Second Year PA Student Blog: Olivia Brownley

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Olivia Brownley, PA-S
Olivia Brownley, PA-S

It was finally here: my first day of clinical rotations! I never thought I could be so afraid and so excited about something all at once. Didactic year felt like it had gone by in a flash and our Bridge course zipped on by. What they say about PA school being like drinking from a firehouse is very true. I couldn’t possibly have kept all that information in my brain! What was I going to do? My mind was racing with thoughts. I was thrilled that my first rotation was primary care because I would have eight weeks to get exposure to just about everything. This was also the scary part — I was going to be working on just about everything. 

As I mentioned, my class completed a course called "Bridge: The Path to Patient Care" before clinical rotations started. It was a wonderful opportunity to practice our clinical skills and learn some new ones before our rotations started. I knew that I had learned so much over the past year and Bridge definitely made me feel more comfortable with clinical skills, but I was still feeling very nervous. My biggest fears were that I wouldn’t remember anything and I wouldn’t be good enough. It seems ridiculous now, a few weeks later, but the feelings were very real. I was so nervous about missing the hospital shuttle to the clinic that I programmed the route into my phone’s GPS! As I drove my pre-planned route to the shuttle stop, I remembered that we have always been told to “trust the system” of the Duke PA program and that was what I was going to try to do. 

Before I knew it, my classmate and I were at the clinic, waiting to meet our main preceptor and begin orientation. My nerves were still going haywire. We met our preceptor and that’s when I finally started to relax a little. She was so friendly, reassuring, and clearly had a lot of experience teaching students like us. I knew then that we would be in a positive and supportive learning environment, just as our faculty had assured us would be the case.  

During the first week, I was eased into the clinic environment by initially shadowing multiple providers. Every single provider and care team member I encountered was kind and helpful. It became clear that it was okay to ask questions, and no one would be upset with me if I didn’t always know the answer to a question asked of me. The most important things were that I was actively engaged in clinic, that I tried to use my resources and learn more about things I didn’t know, and that I genuinely cared about the patients.  

Now, in later weeks of this rotation, I can’t believe I was so scared. I am assisting with more patients each day. I’ve realized that I definitely don’t know everything, but I know a lot more than I gave myself credit for. My nerves still creep up on me sometimes, but each time I face my fears and get comfortable being uncomfortable, I get to learn more and more. I’m having the opportunity to put my knowledge and physical exam skills from didactic year into use. The Duke PA program has given me the knowledge, skills, and resources to take as much as I can from this experience. In the weeks and rotations to come, I know that I will continue to be challenged, but I will certainly get closer and closer to being the provider that I want to be! 

Olivia Brownley is a second-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog twice a month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, or Duke University.