Sunday, 9 December 2012

1st Semester Home Stretch!

We survived the last week and the two presentations we had to give. Luckily we were also able to move our pharmacology short answer exam to the same day as our pharamcology final which helps us out a lot. Here is what we have in store for this week. 

Monday - Anatomy Lab & Final Exam - Focused on the second half of the semester including the anatomy of the thorax, abdomen, reproductive organs and all the nerves and arteries that supply them. 

Wednesday - Professional Studies Exam - Goes into the PA history including what is a PA, the first program in North America, US & Canada and principles of the profession.

Friday (LAST DAY!!) - Pharmacology Short Answer & Final Exam - The final exam focuses on lipid lowering drugs, antimicrobials, antifungals and antivirals. The short answer is from our tutorials as mentioned previously :) 

Wish me luck :)


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Second Last Week!!!

Last week is over and everything went well enough :P The OSCE was actually really fun and I took it as a good sign to how much I will love working as a PA. Now this is what we have to look forward to for Week 2 of the 3 week craze

Tuesday: Anatomy Presentation - Each of us was given a topic that we have learned over the semester. My topic is the mediastinum. We get 10 min to talk about our topic then a 2 min question period. *sigh - I always get nervous about presentations

WednesdayPhysiology Test #3 - Yes another physiology test! This will be on pulmonary physiology. This includes respiratory mechanics, gas transport, respiratory control, gas exchange, pulmonary disorders and ventilation and pulmonary circulation. 

Thursday:  Professional Studies Presentation - I chose to present the physician assistant role in public awareness of physician assistants in Canada. I must admit I'm having a tough time focusing my presentation. I'm planning to hopefully incorporate my blog somehow. :)

Friday: Pharmacology Short Answer Test  - In our Pharmacology course we had 5 tutorials which had case studies from the different topics of drugs we covered in class. This briefly includes pharmacokinetics, autonomic nervous system, hypertension, heart failure, anti-coagulation, lipid-lowering and antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal drugs. At this point I'm not to sure how to study for this one. 

Well, I guess I should study now :P

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

National Physician Assistant Day!! Nov. 27th

The day was a big success! There was an awesome turn out at the Health Science Centre. We were giving away free cake and it disappeared in an hour! I had some good conversations about the PA profession. Here are some pictures of the event. :)

What our T-shirts say! :)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The 3 week craze begins!

( We got to dress up into our "PA clothes" last Friday to take pictures for program promotion. I put some random action shots and fun pictures randomly within this post. enjoy! :) 

We have 3 more weeks to go until our first semester of PA school is over. It went by super fast but there is a lot left to do. Here is the agenda for this week.

Monday - Physiology test #2 
This will be on cardiovascular physiology. Including heart function, valve disease, heart failure, blood flow, vessel regulation and the infamous EKGs. 

Tuesday - Patient Assessment Formative Final
A formal practice before our actual standardized patient exam. 
**Also PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT DAY**!!! we will be wearing our spiffy new t-shirts and will be serving cake at the Health Science Center, William entrance at lunch time! (Look forward to pictures)

Thursday - Patient assessment written exam
All material is coming out of our handbook. We are being tested on how to take a general history and the Head, Eyes, Ears, Neck & Throat Exam (HEENT). 

Friday - OSCE/Standardized patient exam

Do I look the part?
I'm nervous for this one. I think it's because this is the first time I've had a practical exam before. This is how it will go. The program brings in actors to play our patient. They will have a problem with one of the systems we studied in the HEENT exam. We read the nurse's note in the front of the door and go in to take a history. Afterwards we do a focused physical exam then vocalize our findings to our preceptor. We also have to think of some differentials and a plan for our patient. Our differentials and plan are still superficial at this point because we have not yet taken adult medicine (That's next semester). Afterwards we have 15 min to write a detailed note.  


Friday, 16 November 2012


Torsade de pointes - also my "Halloween" costume this year :P

After a few confusing lectures on EKGs (Electrocardiogram or ECG) our Curriculum Integration (CI) class decided to give us some extra exposure. At the beginning of the week we went into the hospital and one of our classmates was the guinea pig for an actual EKG. We were able to visualize an EKG exam and see where the electrodes go on the body. Today we had a mock EKG interpretation test. It will still take some time to learn the different diagnosis but I can say that I'm a little more comfortable with them. 

The classes are starting to meld together. We are currently learning the thorax in Anatomy and I was able to hold and look at a few hearts. We have learned angina and heart failure drugs in pharmacology and are now learning the pathophysiology of the heart. It is truly amazing. 

Papers Update 

I must admit that I've been slow to write them. I have finished my critical appraisals, bioethics paper and anatomy presentation. I plan this weekend to finish up my research proposal and presentation for professional studies. Here's hoping :)

View of the front of the University from the grad lounge after the weekend snow storm. (Yes the dots are on the window)


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Papers on the Brain

Paper Time! 

I survived the triple exam whammy! My advice to future students is to study courses daily. Read the material and understand it. You don't realize how much you have to absorb and how hard it is to recall it in back to back exams. My downfall was a lack of sleep. From this experience I realized that I am not a 'crammer'. Luckily finals are not back to back. What a relief!

After the exams we ended the week by delving into the confusing world of EKGs. I was reminded that our finals begin in 3 weeks and that it was time to think of what most science students dread the most, PAPERS & PRESENTATIONS :)

So what do we have to do? Refer to the picture above...

1. Research & Clinical Practice
This course is to prepare us for our CAPSTONE project. The CAPSTONE project is our big research paper which is done in our second year. In this semester we are learning how to critically appraise articles and how to form our research question. 

2. Professional Studies
This course introduces us to physician assistant culture and to begin our understanding in our role in health care.   



Look forward to our plans for PA Day!  

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Exam, Exam, Exam (3 in a row)

Me  at 1.5 weeks into studying  :)

It's 11:33 pm on a Saturday night, the last of the Halloween parties are "getting started". I'm sitting with my notes and have been studying for the past 2 weeks for the crazy triple back to back midterms.

First up Physiology on Monday. We are learning the basic science of membranes including ion changes and action potentials. This is continued with the physiology of skeletal and smooth muscle contraction and physiology of blood. This includes cells found in the blood, the coagulation/clot forming pathways and immunology. 

Second midterm on Tuesday is Anatomy. This includes the bones and muscles of the upper and lower extremities, the brain, the head, neck and face. Then you add the nerves and arteries that go with each area. It feels like I'm learning a whole new language. Lots of new terminology!

Last midterm is Pharmacology on Wednesday. Another big subject full of mysterious drug names. The midterm is on drugs for angina, blood clotting, diuretics, arrhythmias and heart failure. 
Yes it is stressful :) I don't know what I know at this point. I try to keep calm and do what I can. No point in worrying. Our class has already planned a costume party this coming Friday to make up for the Halloween parties we missed. I am looking forward to it! 


Learning the HEENT (Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose & Throat Exam)
We started our weekly labs for patient assessment. This class puts what you are learning into reality. It is great to get out of the books and learn some hands on skills.

More practice on taking blood pressure :)

Learning the Ear Exam

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The First Month of PA School

Orientation Week - University of Manitoba 

University of Manitoba Physician Assistant Class of 2014 - Our class after taking individual identification pictures for our professors
The first week of school was very exciting for me. I had prepared with an expensive shopping trip in the states, buying "professional clothes" which should be added into your budget when you're accepted. The whole week we had presentations from multiple groups within the university and from different health care organizations. We were all registered with the Physicians & Surgeons of Manitoba and were taught about professionalism and privacy laws (PHIA). We met with Manitoba Health and with the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA). 

During the whole week I had mixed emotions. I went from being excited, ancy, scared and nervous. We also found out that week that we have our first midterm in biochemistry in less then 10 days and we haven't had our first class.

Inauguration ceremony

I admit I was choked up when we read the Hippocratic Oath. I was so thrilled that I will be able to help people through medicine. This is what I've always wanted to do.

Class picture - (You can't see me in this one :P)
ASUS Transformer Update

Something unexpected happened before classes started. I accidentally spilled water on my 6 year old MacBook so now the Asus has been my only "computer". I must admit after the first week of school I couldn't break out of my old ways of printing notes and didn't end up using the Asus as much as I wanted to. It does have alot of nice features which I've only begun learning. So in the aspect of writing notes on the Asus I haven't used it enough to form a good opinion.

Because my laptop died, the main problem I have with the Asus tablet is the lack of Microsoft word. At this point I am debating on whether to buy a new laptop, but to be fair I bought the Asus to be a secondary device with my laptop. The purpose of the Asus was for note taking from power points and lectures not for writing papers and running programs. 

Biochemistry Finished! 

We had our final exam in biochemistry last Friday. This course went by fast and we learned alot. It was intense and set the pace for what is expected in this program.


What I've learned from the first month of the program is aside from time allotted for school you need to plan time for yourself. As each day goes by it all begins to blur together. Time seems to be against you. It's best to take PA school one day at a time. Do what you need to do now and worry about things as they come. As for me I love school. I am finally starting to learn about medicine and every subject and topic I come across is another step closer to becoming a working PA. I do become frightened with the expectations they have for us. It is always mentioned in every class that by the end of the didactic year you will know this. Here's hoping :) 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Imagine the above image with Canadian bills :P

The past few months I have been figuring out what equipment I need and how I will pay for my school.
Tuition at the University of Manitoba runs at about $15,000 a year plus equipment, books and costs associated with clinical placements.
I applied for a government student loan which you apply for from your own province. In Manitoba it is the My SAO (My Student Aid Online) website.  They ask for your income pre-study period (4 months before you start school) and study period which for me will be $0. I applied with no luck “Your assessed need is $0”.
I then applied to RBC for a student professional designation line of credit. I sent an online application and then called them to make sure that I did it correctly. I asked them if Physician Assistant was under the professional designation. The rep flat out said “No”. She told me to wait until they processed my application. This was really quick. I received an e-mail that same afternoon and was told to call back. I was able to receive the amount I requested with no co-signer. YEY! I did need to meet with a RBC rep in person. The RBC rep was really strict on finding proof of registration. (If you are going to the University of Manitoba make sure you print the accepted portion in aurora which is under applications to graduate studies.) I spent about 15 minutes searching my IPhone for what satisfied them as registration proof. As a Physician Assistant student you are able to get $60,000 max from the RBC student loan.
It was settled, I will be using my line of credit for tuition :D

There wasn’t much information given to us but to buy a stethoscope. I found this great discussion at mypatraining.
I ended up buying the Littman Cardiology III – Brass – Yes it looks Gold & Black – just my style :D

Okay after some research and talking to current students, their advice was to get or use an electronic device. After much debate, mainly from my husband who doesn’t want me to get an IPAD because it is basically an enlarged IPHONE which I already have, I decided to buy an Asus Transformer TF300T. It’s a great price which includes 32GB and a keyboard that has a USB port and adds 5 extra hours of battery life. I will be downloading Supernote to organize my notes and buying the DAGI stylus. I will wait till August to purchase it :) Maybe it will be a birthday gift :D or maybe I'll change my mind again.... :P

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Getting into PA School – Once I found out it existed :)

I realized I haven’t mentioned how I was able to qualify and apply for the Physician Assistant Program. Here it is! I apologize for the length :)

Before I knew about the PA program I was pursuing medicine. After deciding my personality did not fit with medicine I started looking at physiotherapy but then discovered the PA profession in August 2011. I was lucky that I had taken all of the prerequisites and eligible to apply for the September 2012 intake. Having had medicine in mind, I had a lot of volunteer and extracurricular on hand. At that point I had volunteered twice at the folk festival. I had previously volunteered at a hospital. I volunteered at a shelter for youth and I was in the process of becoming a mentor. Aside from volunteering I had worked in my undergrad with a kids program for 3 years. This is where I found my first reference. During my free time I was part of the University Dance Team for 3 years, a hip hop dance group for 1 year and worked at a hot yoga studio at various times. I was also taking adult musical theatre classes and at one time was taking jazz and ballet classes as well.

When I was looking at the prerequisites I realized that I had taken most of them in my first and second year which was 6-7 years ago! At that point I was “living out my youth”. After going through the International Baccalaureate Program in high school university seemed simple except for one problem, I forgot that you still have to study. :P

Because I had intended to do my prerequisites for the Physiotherapy Masters Program at U of M I was registered at the U of M as a continuing student. I was debating whether I should retake anatomy & psychology. After talking to my husband and having a tight budget I decided not to. My husband said if you have all the prerequisites and get in then it would be a waste of money retaking those courses. So I spent the year working at a laboratory. I have already worked in the lab for about 2 years as a student and as a casual. When my casual term ended I was rehired to work another term. Working in the laboratory, I gained experience in research and diagnostic testing. This is where I found great references.

Then it was the point of writing the personal essay. It took about 2 weeks of writing and re-writing and getting my husband (history major, English minor teacher) to edit and re-edit. He was dreading each draft and even wanted to write it for me. Of course I said no, I wanted the letter to come from me and it was a great way to learn how to write properly. I added my CV, transcripts, along with my 3 references and a section on volunteer and academic experiences. Application sent.


A few months later someone told me that the PA program was really competitive and to think about applying to nursing instead. I respect nurses, but I remembered when I took the class Intro to Nursing, I dropped it. The nursing profession does not fit with me. At this point I felt defeated. I decided to retake the MCAT and apply to the McMaster Physician Assistant Bachelor Program in Hamilton, Ontario.

The prerequisites for the McMaster PA program was 2 years of undergraduate university. The application process was much different compared to U of M. It required you to send them your transcript and fill out an online form that had 5 questions about yourself such as what your weaknesses are and how will it affect you as a PA etc. This application didn’t end well. I was not invited for an interview. (Luckily this all happened after I found out I was accepted to my top choice at U of M.)

At this point my term at the lab was ending. I felt I had no future and that my micro degree was a waste. My former supervisor offered me a masters position in his laboratory which would lead to a Masters in Medical Microbiology. I heavily contemplated about taking it but I knew that I could not do research for the rest of my life and so I declined. I had also finished an application to the Midwifery Program at the University of the North but they weren't taking applications at the time.


Then on Feb 10th I received an e-mail

I was offered an interview for March 9th. I was dancing in my lab all morning. I could not believe that I had an interview. I was happy, excited and nervous. (Read the “interview (MMI) section on how I prepared)

Some point afterwards I was extended at work for a year. "Whew! This news allowed me to relax a little. I had a good job as a backup in case I needed to reapply.

On March 20th I was recommended for a position in the PA program to the Faculty of Grad Studies (they determine if you have the prerequisites to do a Masters). I also cancelled my MCAT that day :P.

Then on April 23rd it was official, I was approved by the Faculty of Grad Studies. :D :D :D  More of my happy dance! There were over 100 applicants for 12 spots.  

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

First Post! & The Summer Before School

I would like to welcome everyone for taking the time to take a look at my blog :D. Once school starts up I will try to post once a week on Fridays. I hope this will give the inside scoop of what PA education looks like and will interest a few of you to move onto the PA path.  I hope when the interest in this blog increases so will the awareness of PAs in Canada. My goal is for everyone to have at least an idea or have heard of the term Physician Assistant. Let's make that happen! 

Okay Down to Business 

The Summer Before School  

A few weeks after we were accepted into the program there were a few things that needed to be done.

• Criminal records and child abuse check – done

• Application to College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (CPSM) Education - done
This was very exciting but registration is expensive. It is a governing body to Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba – just like the name says :). Once registered you receive a number which stays with you throughout your practice. It keeps track of who your patients are. This is needed before you start the program at Manitoba.
• BOOKS – summer reading

a) Medical Terminology: A Systems Approach.  (sixth edition by Gylys) – Of which there will be an evaluation of our knowledge during orientation week. :S

The books below were the courses that students found the most difficult. The premise is the more we review during the summer the easier it would be during the year. My first thought when I opened the book, “This is not ridiculously simple at all, not even just simple.” :P

b) Clinical Pharmacology made ridiculously simple by Olson

c) Clinical Pathophysiology made ridiculously simple by Berkowitz 

So the question is how much should I study?
I’ve asked some past students and have asked this on forums. The consensus was to spend as much time as possible with your friends and family because once school starts you will disappear. This made me a excitedly nervous. 
So what will I do this summer?
I will go over the entire medical terminology book and will lightly read the rest. But knowing myself I might get keen.