When I first started at OHSU I had a certain impression of how the next 26 months of my life would unfold. Like so many of my peers, it had been a while since I had experienced a full-time classroom immersion. I anticipated that the didactic year of the program would be the more challenging of the two years that lay ahead. I had visions of few hours of sleep, little free time, high levels of anxiety and a sigh of relief come June of 2016 when I would become a clinical year student. I expected the clinical phase to be challenging in its own ways, but also somewhat comforting and reminiscent of my life before I enrolled at OHSU.
I know that I am not alone with this impression; in the early weeks of school as my cohort and I adjusted to our new roles, I often heard rumblings intended as encouragement, “We just have to make it to June… we just have to make it to clinical year.” Many spoke as if in the moment that we were cut loose from the classroom, school would suddenly feel easier. As the day that I transition to clinical year draws nearer, I must admit, my sentiment towards the didactic experience and the unknown chapter ahead have shifted.
Didactic year, while rigorous, already feels manageable. The weeks are busy, but the sleep is sufficient, and the stress that I do experience is an occasional reminder of how badly I want to be an excellent PA. I am supported by students and faculty on a daily basis, and I have a built-in community within the four walls of the Collaborative Life Science Building (CLSB). Last June, spending an entire day in lecture felt foreign, even scary. But as the weeks have passed I have learned to function as a didactic year student, and have come to enjoy the familiarities that surround me in a place that was entirely new just months before.
That is all about to change come June of 2016 when I walk out the doors of the CLSB into the uncharted realm of clinical year. I will be in an unfamiliar role with new expectations, new faces, new forms of feedback and an entirely new learning curve. While my own clinical experience and OHSU’s program for PA mentoring have provided me a certain level of comfort interacting with patients, many aspects of the clinical year encompass uncharted territory. From scrubbing in for a surgical procedure to suturing in the ER, the clinical year is full of unknowns. I am excited about the hands-on experience of the upcoming phase, but the closer it gets, the more grateful I feel for where I am right now. With just over a quarter of the didactic year remaining, there is still so much for me to learn. It is difficult to imagine days or weeks without seeing the classmates and faculty who have become family. I am absolutely thrilled to transition to the clinical year, but if the countdown could slow down just a little bit, that would be just fine with me.