PA student Matt Tarlton came to believe faculty when they say “trust the process”

Matt Tarlton (’22 MPAP Candidate) shares his journey to “trust the process” during PA school.


There’s a phrase that all Campbell PA students have memorized by the second week of the program. It’s driven into your head by the faculty from orientation onward. They warned us things would be difficult and there would be times where we felt stressed to our limits; that we might wonder at times how (or if) we can even do this. When these times come, they told us to remember to “trust the process.”

Personally, it took a little while to trust myself enough to trust the process. There’s another concept the faculty spoke about when the program began: Imposter Syndrome. It’s the pervasive feeling you somehow slipped your way past the rigorous screening process and gained acceptance to the program without the ability to succeed in it. Imposter Syndrome was very real for me.

Being in my mid-30’s now, I count myself among the subset of PA students for whom healthcare is a second (or third, or fourth) career. I spent several years after college working in the pharmaceutical manufacturing field, where I was initially content. I had very little stress, a predictable schedule, and a sustainable income. Eventually though, my contentment subsided, and I began to feel stagnant and unchallenged. I couldn’t escape the feeling I needed to do something more impactful with my life.

After a lot of internal debate and some heartfelt talks with my (now) wife, I decided to begin anew in healthcare with the ultimate goal of becoming a PA. However, unlike many of my amazing classmates, who I feel certain spent their undergraduate years ruining the curves that people like me depended upon, I was never more than an average student. So, while I worked to gain healthcare experience, I also worked to become a better, more capable student who could meet the demands of PA School.

Four years and some months later, as the first block of PA School was picking up steam, I began to really struggle with the Imposter Syndrome the faculty had warned us about. I was intimidated by the material, and it seemed everyone else in the class was grasping things far better. Despite how I had improved myself immensely as a student, I kept revisiting in my head all those times I had done poorly as an undergraduate. I feared our first exam would expose me as a fraud.

Leading up to that first exam, however, as everyone was still getting to know one another (not an easy feat in the virtual world of 2020), I learned, in fact, that I wasn’t alone. My class is truly made up of brilliant, amazing people, each seemingly bringing their own strength to the table. Many shared the same doubts I had. As we worked together to help one another study and assuage our fears about the daunting nature of the material, we reminded each other of that phrase we’d heard since the beginning: trust the process. There have been many classes before us to successfully make it through. The faculty clearly know how to deliver the material to us in such a way that we can handle it. Trust the process.

Fortunately, that first exam (as well as each subsequent one) came and went without exposing me as a fraud who didn’t belong. I’ve continued to survive, thanks in large part to the faculty’s guiding hands and the helpful nature of my peers. PA School is definitely hard, as it should be. But at Campbell, there are no imposters. Believe in yourself, lean on your peers when you need to, and trust the process.