Friday, July 29, 2011

One Week Until Classes Start!!

Is anyone else as excited as I am???

Okay... probably not but that is fine since I am excited enough for all of us! :-D

I received an email this morning outlining more of our schedule for next Friday. As of right now I don't know where my classes are going to be in a concrete sense. I know the name of the place so I could probably find it online but I think I'll feel a lot better after I've had the walking tour next Friday.

Tomorrow we're having an informal meet up with our class and the class ahead of us just to get to meet each other before the madness of classes start. They selected an Asian bistro, which is right up my alley.

There was some definite sadness yesterday, which was my last day at work. I had to say goodbye to the manger who hired me, without whom I wouldn't even know what a PA is/does, the veterinary pathologist who taught me how to gross the big scary things, and the two other grossing techs who've spent at least forty hours a week with me for the past 3.5 years and 2.5 years respectively... Who have put up with my bouts of verbal diarrhea, obsessive interests, questionable taste in music, my pervy sense of humor and just my personality in general. Work life will be very different for them--a lot busier until the new hire gets up to speed--and quieter.

It will be strange not going to work and for a few weeks in the afternoons and evenings when I look at the clock I will be thinking of them and hoping everything is going okay.

In other news I scheduled my appointment with the student health center for a PPD and a Tspot. Not sure why both since the latter is more sensitive than the PPD, but whatever. If it is a requirement they require then I'm doing it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pathologists' Assistant Interviews - Guest Post

Guest Post!

Another guest blog in my series on applying to Pathologist's Assistant Programs

As previously mentioned, Duke University interviews two candidates a day and on the day I interviewed my fellow interviewee was at the beginning of a week long journey up the east coast for multiple interviews. I was fortunate enough that she stumbled on this blog and was willing to write up her experiences to share with other people going through the PA application/interview process. I present it as it was sent to me with very minimal editing and a great deal of thanks! :)

Application and Interview Experiences for Pathologists' Assistant School
By Yorkster

First off,  I procrastinated with my program applications. This was a bad idea, especially for programs that have rolling admissions, versus programs that wait until a certain date to review applications. I know that Quinnipiac, Drexel, and Rosalind Franklin's programs have rolling admissions, but Duke, IUPUI, and I believe UMB wait until a certain point before the deadline to start reviewing applications. In total, I applied to 6 programs and interviewed at 5. Most of the applications I got in by mid-January. I got all my interview invitations within about a week of each other, so I pretty much took a week and just made one giant trip up the coast to all the schools I could. I started with an interview at Duke, then took a train up to Baltimore to interview at UMB, then took a train to Philadelphia to see Drexel. I also interviewed at RFU and IUPUI, but I'm from Indy, so not much traveling there. I'll just go down the line and give a brief summary of what each application/ interview was like:

I applied about a week before the deadline in December 2010 for the 2011 class. I heard back from them in March, and not surprisingly, they did not grant me an interview, but told me I could be considered for the following year's class. Probably should have saved my money on that one.

Drexel contacted me at the beginning of February for an interview even though I didn't have all my supporting documents in. They gave me the choice of a telephone or in person interview, and I chose phone and did a tour of the facilities with Tina Rader, one of the program directors, while in Philadelphia (they couldn't schedule an onsite interview while I was there). The actual interview was in early February and was with Jim Moore, the other program director, and it was pretty informal. Mainly it was him finding out my background, what I knew about the profession, and explaining Drexel's program to me. I got the impression that they were just as focused on making sure their program was as good a fit for me as I was for them. Both program directors were really nice and seemed really dedicated to the program. I did not hear back about their final decision because I chose a different school by the end of March, and had them remove my application. I have heard that they sometimes don't make the decision on the final few slots until a month or two before classes begin.

I applied to Duke in early to mid-January and heard back for an interview the first week in February. I would agree that how That Girl described the interview on her blog was pretty accurate for mine too. Especially what she said about the interviewers knowing your application inside and out. More than one interviewer quoted me on my essays, mentioned things from my reference letter, and remarked on specific grades. I will say that Duke was my first on-site interview, and was probably one of the more intense and formal interviews I went through. Either that or I just got more used to them as I went along.

University of Maryland 
I got a phone call from Carmen White, the program coordinator, with an invitation to interview at the beginning of February.  Dr. Castellani is the program director and he is very nice and was very helpful in accommodating my schedule. He actually met me the night before my interview when I arrived in Baltimore because was he not going to be there the day of my actual interview. He also gave me contacts of current students so I could get their take on the program. The actual interview lasted from about 10am-2pm, and consisted of a campus tour, lunch with current students, and interviews with the chief resident, several of the PA's, and the medical director. Overall it wasn't intimidating at all, and felt more informational and relaxed than some of the other interviews. Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. They did ask some interview questions, but nothing too intense or difficult, mostly about why I wanted to become a PA and what I knew about the field. Basic questions that you would expect any of the schools to ask. They accept 10-12 students and usually make same day decisions about applicants, which is nice because you don't have that agonizing waiting period. They were also very patient awaiting my decision and didn't require a deposit to secure a spot immediately, which was nice since I was still waiting to interview at a couple other schools.

Rosalind Franklin 
Once again, I didn't have my application completed until a couple weeks before the deadline,mostly because I was waiting on recommendation letters and supporting materials. I received an offer for an interview almost immediately after they received everything. They only offered one interview date, but I believe that they have several at various times throughout the year. The interview at RFU was very different from any of the other schools. RFU has the largest class with over 30 students, and I believe they interview more applicants than other programs. My interview was done with about 20-25 other applicants, and lasted about 3-4 hours. They split us into two groups, and one group listened to a presentation by the assistant program director about the program and profession and then had a group interview with everyone, while the other group toured the facilities. The group interview consisted of the assistant program director and director of clinical education tossing questions out to a group of 10-12 applicants. Sometimes they went down the line and asked a question, other times they just threw a question out there and it was up to the applicant to speak up. Personally, I didn't like this interview style and felt like the interviewers didn't get to know me as well as if they had interviewed me one on one. Also, it is somewhat unnerving when the person on your right, who has the same background as you, says exactly what you were planning to say in response to a question. Anyways, I heard back about 3-4 weeks later with their decision in an email, however the dates were all messed up in it; it said I was wait-listed for the 2013 class but if I didn't get in then I would be offered admission for the June 2012...I applied for the 2011 class, so I was pretty confused. Also, I got a letter in the mail with their final decision, addressed to me on the envelope, but the actual letter was addressed to a different applicant in Pennsylvania. So...things seemed a little disorganized with their application process.

My last interview was with IU's program in Indy, where I currently live. They contacted me at the end of January for an interview and gave me several dates to choose from. As with Duke, the faster you respond the more likely you will get what dates you want. I ended up not interviewing until March, which put me in a difficult situation with a couple of the other schools that offered me spots. The interview itself lasted all day. The morning is spent touring parts of the IU Medical Campus, which is huge, much like Duke's. Luckily, they have a monorail that transports you from the various hospitals. My tour was given by Randy Stine, the program director, and you get to spend some time in the grossing lab with the PAs. I also met with Dr. Leland (the graduate program advisor for the program) to cover the program in detail, and answer any questions I had about the program itself. Then I had lunch with both Dr. Leland and Mr. Stine and afterwards more touring and then the actual interview portion with the admissions committee (which consisted of Dr. Leland, Mr. Stine, and one of the PAs). I think that they normally do things in a different schedule but they had to switch some things around for some reason the day I interviewed. To be honest, I can't remember specifically the kind of stuff they asked, but it was typical interview questions. I do remember them asking me several questions about what a PA does and the three main areas they work in (grossing surgicals, frozen sections, and autopsies). They definitely seemed to want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. After that, I had a writing portion. I can't remember what the topic was specifically, but I believe it was something along the lines of why I wanted to be a PA. I know I felt like I just regurgitated my admissions essay. They got back to me about a week later, but their process is a little different than the other schools. The admissions committee gives a recommendation, which then goes to the dean of the IU School of Medicine Graduate Division, who has to approve it. You then get a letter in the mail granting admission.

Now, I spent A LOT of time, energy and money on this process. And I realize that a lot people are limited to where they can apply to by location and money and other factors. But I will say that more than one school commented on the fact that I applied to so many places in a positive way in that it showed I really, really wanted to do this. Nobody said anything negative about it. I ended up accepting an offer from IUPUI, which kind of makes this whole process look pointless since I'm staying where I was at, but I am so glad that I applied and interviewed at other schools because it leaves me without a doubt in my mind that I picked the best fit for me. Hopefully this info is helpful to some poor applicant out there!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The home stretch and decorating

Sleeping 5 year old
My replacement started Friday night, which is good since I only worked for a few hours before heading home to load up a rental truck and drive around picking up stuff for my apartment. At the last minute I decided to take one of the children with me because nothing makes traveling more fun than a 5 year old (or, in reality the kids were hyper and excited about the new apartment and I thought my husband's night might be less frustrating if I took the child who hates bedtime with me).

If you're going to move then it seems to be helpful to start weight training several months before. It was significantly easier to move heavy things than it would have been in April, so even though it hasn't done much for my personal body shape it has helped in that regard.

Purchased Foo Dog

Custom dyed decorative balls
The apartment is mostly set up. I have to get a smaller coffee table (and take the one I was going to have in the apartment to my current house for my husband to use) and do some decorating. To that end I've gone a little crazy with the shopping... and crafting. Luckily I've finally managed to stop myself from making more decorative throw pillows because it was getting excessive. I think not being able to paint the walls is driving me insane, but I'm adding color where I can and slowly collecting things that will make the place look more like somewhere that I actually live and not a random white box where I store furniture and sleep.

Knowing that I am leaving in 8 more work days makes it a lot harder to be a good employee. Having a fourth person in the gross room also makes it easier to slack off... But at the same time I feel like I should keep working because the transitional time while they're still training the new employee will mean more work for the two other grossing techs, so I don't want that time to have to start any earlier for them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Paperwork-y stuff

I think I'm all set for immunizations, I submitted all my information online and will mail-in hard copies tomorrow.

The only thing I'm iffy on is the PPD. I haven't had one but I have to report to the student health center when I get there anyway for a T-Spot anyway because I was born in the Philippines, so maybe that is okay. I don't want to get a PPD because the last one resulted in a rash covering my forearm and a chest x-ray. So while not 100% sure I'm allergic to it, it isn't an experience I want to repeat. I will call the health center and find out for sure. I don't want something small like that to keep me from being allowed into the program.

Meanwhile, my titers came back positive and I got a second documented dose of MMR. So I don't have to stay up at night worrying about contracting chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, or Hep. B. That is a load off my mind ;-)

I accepted my loans back at the beginning of June and everything seems fine there. I did the online master promisary note, etc. But once again part of me worries that I've missed something/screwed something up and I won't be allowed into the program. I know it is stupid and it isn't keeping me up at night or anything, it just means that I go back into my student account periodically and recheck to make sure all my loans say that I've accepted them.

My route Friday/Saturday
Three days until I have the moving truck and drive all over two states before unloading it in Hillsborough. Someone from my class and our second years may all be meeting up for lunch sometime on Saturday so I'm not sure if I can squeeze that in but it would be a good chance to get to meet more people.

I've avoided being stressed out about the move, but it will start to seem more real in the next couple days as things move from the dining room staging area to the living room (ie: by the front door) in preparation of being loaded into a truck and moving away for forever.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Required immunizations

So... either my parents skipped some of my immunizations at some point or someone missed one at some point when transcribing my immunization records.

I'm calling the health department later to see what I have to do to get a shot I think I've probably already had.

Less than a month!

This used to be my dining room. Now it is the apartment stuff.
I have an official last day at work, which is three weeks from tomorrow.  I start moving into my apartment a week from Saturday. Soooooo close!!

The plan is that I start living in my apartment full time the week before classes start so I will have time to get everything set up. Then I will have a week of classes but no kids with me, then I will have a week and a half of me in class with kids but no classes for kids, and then after that it'll be me in class full time and kids in class full time.

I don't want to plan out anything past that because I'm not sure what my schedule will be like. I don't know how many hours a night I need to plan to study and make flash cards which is what worries me.

That week off from work is when I have to retool my schedule as well. I work second shift so I am a complete night owl. I have to learn to function on a more normal time schedule, wake up early, go to bed before 1 am, etc. It has been a very long time since I have had to consistently be awake before 8:45 am. If I need to be parked by 8:30 and I have to get the kids to school and go to the gym before that I will have to wake up before 7, which seems impossible right now lol I will get used to it, I am sure. 

Moving is interesting, I haven't had to start over from scratch since 2002. I am sure that I have forgotten a ton of stuff that I will need but take for granted (like a can opener or a laundry hamper) because you're just used to always having them around. I mostly remember the big stuff like a bed, a desk, a couch, pots and pans, etc... It will be interesting though. I'm working on being minimalist when it comes to stuff. I know myself and in the absence of my husband clutter would be an issue.

I'm planning to be very strict with the kids about mess and cleaning up after themselves in terms of clothes and toys. Holy crap they will hide dirty socks everywhere, not sure why but they end up behind the piano, in and under the couches, the TV stand, their lap desk... It is bizarre. It will be an interesting shift for them. They are used to seeing me for an hour or so in the morning and then full time on the weekend with their father taking care of them as a single parent on the weeknights because I'm at work.

After we move it will be me as a full time single parent (with the help of my dad, but I'm not sure what that dynamic is going to be like so I'm trying not to make too many plans) and my husband on some weekends. He'll be the one calling at night to ask them how school was instead of me... I hope they are still young enough to be flexible about stuff like this. Even though me going to school is good for the family in the long term, I hope they will be okay with the changes that are coming up.

The younger one should be, but the older one has deeper roots, friends and a little girlfriend that he's sad about leaving... We will see what happens.