Second Year PA Student Blog: Rachel Solomon

Friday, October 25, 2019

Rachel Solomon, PA-S
Rachel Solomon, PA-S

Reflections on How to Achieve Self-Care in Physician Assistant School

“What does my soul need right now?”

“What does my body need right now?”

“What’s bringing me joy today?”

These are the types of questions I’ve learned to actively ask myself while studying every night and trying to make it through one exam and onto the next. Physician assistant education is challenging and time-intensive. The constant grind will affect your sleep schedule, diet, exercise, relationships, and general routine. However, PA school doesn’t have to negatively impact these areas of your life. If you’re applying to PA school (or even if you’re already in the thick of it!), I encourage you to consider how you will best care for yourself.

What does my body need right now?

If I’ve just arrived home from a long day in the outpatient clinic, and I’m feeling a little run down but I know I need to get some studying done, I allow myself time to transition. I might go to the gym or go on a run, or simply get a few chores done around my apartment. Making time for physical activity has been essential for me to stay focused and energized for my studies.

If I’m studying late in the evening and getting sleepy, I try to find a good stopping point and get ready for bed. If my body is sending me cues, I need to listen to them! I don’t try to push through and stay up super late studying; it’s not effective for me. I need to be feeling my best to optimize my attention and energy the next day. Whether my body is telling me to sleep, eat, run, or even dance around my room, I do my best to make it a priority.

What does my soul need right now?

Maybe I’ve been indoors all day, and I need to see the sun for a quick minute or hear the crunch of the first fall leaves under my feet. Perhaps a phone call home to hear about my parents’ day would do the trick to get me out of a funk. Whatever I’m craving, I try to take note and make time to nourish that aspect of my life. The times I have taken a break from my textbooks and baked cookies or decided to paint or journal are just as important as studying for making me a better provider for my patients.

Where am I finding joy today?Student Rachel Solomon enjoying mountains

Every so often, I may find myself yearning for the weekend or looking forward to the next scheduled school break, or maybe even to the end of a unit or rotation. I recognize that not every day is going to be amazing, but each day, I try to ground myself and reflect on the things

and experiences that fill me with gratitude. Sometimes, an encounter with a kind, talkative patient will be the highlight of my day. Other times, I feel content recognizing and cherishing the privilege I have to be a full-time student, learning from knowledgeable preceptors and faculty. Maybe my joyous moment of the day is performing well on an oral case presentation, or just eating a really tasty homemade lunch. Regardless of where I find my happiness, I make a point to look for it every single day.

These two years go by very quickly, and while I am striving to be my best self in the classroom and on rotations, I want to be present for the other parts of my life. It is possible to strike a balance in PA school. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned to be the protector of my own time. I try to be mindful of my individual needs and give myself the space, time, relaxation, and breaks that I need.

Caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your patients. I believe if you practice good self-care, you will bring the best version of yourself to work every day, and your future patients will thank you for it.

Rachel Solomon 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.