The PA School Toolkit
You wouldn’t go to war without your gun, so don’t go to PA school without your ammo either. Here are a few items highly recommended by the physician assistants who have come before you. Below each item are links to options of that particular item. This is meant to help guide your shopping as they have been ranked high on Amazon.
After a long day of studying, there’s nothing better than coming home to a warm dinner already prepared for you. Having a crock pot is the closest thing to having your mom with you at PA school. There are countless easy, delicious and/or healthy crock pot recipes out there for you to try your hand.
Coffee machine or Tea Kettle
No coffee, no worky. Rather than spending a fortune on Starbucks, get your own coffee maker. The best kinds of coffee makers are the ones that have a timer on them to make your coffee at a specified time in the morning… yes, they do exist. Once upon a time I thought I didn’t need caffeine to get work done, then I went to PA school. Me and coffee lived happily ever after in a very dependent relationship, the end.
Calipers will come in handy when you are interpreting EKGs. You’ll find them most useful in your emergency medicine rotation. If you have EKG calipers and can use them, you’ll also impress preceptors at your family practice and internal medication rotation. If you have a cardiology rotation, you can’t survive without them!
To-go coffee mug
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wake up drink a full cup of coffee in the morning and then go to class, adequately caffeinated for the day to come? Dream on. This is PA school. You’ll stumble out of bed, barely remember to brush your teeth and pray you remembered your computer when you get to class. The portable coffee is a must. Oh, but find one that won’t spill in your bag… your computer says thanks in advance.
Uhhh… when was that assignment due again? Planners = life savers. Some people will use their phones, others will go the pen and paper route. Whatever form sparks your fancy, a planner is a must.
There is nothing more embarrassing than forgetting what your mother looks like when you finally come out of the hole that is PA school… I joke. Really, it’s a good reminder of all the people who are rooting for you and have your back. Friends and family cannot be forgotten in PA school.
This is to keep from angering the people around you when you’re in the library listening to lectures.
When you’re walking home from the library late at night, it’s good to have protection. Also, if you don’t take my advice on getting headphones and you end up blasting your lecture in the library, this will come in handy.
You’ll need a good one of these. Doctors love to pimp you. “Did you hear that murmur?” “ What did the lungs sound like?” And it is the worst when you have to say, “Uh…. I heard nothing…” Though, surely your honesty will be appreciated. Get yourself a good stethoscope, trust me.
Review books tend to bring it all together and focus on the most important concepts. They also help you study for your boards. After all, you do need to pass those. See this article for a review of all the board review material out there.
Comfortable Study Chair
You’ll spend a lot of time sitting in a chair studying. An uncomfortable chair will kill your back. Read the reviews, not all chairs are creating equal. Do you need to spend a fortune? No, but do yourself a favor and get a decent chair.
Again, you’ll spend a lot of time at this desk. Make it one that fits your style.
You and your computer will be the closest of all things. Find one you love. Clean out your storage so it runs quickly or get a new one if it’s on its last leg. Make sure all the devices attached to your computer make your life easier as well. Mouse pads with a wrist rest may save you from getting carpal tunnel.
The process of making your own flashcards is great for studying. If you keep your flashcards with you, you can study anywhere. On a bus, train or even in the waiting room of your PCP’s office after you convinced yourself you either have cancer or an aneurysm.
Unfortunately, you have not yet retired these bad boys.
Usually your school will have a gym for you. But make sure you can access it or you are a member of one within your grasp. Sitting all day everyday is bad for the soul and your vascular system. Hit the gym.
Backup Alarm Clock
These days, most people use their phones as their alarm clocks. Nothing is worse than your phone dying in the night because you forgot to plug it in, the plug came out or your charger spontaneously stopped working… ask me how I know about these scenarios…
Rocking the wrinkled look can be flattering for undergrad. In fact, I might even go so far as to encourage it because hey you’re a free spirit. When you’re trying to be a professional though, you have got to look the part. An iron will save the day some day.
You can get an Epocrates app for your phone or a little pharmacology book for your pocket. I actually advocate for both. Epocrates is the best, but some rotation sites will be annoyed to see you on your phone even though you’re looking things up like the good PA student you are. One thing across the board that PA’s struggle with is medications. There are a lot of new drugs and different names for old drugs. You’ll want one of these handy dandy resources so when someone says, “I fell, hit my head and I’m on Rivaroxaban.” You know, “Oh shoot, that’s the other name for Xarelto, a blood thinner… I need to scan your head!”
Freeze your big meals and have food for days! Save time and eat right. No one likes the same left overs day after day so throw yours in the freezer so you can eat them in a week or two when you’re not sick of that same meal.
You’ll need these when you’re on rotations. Take notes on your patients, clinical pearls from preceptors and topics to research later, etc. If it can fit in your coat pocket, you can have it with you at all times. Don’t get caught with it.
Spirit of Choice
Let’s not pretend we’re going to survive PA school without wine/beer.