Monday, November 19, 2012

One door closes... (not pathology related, sorry)

Buy this house, buy it!

On Friday I was absent from autopsy and I traveled to the town where my parents have lived for twenty years to be there for my mother. She retired from the Department of Social Services, a veteran of many, many years of government services. She did a stint in child protective services, years in medicaid, a stretch in adult protective services that included working from home for hours each night in addition to the full days put in at the office, and ended as a worker in AFDC. I can't think of a time in recent memory where we have gone out in the town near her home where we didn't run into someone she'd helped on their way to a better life.

On her first day of retirement she wanted to close out her career with a party for all of the people she'd worked with over the years. She invited other retirees, long time coworkers, and her best friends to join her for a night of music and food. It was a lovely party, well attended and extremely well provisioned (it is cultural!). My sister flew in from Tennessee, my husband drove up from Columbia, and I brought the rest of the family down from North Carolina.

My parents have their house up for sale (and our first house is also up for sale, if anyone wants to move to upstate SC and would like a house or two!). My mother will take a few weeks off to visit a family friend in a pleasant location and then start splitting her time between North and South Carolina until the house sells. And then my parents will officially be homeless (except for a third house that they own in another town in upstate SC) and living with me and the kids.

I dropped my sister off at the airport on Sunday morning and I realized at that moment that it was the last time that we would all be together in their home. I should feel more nostalgic about it, but the house has been renovated enough since the last time I lived there that it doesn't feel familiar. It makes it so much easier to move somewhere else.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My husband is hilarious (don't tell him that I admitted that)

I'm on google chat with my husband discussing the sorts of things you think about when you're job hunting, like having to come up with (if asked during an interview) my strengths and weaknesses. He replies with the following:

Weakness: I am too awesome
Strength: I am very modest

Things that can be unpleasant

One thing I've noticed is that I really do tend to do things that I find unpleasant. For instance, I will almost always volunteer to run the bowel when I'm on autopsy (of course that usually makes the person that I'm on service with volunteer to do it the next time) because I think that repeated exposure will desensitize me to the experience. And, I'd like to think that I'm getting faster at it!

I do the same thing with products of conception. Some of my classmates have had moments that were emotionally difficult when handling POCs with identifiable fetal parts, and I'm not completely immune to it. Some people react to their discomfort with seeing a POC by being vocal about their squeamishness (not necessarily at Duke, we received them were I worked before as well), which is another reason why I volunteer to handle those specimens. I know that with my language and actions I'm not doing anything that I wouldn't be comfortable with the parents seeing. The staff PAs stress to the students and residents to not say anything in the dictation that would be upsetting to the parents, and I think it is just a good practice to keep their sensibilities in mind.

And finally, the interview process. Surprisingly, I like interviews. I don't tend to get nervous about them, possibly because I moved around so much as a child and I'm comfortable meeting strangers. Now afterwards I might think back on how things could have been phrased better or information that I wish I had put forth, etc. But during the actual process I'm usually fine. What I am not particularly looking forward to is salary negotiation. It isn't just the number, it is factoring in continuing education allowance, hours, weekend and holiday call, relocation expenses, cost of living, corporate culture, bonuses, and a lot of other things. No one else in our class has gone through the process yet, so we're all still feeling our way through it. We have interview and application resources that we're reading through but there is a huge difference between reading up on it and actually doing it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Job Hunting

When I walked into the PA student room on Monday I saw two of my classmates working on their resumes. It seems like all of a sudden November hit and we all decided it was time to get serious about job hunting.

I wonder where I'll be living this time next year!
I have written a resume and had it reviewed by a few friends that I trust. I feel pretty good about it and I hope that it serves me well. And while I'm not particularly big on self promotion, I will be available for hire and will be able to start working July 2013!

My husband and I had a chance to talk about employment and our future this weekend. I know that it is prudent to start my job hunt sooner rather than later because he will also need to find a job, which is why I've seriously started looking. I would love to stay in Durham, but I know because we all stay in town for our clinical rotations it is one of the few places in the US where there isn't a shortage of PAs. So, I'm keeping my options open. My parents are leaving the country and neither my husband or I have roots anywhere in the US so we're viewing this as an adventure. We will see where the job market takes us.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rotated through and now back to autopsy

Friday was my last day doing surgical specimens for a while. It was a good five weeks and I feel a lot more comfortable at Duke surg path. I know that I still have a ways to go on getting my dictations where I want them to be but I did get a lot more positive feedback on them on them this go-round.

We have case assessments where the pathologist who reads out the case can comment on our dictations and sections on the cases that we select for assessment. And it can be disheartening some times when the staff PA looks over the blocks being submitted and praises the sections but the assessment comes back with the pathologist not liking them... or having one pathologist wanting larger sections and another wanting smaller ones. That is all part of the learning process. It isn't easy or fun to get feedback (unless it is 100% enthusiastic and positive, because who doesn't love that?) but it is helpful.The good thing about being able to handle constructive criticism and apply it is that it means that there should be improvement. Learning to tailor your sections to the pathologist reading them is a very important professional skill!

Still, I really enjoyed my time on surg path. I felt like things were starting to become more comfortable and familiar at Duke. And I was able to answer the questions the staff PAs put to me about the disease processes going on in the specimens I was grossing and what sections needed to be submitted, etc. It was nice to feel confident about that.

Meanwhile, as of this morning I am back on autopsy for two weeks. Oh autopsy! You never know what the work load is going to be, but I like it a lot - more than I thought I would before I started the program.  The one thing I miss equipment-wise is a scale that you can wheel the gurney on to get the patient weight. But other than that, it is great. Everyone that works there has been working there for years and teaching for ages so they're very focused on us as students. Plus, most of the organs are relatively normal (which is not something you get too often in surg path) and it helps reinforce anatomy information. During this rotation I'd like to get evisceration down, which everyone seems supportive about so hopefully we'll have some cases that are good for teaching (ie: there's not a recent thoracic or abdominal surgery in the patients that would require a more experience hand for evisceration, etc).

In completely unrelated news, the first years had their first gross anatomy practical this morning. Oh goodness, I remember being in their position last year... it hits at the end of a solid month where there was a test in a different subject every Monday. Hopefully they're all recovering from all the studying but having a relaxing night. It is one of those situations where it feels like it has been forever since we were doing that and no time at all.