Tag Archives: pa school

Running, running, running


Remember this post? The one where I told you I was running a half marathon in March? Well, guess what? It’s March. Our run is 12 short days from now and in the past week I’ve ranged all over the spectrum from terrified to excited to terrified to slightly less terrified to resigned. The run is in 12 days and at this point, the only thing I can do about it is run. Today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day until I take a few days off right before the race itself.

And I have been running. In 2011, I took about a month and trained for a 10K. It was a lot of fun and I ran it in under an hour which I was really pleased about. And as soon as it ended, I stopped running. Not completely, I guess, but I stopped running consistently because I was tired of treadmills, I accomplished my goal and I had just met a really fun boy. But if you’ve followed my various attempts at blogging (visit here or here for past iterations of this blog, don’t be fooled by the top post being the same, they are two different blogs!) you’ve read my words “I want to run a half marathon” on and off since summer of 2010. As terrified of the prospect as I am, I’m excited that I’m finally accomplishing something I’ve thought about for so long. Ultimately, I know that just finishing will be a huge success and I don’t care AT ALL about the time that I finish with (just as long as I don’t get picked up by the sag wagon along the way).

I ran 7.5 miles yesterday. It hurt. 13 miles is going to REALLY hurt. But we’ve been training on the trails near our house, and our run yesterday had 1000 feet of vertical gain. Our race is along the Colorado River with a slight downhill trajectory the whole way. That will be nice. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to walk at all for the rest of the weekend. But I’m excited. It’s a strange mix of emotions. I’ll keep you updated.

Here's the summary of my run yesterday. Like I said, I'm not gunning for time...

Here’s the summary of my run yesterday. Like I said, I’m not gunning for time…

Also, wanna see something pretty? This was my prize after running 5.5 miles on the treadmill last Sunday. My grand plan was to run while watching the Oscars to distract myself from the pain and mind numbing boredom of running on a treadmill (we randomly got 3 inches of snow the night before) and I wanted to run 7 miles. Around mile 5 I started having some annoying pain in my right foot. If you know me, you know the right side of my body is a disaster, so this wasn’t really a huge cause for concern. But it got more and more annoying. Finally, at 5.5 miles, I stopped and pulled off my shoe. What a nice surprise! Not.

Nasty little blood blister. I guess I need to invest in some fancier socks.

Nasty little blood blister. I guess I need to invest in some fancier socks. Sorry for the gross picture of my foot…

But it’s starting to clear up and I’ve been wearing my trail running shoes on every run since then, so hopefully by race day I’ll be healed and happy!

In other news, I had my first advising appointment for Montana State University today. My adviser called to talk about my class schedule this summer and start sketching out what my 4 semester science extravaganza will look like. Yet another thing to be terrified of. Seriously, in all 4 years of college I (grudgingly) took 3 science classes (5 if you count those I did during study abroad programs – I don’t count them). And now I’m going to be taking 3/semester. My schedule is looking very packed full of lecture and lab hours, with little time to do anything other than eat, sleep, study, and play with my parents and my dog. That’s ok, there’s not much else to do in Bozeman, MT. Oh wait…

Take a look at my schedule this summer…yes, that’s right, two labs…

Ah, science classes. Whitman wouldn't recognize me!

Ah, science classes. Whitman wouldn’t recognize me!

For those of you who don’t speak Registration lingo, those classes are Intro Chemistry and Intro Physics. Two semesters of classes crammed into 2.5 months. Sounds lovely, no? Here’s the funny thing: most of the PA schools I’m looking at don’t require Physics, but because some PA schools out there do, I’m hedging my bets and taking it anyway. This is one of the most frustrating aspects to PA school: they don’t all have the same requirements. Not even close. Some schools require 16 hours of biology and 4000 hours of paid experience (ahem, University of Washington, ahem), some require 9 specific science classes with 1000 hours of paid experience, but your experience MUST BE FINISHED by the time you apply in October (to start school in June), some require the GRE, some don’t. Is your head spinning yet? Mine has been for the last 9 months. So my strategy is to take as many required classes that seem to be consistent from school to school, then add in the ones that are specific to the places I’d really like to go, and try to squeeze more in during a second summer semester at MSU. We’ll see how it goes!


An update…


And there goes almost another month. The time is flying, and I’m not sure why. Is it because things are busy here? Is it because the days are finally starting to feel longer, so we get out and do more? Is it because I was taking a night class for all of January and had 1 hour/day that was un-planned? Probably a little of everything.

A moment of honesty: Over the course of the last 9 months of planning my new career path, I’ve had doubts. Serious, paralyzing doubts. Doubts that I wouldn’t be smart enough to finish school, be patient enough to work with people who frustrated me, enjoy a  new role in the medical world. After all, this decision, while thought out for hours and hours and hours, was based on very little concrete evidence that I would, in fact, enjoy being a physician assistant. From the day I graduated from college (except a short stint at REI) every moment of my time has been focused on providing quality educational programs to students (kids and adults) outside of the traditional classroom setting. What makes me think I’ll be good at being a student IN the traditional classroom setting? What makes me think I’ll be good at medicine at all?

For the last month and a half, I’ve been heading straight from work to the Community College to become a certified nurse’s aide. One of the most stringent requirement of all PA programs is a baseline number of patient contact hours in a health care setting. For your average pre-med student, this isn’t hard to come by. Hours working as an EMT on an ambulance, hours as a scribe in the ER, hours as a medical assistant in a clinic. For me, someone with ZERO medical background (except my Wilderness First Responder certification) it was going to be a little more challenging. For 6 months, I asked myself, “EMT or CNA?” “CNA or EMT?” By far, working as an EMT sounded much more interesting and fun than working as a CNA. Riding around in an ambulance responding to emergencies? Or working in a nursing home wiping asses? I knew what I wanted to do. However, it’s nearly impossible to get hired as an EMT with no experience. On top of that, on a 24-hour shift you may only actually see one patient for 20 minutes on the way to the hospital. Every nursing home in the world is always hiring CNAs. Weighing my preferences and the needs of my application, I decided to go with a CNA certification to start, with the possibility of getting my EMT later in the process. And so I sat through a month of evening classes learning how to change diapers, do bed to wheelchair transfers, brush dentures, and any number of other tasks that sound terrible when written in a list.

And then came our clinicals. Honestly, I was dreading these. It was the last step before being able to take the state certification exam, and the culmination of the class: spend 3 8-hour shifts at a local nursing home following Nurse Aides and learning “on-the-job.”

I loved it.

Of course, the first day was awkward. Following someone else around and watching them do their job is uncomfortable, I felt like I needed to be helping. But helping someone you don’t know go to the bathroom or change into their pajamas is awkward too, especially for them. I never felt like I was in the right place, I never felt like I was being useful, and I never felt comfortable. I did, however, learn some names. This made is SO MUCH BETTER on the second day when we had to go back and be more independent. Even if I didn’t know the residents that well, knowing their names made them feel much more comfortable with me, and thus made me feel more comfortable with them. During my three days at the facility, I changes LOTS of diapers, helped residents eat their dinner, helped get them ready and into bed, helped bathe them, and got to know them a little bit. The thing about old people, even ones that are confused or delusional, is that they’ve lived amazing lives and they love young people. They want to talk to you, they want to listen to you, and they REALLY appreciate your help. A CNA is not the most glamorous job in the world. It doesn’t pay that well, and going home with the smell of human feces in your nostrils every night isn’t the best. But the people make it worthwhile. After all, it could be your grandparents and you know you’d want them taken care of.

While I'm not certified yet, I'm almost there!

While I’m not certified yet, I’m almost there!

Operation: Physician Assistant


Sometimes my Physician Assistant aspirations feel very far away. When I’m sitting in my office thinking about what the next five years will be like (5 years! It will be 5 years before I’m in any kind of career-type job again! That’s so intimidating!) it’s hard to picture what my day to day life will be like. I’ll be a student in Montana for awhile, then I’ll work somewhere for awhile, then I’ll (hopefully) be admitted to PA school somewhere. The unknowns that used to excite me now make me pretty uneasy. But things are finally starting to move here. After beginning the planning process in June – I got my acceptance to my pre-req program in Bozeman last month, and I recently started a CNA program here in Colorado so that when I start school (time permitting) I can also start to build up my clinical hours (most programs require at least 1000).

Starting yesterday, my normal day looks like this:

6:30 – wake up, feed dogs, shower, make breakfast and lunch

7:45 – go to work

4:00 – go home, eat dinner, let dogs out

4:45 – go to school

9:30 – get home from school, study

12:00 – go to bed

This is the most restrictive schedule I’ve ever been on – hardly any time in the day to much other than work, school, eat and study. As a result, I’ve become very reliant on my slow cooker. Seriously, when I have 45 min between getting home and leaving for school, I need dinner to be easy. So a few nights ago I threw a couple chicken breasts in with a can of beer, some salt, pepper and oregano. It isn’t the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had, but it’s been great on top of salads for lunch this week. Earlier last weekend I made some slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala from Eat, Live, Run which was so delicious that I didn’t have time to take a picture of it before it all disappeared. But I wholeheartedly recommend Jenna’s recipe. (She also has a great book review up right now that I’m interested to check out.)

Our supplies on these meals were running low though, so this morning I got up to make Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup. I found the recipe on Pinterest, but it originally comes from Daily Mothering. I chopped up some carrots, celery, leeks (which I substituted for the onions), threw some chicken breasts on top, sprinkled with salt, pepper and basil, and drizzled with a 1/2 cup of white wine.

chicken noodle soup

And then I walked away. I went to a doctor’s appointment, and then to work. When I get home tonight, I’ll pull the chicken out and tear it apart with a fork. I’ll dump the veggies and any juice into a stock pot with about 8 cups of stock, add some egg noodles, simmer for 10 min, add the chicken and then eat dinner! I can tell, during this time of crazy schedules and little free time, that my slow cooker and I are going to be very, very good friends.  Anyone have any must-try slow cooker recipes?

I’m in!



Ever since I started thinking about going back to school, I’ve slowly been chipping away at the never-ending list of things I need to do to make this all happen in a timely (5 year) fashion. Here’s the break down of my time line if everything goes perfectly:

July 2012 – May 2013: Volunteer at hospital in Grand Junction

August 2012 – December 2012: online math class

October 2012: Apply for program at Montana State

January 2013: CNA class at Western Colorado Community College

May 2013 – Auguest 2014: Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical certificate program at Montana State while working part-time at a hospital or nursing facility.

August 2014 – June 2015: Travel and work with Kyle.

June 2015-September 2017: PA school.

While it’s fun to think about, it has all been pretty intangible up until now…because on Friday I GOT MY ACCEPTANCE LETTER TO MSU!!! This time next year, I’ll (probably be miserable because I’ll be in the middle of finals) be living in Bozeman and be almost halfway through my pre-reqs for PA school! How exciting is that?! Here are a couple photos from the gorgeous MSU campus:

I can’t remember what this building is called, but it’s one of the classic old buildings on the main quad area of the campus. I think it’s mostly for registration and advising…

mccall hall

This is the brand new, super fancy chemistry and biochemistry building. I’ll be spending plenty of time in here for OChem, Biochem and other classes.

chem and biochem

And here is a shot of the welcome sign as you come into town. Isn’t it pretty?

downtown bozemanMSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

I can’t express my excitement at having this incredible opportunity to move back to my hometown to begin pursuing my dreams. It’s funny, in college you coudn’t have paid me enough money to take the classes that I’ll be burying myself in during the next two years. But now that I have some perspective on the world outside the classroom, I can’t wait to dive in to these classes. I’m so glad I decided to take a break between undergrad and post-grad education because now I know what I really want, and I know how important it is to focus and take advantage of every opportunity. This time I’ll be more than just a student, I’ll be an active participant in my education. Bozeman, here I come (in 4 months…)!

The rough plan


I’ve mentioned before that I’m about to start on a pretty drastic career change path. I’ve worked almost exclusively in the environmental non-profit world and, as a result of several life changes in the last two years, I’ve decided to make the switch to health care. While I truly believe my work in environmental education is valuable and important, I also know it’s not work I want to do forever. And I’m excited about my future in the medical field. Depending on where I end up, there will be an opportunity to provide quality healthcare and a little bit of education mixed in there too.





I know there are tons of different perspectives on Obamacare and the fact that it was upheld by the Supreme Court. This is one of those issues that people will probably never agree on. But the undeniable truth is that in the next 15-20 years, the need for healthcare providers is going to skyrocket. You can probably say the reasons with me: the baby boomers are aging,  technology allows higher quality medical care in smaller clinics and smaller towns, more and more people are suffering from diseases, the list goes on. It’s exciting to think about being a part of a field with so much at stake in the pretty near future. Obamacare or no Obamacare, privatized Medicare or public Medicare, PAs will still be needed, and here I come!

So, what does that mean right now? It means that my application for my post-bacc program will be turned in by this time next month. It means that in addition to a full-time job, I’m also taking an online class and volunteering at the hospital here. It means that next spring I will be taking a night class from 6-10 four nights/week to get my EMT so that after I finish my post-bacc program I can get a job in health care. It means that the career path that I’ve been on for the last five years is about to be replaced by five more years of training, school and work experience before I can re-enter the job market. It’s scary to think about leaving a career with an economy like this. But I also know it’s the right decision for my future, and I can’t wait to get started!

Ode to a great professor


Seven years ago I arrived on the campus at Whitman College, a naive and eager 18 year old looking forward to her upcoming college years. I was on the volleyball team, so I came to school about three weeks early to start practices and games in preparation for the season. After three weeks of three-a-day practices with little but eating and sleeping in between, the team had become close and we came to know the die-hard sports fans on campus too. One in particular stands out to me. I first met him as the red-headed, red-faced man who stood up and cheered after each successful Whitman point, stood up and shouted at the ref at any potentially close calls, waited around after games to congratulate us on our good plays, and was our greatest supporter. When I’d see him around campus, he’d yell across the quad about upcoming games, whether or not I was training hard enough, and some pointers from the last game. He even started the “BOOM” chant that became my signature after every kill I got in a game. Needless to say, he was my biggest fan.

While Hutch would never actually do this, this is the kind of spirit he possessed at our games. Raw, uncompromising support for the home team.

After two years of this kind of unflinching encouragement, I decided it was time to buck up and pay him back. I registered for my first science class at Whitman College: Conservation Biology. You see, in addition to being a rabid sports fan (he acted this way at basketball and baseball games too), Hutch was also a professor of biology at Whitman. Somewhere in high school I had developed a great fear of science classes and, second semester sophomore it was time to start crossing the science requirements off my list. What better way to do it than to take a class from a professor I already knew well enough to not be shy about visit during his office hours?

This was my general opinion about science classes before taking Hutch’s conservation biology class.

Hutch was an amazing professor. For the first time science was fun, both because the material was interesting, but also because it was taught in an engaging way with field trips scattered throughout the semester to get some good ol’ hands on learning in too. We finished the semester with a group project addressing the ecosystem changes in Yellowstone National Park as a result of the reintroduction of wolves – a real conservation biology issue that took place on my home turf (I grew up 60 miles from YNP)! Now, I won’t say I was sold on science classes, but I was appreciative that Hutch took the time and energy to make a non-major class interesting for the non-science kids that took it. He was wonderful.

I only played one more season of volleyball at Whitman, but that didn’t mean that Hutch and I stopped seeing each other. When I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to make my own major, I went to Hutch for advice. He still yelled at me from across the quad, and when I ran into him at basketball games I’d go sit next to him and be embarrassed as he shouted at the refs that were only a few feet away. Hutch was a fan of students, he wanted us to succeed in whatever we were trying, and he was the most approachable college faculty I ever encountered.

This is Hutch presenting awards to the best performing male and female athlete of each grade at the annual awards banquet.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, as close as I was to him, I let our friendship drift in the years after college. I haven’t been back to Walla Walla much and have hardly kept in touch with my advisor and the professors I typically use as references. I guess I’ve always thought that they moved on as we did, once we graduate they have a new set of students to look after. This week, Hutch proved me wrong.

I’ve mentioned that I’m changing my professional path in a pretty major way. This month, I’m putting together my application to a post-baccalaureate pre-medical certificate program at Montana State University. This programs takes non-science professionals through a 15 month program to complete all the pre-requisite requirements for school in the medical and health sciences fields. While a science background is strictly forbidden in this program, they request that you provide letters of recommendation from professors (particularly in the sciences if you have them) to judge the kind of student you are and your ability to be successful in this program. After over three years of radio silence on my end, I cold-called Hutch yesterday to ask him for a recommendation. He was thrilled, both to hear from me and to hear of my plans. He immediately agreed and sent me the information form he needed me to fill out.

Hutch, I appreciate you. I may have let the last three years pass by, but from now on I’m going to remind you of that. Thanks for being great.

Fall Time


Fall is my favorite season. To me, it symbolizes new beginnings – a relic from years of going to back to school I guess. But it’s also the time when you get to think about drinking pumpkin spice lattes (yes, I will drink caffeine if it is in a pumpkin spice latte), scarves, cuddling up on the couch with warm blankets and watching movies. While spring a summer are very active in my mind, fall is a time to relax, to exhale, and to reassess. Plus, it’s the harvest! Ruby red tomatoes drooping from the vines, tiny green pumpkins peeking out behind giant, green flag leaves. Beets and onions, covered in dirt. Herbs straight from the garden into the tomato sauce. Yes, fall time – when the priorities are canning and cooking and not letting it all go to waste – is my favorite.

By the way, I caved recently and bought a pair of colored jeans. I’m a little embarrassed, but when I found a pair of emerald green jeans for $22, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve never been much for fashion, so integrating these into my pretty bare bones wardrobe may be a bit of a challenge. Fall, you and I have some fashion decisions to make. It’ll be interesting and possibly a huge disaster.

Speaking of fall and new beginnings and reassessing, this fall (Oct 1 eek!) I’m applying to a post baccalaureate pre medical certificate program at Montana State University in my hometown of Bozeman, MT. In my previous post, I mention that I’m planning to go to PA school. What I didn’t mention is that I will have to put in at least three years BEFORE I can even apply. In college I had no idea “what I wanted to be when I grow up” and as a result, I took classes that sounded interesting to me. I loved them. They’ve served me well in the thinking department. In college, I definitely learned how to think, I learned how to learn. But it was certainly not vocational and while I watched my friends (and boyfriend at the time) killing themselves to get through Organic Chemistry (Orgo or OChem depending on which college you went to), Genetics, MicroBio, etc, I wrote my 5 page papers and went outside to play volleyball. Now, four years later, I’m paying for that. Literally.

If I get in, I’ll start the program at MSU in May. It will be 15 months of INTENSE science classes – IntroBio, IntroChem, Orgo, Physics, MicroBio, Genetics, Anatomy&Physiology, the list goes on. I’m a little nervous considering I never had to study that much to get through my undergrad curriculum, but I’ve never felt so motivated before. Hopefully the feeling lasts until I can actually start the work.

In the meantime, I’m volunteering 3 hrs/week at our local hospital. I’m a nurses aid on the Med/Surg floor and my duties consist of wiping every surface down with a bleach-like substance to keep germs from being passed, checking the ceiling tiles in the patient rooms to make sure they’re not stained or dirty, and restocking rubber gloves throughout the floor. There’s more to it than that, but needless to say, it’s not glamorous work. It is fun when I get to go into patient rooms and chat with them as I work through my duties. It’s amazing and very sad how many people are alone in the hospital. I have some insight into this which I’ll be sharing in a later post.

Once I finish my post bacc work, then I have to accumulate as many “patient contact” hours as I can. I can gain these as an EMT, a CNA, an ER Tech or a few other positions that are highly competitive and will require additional training. It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting to feel so motivated and ready. I’ve begun taking an online math class this fall to help prepare me for some of the more challenging classes ahead.

Wish me luck!