "I do!"

But low and behold, my dream job at the huge orthopedic group in Macon called me back and offered me a job too.  I couldn't believe it...  when it rains, it pours.  Do I take the position in Macon with the higher pay, orthopedic experience, greater benefits and be able to be there when Benji moves back to Macon in September?  Or do I stay in Valdosta and work with Dr. M who I know has a great office and team to work with and know he will teach me everything he can?

I decided to stay with Dr. M, stay close to my Mom who needed some comfort and attention from her daughter, and stay in Valdosta where I could be close to Benji while he's in Gainesville, FL doing rotations during the Summer.

It was a tough decision, but I really think I made the right decision.  It's my second week into my job with Dr. M and I love it!
First week as a working PA-C!!  Woohoo!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tips on how to pass the PANCE

Hello!  I just recently took the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE), and I'm so thankful to say that I passed!  Friends have asked for tips and what books are best to prepare for the  PANCE.  Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm the best person to ask but I can share the resources some of my classmates and I used to prepare for it and information about the PANCE that will hopefully help you too!

The Exam:
  • The exam has a total of 300 questions.  
  • There are 5 sections of 60 questions.  
  • You get 60 mins to complete each section
  • You get an optional break in between each section, but the addition of those breaks cannot be more than 45 minutes.  
  • Each question has 5 multiple choice answers. They're not easy choices.  Many times I'd narrow it down to 2-3 answers and had to make my best educated guess.
  • Questions are usually short paragraphs of 3-4 sentences.  They aren't very specific either.  For example, they rarely provide key words such as "projectile vomiting" or "worst headache of her life."  You know, all of those good key words we learned to recognize during PA school :P 
  • There are a lot of tertiary questions on the exam.  For example, a tertiary question would ask, "12yo presents with shortness of breath and wheezing after exercise.  What medication do you most likely need to caution use of?"  So, you not only have to know that the most likely diagnosis is asthma, but you also have to know that they cannot take aspirin or any non selective beta blockers.  
  • My exam had a bunch of pharmacology on it, so I'd recommend reviewing your medications and contraindications to each of those medications.  
  • Here is a breakdown of the PANCE by organ system (taken from the NCCPA website):

  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary systems were definitely a huge portion of my exam.  It seemed like every patient I encountered had shortness of breath, chest pain or both!

Here are the books and online resources I used:

I find this one to be the most organized and concise. If you were to purchase one book, I'd recommend this one.  It's my favorite out of all of them.

At the end of the book, there are appendices that layout things clearly such as Poisoning Antidotes.  If I had not looked at this before taking the PANCE, I would have missed that question on the exam on what to give a patient with opiate overdose: Naloxone.
2nd favorite. This book is great during clinical rotations and has up to date treatments and diagnostic tools.  I've pretty much butchered this book with tags, highlights, pen marks everywhere, drawings, coffee stains, abuse.  I think the more you abuse a book, the more you know it inside and out.  I read this book throughout clinical year and again after graduation.  It has great online practice questions. 
Exam Master


Exam Master was the best study tool for me.  I started these questions AFTER I went through all of the PA review books, though, because I knew they were hard.  The Exam Master practice questions are long and very challenging. Many of my classmates and I were scoring 45% on each section!  This was a real downer.  That's why I recommend doing a mixture of easy and hard practice questions.  Although they were tough, they gave scenarios and asked questions that are similar to the ones on the PANCE.  Additionally, what's even more great is that each question provided explanations for why each answer was either right or wrong.  It was my favorite study tool for the PANCE. 

Packrats are practice questions that were given by our program. They are very similar to the PANCE.  Surprisingly, I didn't use them during my preparation, and I kind of regret that.  But, I did fine with the Exam Master questions, so if you only have access to one or the other, you should be fine.

Aka “Pat Auth” book

I believe this book was recommended by our school.  I didn't think the book was as good as the comprehesive review one, but it still provided some pretty good online practice questions.
I mainly used the online practice questions.  I didn't really use the actual book.
Many classmates and 2 preceptors recommended this book.  “The questions in the book and on the CD were very similar to the ones on the PANCE. It’s full of questions, and friends basically did them until they could know the answer to the questions after reading the first and second sentence.”  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to go through this book, but from what I hear, it's a great resource.
Many of my classmates who did well on the exam recommended this book, but I didn’t get my hands on it in time. 

Tips for the Day of:
  • Try to visit the testing center the day before or much earlier than your testing time just so you know the area and won't get lost the day of.  You don't get your money back if you're late, and last I heard, money don't grow on trees.
  • Also, get there at least 30 mins before your actual testing time.  I got there a whole hour and 15 mins earlier because I was just so nervous lol!  I ended up chillin' in the car with my Mom at 6:30am.  She gave me lots of encouragement and eased my anxiety.  They'll usually let you in 30 mins before your testing time.  Mine was at 8am in Atlanta (Dunwoody), and they started to let us in at 7:15am. But I'm sure every testing center is different.
  • Bring lots of snacks and water. I brought a sandwich, some fruit and a bottle of water.  At each break, I pretty much forced myself to eat something even though I was so nervous I didn't have an appetite to eat.  I guess it's better to be filled than emptied and growling.
  • Try to go to the bathroom at every break even if you don't have to.  Not good if you gotta go but you're on question #10 out of 60.  

What helped me the most:
  • I had bad anxiety one week before the exam. I'd get palpitations and had to get up and stretch or do 100 jumping jacks.  What helped me out with the anxiety was going to the track afterwards with a friend and taking a brisk walk for about 45 mins.  I also discovered relaxing in a whirlpool for 15 mins in the evening made a world of difference and calmed me down instantly.  I also couldn't sleep at night, so I'd take my notes and study them to sleep.  Studying usually gets me to sleep very easily so I was knocked out in 15 mins or less. :P
  • Every day, I'd go to the public library from 9am until they closed which was about 8pm. I'd pack a lunch and get a small private room to study, and I did this for about 2.5 weeks straight.  
  • Having a support system. I was really grouchy during those 2.5 weeks. It was probably a good thing my husband was an ocean away from me at the time, otherwise, I'd make a fuss over stupid little things.  My mom was incredibly supportive and encouraging throughout the whole preparation for the exam.  My dad was too by telling me, "it's okay if you don't pass the first time.  You'll know how the test goes and will be prepared 2nd time around."  This put me a little more at ease after I realized that he was true and it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't pass.
  • Practice tests.  Take a mixture of both easy ones and hard ones so you don't get bogged down with all the ones you missed with the hard tests.  
  • Make notes or flashcards of the questions you got wrong.  Quiz yourself constantly.
  • During my last semester as a PA student, I served as a TA for Anatomy.  This helped me out tremendously as there were about four questions on my PANCE that dealt with anatomy so review your anatomy!  For example, know the bones in the wrist and their location, review over radiographs, CTs and MRIs, know the different types of fractures like colles, the 5 types of salter harris fractures, and so on.  
  • Surprisingly, a lot of questions on the exam weren't from lectures or text books.  They were from the experiences I gained in the clinical setting.  For example, prior to my dermatology clinical rotation, I didn't know anything about moles, lesions, or anything skin. I knew textbook material only.  But after starting the rotation, I discovered that a lot of it has to be felt with your own touch.  Soon into the rotation, I was able to fully understand textbook's descriptions of lesions.  This experience at this Dermatology clinic gained me 100% for derm on the exam.

What I recommend most:
  • Allow yourself enough time to study. I did 2.5 weeks, and I wish I had more time.  I didn't feel prepared prior to the exam; however, somehow I still managed to pass the exam.
  • Create a game plan.  Layout all the things you want to accomplish during the amount of time you have and create a day by day schedule.
  • Try to go over all of the study books, take each of the exams, practice those Exam Master questions and do those packrats.  
  • Make flashcards or notes and quiz yourself all the time, even on the John.
  • Get plenty of rest each night because you're going to need it every day.  It's mentally exhausting!
  • If you're still a student, take advantage of your clinical rotations and don't be so eager to go home.  Staying at the practice might give you opportunities to learn something that may be on the PANCE or more importantly of course, for someone's life.
  • A classmate of mine made great charts and divided them up into systems like musculoskeletal, OB-GYN, Infectious Disease, etc.  She provided columns that described the symptoms, clinical picture, diagnostic test needed to be ordered and treatment options for each disease.  I reviewed over all of her charts, and it helped me out a lot.  If you are a student still, I'd recommend starting these charts early on.  They will help you during didactic, clinical and board review times.
  • Sign up to take the PANCE on a Monday.  The NCCPA site will tell you it takes them 2 weeks for exam results to get in, but if you take it on Monday, you'll get results by Thursday.  Unfortunately, I took mine on a Tuesday, and didn't get results until a week and two days later which seemed like torture for me.
If anyone else has tips they liked to share as well, please leave share in the comment section!  Thank you and good luck to everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Overall PA School Experience

Well, I guess I should revisit my blog I started 5 years ago and intended to write on daily but never touched it once through PA school.  Five years ago, I started this blog in hopes of recording my failures, triumphs, and ultimately memories while becoming a Physician Assistant.  I had no idea PA school would be so hard.

They say the first year of PA school is like trying to drink water from an open fire hydrant.  A lot of information is being thrown at you, but your job is to catch and absorb as much of it as possible.  It was the didactic year, and this was my most stressful year of all.  I broke out in really horrible acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and of course, tears many times due to the overwhelming stress.  Luckily, Benji was there for me emotionally being the supportive and caring boyfriend who he is through each of those times.  Though we were long distance (he being in St. Maarten and me being in Miami), Skype helped make it seem like we were sitting right in front of each other.   

This is an illustration of one of the many confusing
diagrams for Neuroanatomy. "WHAT THE?!" I
know, right?!
I digress...  during the first semester with Barry's PA program, we had 7 classes:  Anatomy, Microbiology, Neuroanatomy, PA Role, Physical Diagnosis, Pharmacology, and Physiology.  My favorite two classes were Microbiology and Physiology. My least favorite was Neuro. I loved the professor, but didn't like the video lectures.  Everyday it seemed like there was a huge dark cloud over our heads...the dark clouds were exams after exams after exams.  

Second semester was better and more interesting because we were finally diving into more clinical material.  There were 10 classes total including:  Genetics, Geriatrics, Medical Spanish, OB-GYN, Pathophysiology, Physical Diagnosis, Pediatrics, Pharmacology, Psychiatry and Surgery.  My most favorite were OB-GYN and pathophysiology.  Least favorite was Genetics.  I believe the professor teaching the class plays a huge role in my learning. Our professor for OB-GYN was Professor Whitney Lester, and I was able to retain most everything I learned in her lectures just because of the way she taught the material.  She was very clear and shared her clinical experiences with the class.  She was a fantastic professor and one of my favorites in PA school.  My favorite professor was Professor Charity Ramsey who had a way with describing anything at all and making it fun to learn.

Third semester was even better than the previous semester.  Although we felt like we gained much more knowledge in the past two semesters about medicine, none of us felt like we were ready for clinical rotations.  This was our last shot at trying to learn as much as possible before being tossed out there in practice.  Third semester was during the Summer time -- the warm, sunny Miami beaches were such a tease.  We had 8 classes:  Pathophysiology II, Physical Diagnosis III, Radiology, Pharmacology, Emergency Medicine, Epidemiology, Research Methods, Health Prevention, PA Role, and a little more Medical Spanish II.  My favorite classes were Radiology and Pathophysiology.  Least favorite was PA role. Gotta say, I didn't really like that PA role class too much =/.  

My roomies and me during the first year of PA school
I don't think I would have been able to survive that first year without my awesome roommates, Bon Bon and 5arah.  They were like my family there in Miami.  We'd quiz each other during our carpools to and from school, vent with each other, cry to each other, go work out together, share foods with one another, and even do some retail therapy together at the mall conveniently located 10 mins walking distance away together.  We even got sick together.  Now that's family there!    

Now for the clinical rotations.  My rotations started off easy with my first one being Psychiatry at the Miami VA hospital.  Most of the experience was inpatient which I preferred more than outpatient.  Honestly, this rotation provided the best hours (7:30 am - 3:00 pm).  I'd get into the psychiatry unit at 7:30 for the morning report of patients, have round table discussions with my attending and resident, a pharmacy student, social worker, and the patient's nurse.  Then we'd see the patients one by one asking them how they were progressing or not. We'd also switch over to the hospital side and check on some patients just out of surgery to make sure they weren't experiencing any delirium.  I loved this experience a lot.  However, one thing I didn't like was the field.  Being an extrovert, I soak in my surrounding environment's energy.  I found that the field was sometimes depressing which depressed me often times when I came home from work.  Although I got off of work no later than 3pm daily, I was depressed and just wanted to curl up into my bed and take a nap.  

Internal medicine was my next rotation and that one was fun!  Surprisingly, it was more outpatient than inpatient, but I didn't mind because my Preceptor (Dr. Abassi)  was awesome.  Since I was her only student, we traveled together to hospitals, nursing homes, and even to patient's houses as she made house calls.  It was here where I finally mastered my physical exam in under 5 minutes.  We had to do it daily to each patient, so there was lots of opportunities for practice.  It seemed as if every patient had diabetes, hypertension and/or hypercholesterolemia.  Every now and then there will be an extraordinary case like neurosyphyllis or unsuspected colon cancer.  I would have loved to do another rotation with Dr. Abassi, but time just did not allow it.  I learned a lot during this rotation.

Then came Family Medicine with Dr. Wollschlaeger.  He was AWESOME.  Dr. W's office does not take insurance, so he can practice as freely as he wants to.  He's not regulated to order certain tests or give certain drugs just because an insurance company will pay for it or not, which makes his practice great. In addition, he is a one man show meaning he runs his family clinic all by himself.  He occasionally has students from the University of Miami School of Medicine, though they usually just sit in for one day.  My classmate Ali and I were pretty much the only students coming in daily.  We drew so much blood and gave so many injections during that rotation.  Although I would have like to have done more, it was a good experience.  Oh, and he always had house calls at the most luxurious places in Miami.  How he gets his connections, I have no idea...

Some other students were goofing around.  Being the good student that I
am, my head was always in my books.  Btw, that's not me on the left. That's
my evil twin sister.
Fourth rotation was Emergency Medicine at Westchester Hospital.  This is an all Spanish speaking hospital.  In fact, every four hours, a nurse would come around with a tray of small cups of colada (cuban espresso) for all of the Physicians, nurses and sometimes if we're buddy buddy with them, the students as well =D  It was here where I had lots of opportunities to practice my medical Spanish. I'd interview each patient in Spanish. Often times, I wouldn't know the word, so I'd have to act it out.  Let's just say, my acting skills were awesome. lol.  I noticed each patient arriving to the emergency room would get an IV.  So, on the first day of rotation, I practiced my IVs.  Second day, I practiced doing ABGs.  Third day, I inserted an NG tube for a woman with bowel obstruction. Fourth day, I did a couple of foley catheters....then the very last day of the week, I wanted to do something really cool!  I was thinking something like a chest tube for a pneumothorax or a pleural effusion, or something like that!  Nope, just changed an adult diaper packed with stool.  

Sometimes I'd get off of work at 5:30pm which was a perfect
time to get stuck in Miami traffic, so I'd stop at the nearby
McDonald's and talk to Benji via skype since it was 10:30pm
where he was in the UK then.
Fifth rotation was my least favorite, but surprisingly I gained a lot from it both medicinally and emotionally.  This rotation was during the time Benji and I had our wedding celebration in Miami, so it was a lot to manage.  It didn't help that this rotation site was 1.5 hours away making my total commute for the day to 3 hours.  Luckily, I was able to do a lot of wedding planning during the commutes, so it all worked out great.  Oh yes, this rotation was OB-GYN with Dr. C.  He was the meanest Dr I'd ever worked with.  During the first week, he yelled at me in front of his patient and then yelled at me some more once we were outside of the patient's room.  I broke down and cried right in front of him and then excused myself to cry some more in his office alone.  This was probably not the most professional thing to do, but I didn't care.  He didn't have to yell at a student like that for asking questions.  The MAs and office staff were very nice, understanding and comforting, which made me feel much better.  I spoke to my school's clinical director during that day's lunch break, and she helped me get through that obstacle.  I talked to Dr. C afterwards about the incident and tried to understand why he was so upset. At the end of the discussion, we were able to see eye to eye on a lot of things.  Afterwards, he allowed me to first assist him in hysterectomies, cancer staging, cervical cerclages, and delivering babies.  As a student, this was big stuff for me.  All in all, I started this rotation with fear of my attending, but later left with a friend.  As he wrote my overall evaluation at the end, he read it to me with tears in his eyes.  It was the most humbling rotation I'd ever had.  

Next rotation was Surgery with Dr. Legaspi.  Surgeons have it bad and are known to be the meanest people in the world.  They work long hours, have unconscious patients' lives in their hands, could easily nick a vein or artery, and so they yell at everyone around them and are known to be cocky and rude.  However, Dr. Legaspi was far from this and probably the nicest surgeon I'd ever met.  During each surgery, he'd hook up his laptop in the OR to some Mana tunes playing from Pandora and jam to them during cholecystectomies, liver resections, ablations, and more.  I got to experience and assist in my first whipple procedure which is a huge six hour surgery.  We removed a 15lb liposarcoma from one gentleman, then took out his right kidney because it necrosed due to the compression of the liposarcoma, removed his appendix, and also noticed his inflamed gall bladder so we removed that as well.  I'd say the patient lost a good 20 lbs instantly from that surgery. During this rotation, I got to work with other surgeons as well during the down times.  We amputated legs which easily seemed like a scene from Saw III.  Overall, this rotation with Dr. Legaspi at Mt. Sinai Hospital was a fantastic experience.

Dr. Quereshi and the Immunization Schedule he made for me
Seventh rotation was much less stressful:  Pediatrics!  The kids were so cute, and I'd often catch myself goo-ing and gah-ing over the cute kids and babies.  In the beginning, the kids didn't allow me look inside their ears, but with the help of fellow classmates and their tips, I managed to say "choo choo" as I checked their ears, and asked them if they had just had some chicken nuggest from McD's while checking their abdomen.  They were much more cooperative after that.  Dr. Q was my attending and an awesome one.  In between patients, he'd allow us to do our readings and studying in his office.  Every now and then, he'd make a quirky joke or share his excitement over some new techy gadget he wanted to get. lol. It was cute.  

Last but certainly not least was my rotation with Dr. Horwitz in Dermatology.  Stepping into this rotation without any experience at all was challenging.  The staff there probably expected me to know more, but my clinical experiences were poor while my knowledge of the material was adequate.  I was able to give treatment options but was not able to even recognize the diagnosis.  By the second week of this rotation, I was able to put 2 and 2 together.  The MAs there were extremely helpful and in the end, I was able to learn so much from this rotation that I scored a perfect 100% on the PANCE for the derm section.  

This was me introducing the keynote speaker for
Barry's 2013 graduating class!
Now, a lot of PA programs such as the University of Florida end their program after just two years.  Our program extended it to one more semester as 'Advanced Didactic.'  We prepared for the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE), had the option of doing a 6 week supplemental rotation in any field of your choice, and took the following classes:  Clinical Therapeutics, Thanatology, Ethics, Board Review and we had to write a thesis paper.  I did my thesis paper on the efficacy of vaccinations and why individuals do not comply with their schedules.  I also spent my advanced didactic semester serving as an anatomy TA and tutor for physiology and anatomy.  Surprisingly, there were some questions on the board exam that made me so thankful I signed up to be an Anatomy TA.  After taking our exit examination out of PA school, it was all celebration from there.  Our class threw a huge graduation party on a boat drifting down the Miami intercoastal and it was magnificent!  Afterwards, it was tears after tears as we all graduated after suffering and struggling 2.5 years together.  

Did I suffer during PA school?  Yes.  Did I ever have a break down and cry?  Oh yes.  Would I do it all over again?  As my buddy Ryanadine would say, "Yeaaaaaaahhh buddy!"  It was the hardest period of my life, and I'm not sure if it was because I was away from home, my family, my significant other, and/or the stress of the program, but I'm so glad I did it.  I may not have invented the toaster strudal, or designed the Eiffel Tower, but this is far greater than I would have expected myself to do, and I am darn proud of myself.  I owe a huge appreciation to my friends and family who supported me all the way through and for their constant encouragement.  I'm so thankful to them!

Irene Gung Ho, MsCS, PA-C