Physician Assistant Student : The Small Stuff that Matters for your Didactic Year
Here is a list of just some of the tips & tricks about small things that I have picked up during didactic year as a physician assistant student (some of this is common sense stuff but I still wanted to mention it):
- Always bring a water bottle to class so you can stay hydrated throughout the day. Bring coffee/tea in the mornings if you would like but just make sure not to spill it everywhere. Also, if you are using one of those double insulated mugs from home make sure that it doesn’t make an annoying click noise every time you go to sip your drink in class like mine did.
- During lunch breaks make sure that you actually sit down and eat your lunch and relax for a few minutes. I found it more productive to eat and “destress” and then discuss slides with friends once we were all done eating. Also, if you are stuck in the same classroom all day I would recommend leaving that classroom and finding somewhere else to eat lunch so you could get up and stretch a little.
- Stretch between classes. This is very important and you should do so whenever you get the chance to. We are not meant to sit straight for the entire 9 hour days, or even a 4 hour block of classes, so it is important to give your muscles a break and stretch them when possible. My lower back would always hurt after prolonged periods of sitting and I found if I just did some stretches in a nearby room between classes that I would feel much better by the time the next class began. Even if you just want to get up and walk around for a bit to wake yourself up between classes that works as well.
- Our professors allowed us to stand up along the back wall of class during lectures if we needed too. I never did this as I felt like it was too far away from the lecturer but this is a great option for students who cannot sit for long periods of time for whatever reason.
- I always kept a granola bar or some kind of quick snack with me incase I ever got hungry between classes. Do not eat snacks/lunch during class. Its distracting to others as well as the fact that you are not focusing as much on the lecture as you are your lunch.
- Laptop vs printing. Use whatever works best for you. I hate staring at the screen of a laptop for a prolonged period of time so I preferred to print the slide out beforehand. If you do choose to use a laptop and your school does not have the outlets built into the desks then make sure that you are either near an outlet or some even brought in their own extension cords with power strips and placed them in a way that they were out of the way and the rest of the row could use them.
- If you choose to print out your slides then I would recommend doing so every night before classes. I found the mornings were often too hectic to print things. Don’t print them out too far in advance as many of the lecturers would update their powerpoints a couple of days or sometimes the day of their lectures. Also, with the amount that you would be printing this year use a fast printer and print double sided with multiple slides per page to save paper and save on printing costs. I used to print 4 slides/page landscape and double sided as this provided me enough room to take notes while the slides were still big enough to read easily. However there will be some professors who like to write paragraphs on each slide so you might need to print 2 slides/page or even one slide per page.
- Dress comfortable to an extent. If your class allows you to dress down I would take advantage of that but don’t roll into class wearing pajama pants, it just looks sloppy. Also, I usually dressed in layers since Buffalo weather is typically freezing and I never knew if the classroom was going to be an icebox or if they cranked the heat too much and it was going to be a furnace that day.
- If your neighbor is making an annoying noise like pen clicking, foot tapping, or shaking the table just politely ask them to stop instead of letting it bug you and the people around you. And this goes the same for the opposite direction, be considerate and make sure that if you have a habit such as shaking your foot then make sure it is not causing the whole table to shake.
- If you are going to sit near a window keep in mind that the sunlight might shine in your eyes for a good chunk of the day. Close the blinds during this time and even if classmates say that they want them open to let some light in you should nicely explain how the sun is directly in your eyes and if anyone who wants the window open wants to switch seats for a class then they are more than welcome to.
- Most importantly, stay awake and stay focused. If you find yourself drifting off and not paying attention then take a few sips of water/coffee/whatever to wake yourself up and refocus. A professor might say something important that you could miss if you are zoning off looking at that bug on the window.
If you want to know the study techniques that work and those that don’t then watch for my next blog!