The truth about parenting and PA school

First-year PA student, Jamie Bull, outlines a typical day in the life of a full-time parent and full-time student.

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6:00 am: The alarm goes off and my feet hit the floor before the temptation hits to sleep in…either that or my little one has already come in to say “good morning” and there is no chance of going back to sleep once that happens😊.

6:00 am – 7:15 am: Time to get myself and little one ready, grab backpacks & lunches, keys, coffee, phone and we are out the door.

7:15-7:30 am: Drop-off at the YMCA…never underestimate the value of a pre-school program that has smiling faces and activities ready to go, especially when your child is one of the first ones dropped off. We use this time in the car to go over spelling words or talk about our days.

7:30 – 8:20 am: My commute to Campbell…every day I rely on WAZE to let me know if I need to alter my route…of course once you are on Old Buies Creek Rd, you are at the mercy of the tractors and you may be adding a few extra minutes to your day.  On the way in, I usually drink my first cup of coffee and listen to Crash Course or Ninja Nerd videos which are especially helpful with Pathophysiology.  I tried listening to class lectures in the car, but it is a bit too intense to try and pay attention to and not get in an accident.

8:25 – 5:00 pm: Prep for the Day, Class, Lunch, Class

I like to get in a bit early to print any materials I might need for lecture, but also to eat my breakfast and hit the Keurig.  Admittedly, I am not a fully functioning human until cup number two is coursing through my veins. Class requires your full attention and if you can prepare a bit the night before, it is extremely beneficial. Some days if it is solid lecture, I get a bit antsy as I am used to being up and moving throughout the day.  It helps to walk around the building with other classmates during breaks and at lunch. Lunch is also a great time to catch up on personal emails, make your grocery list, and check in with your spouse or partner. If we finish lecture earlier than 5:00 pm, I use the extra time to study and review the day’s material.

5:10 pm: On the road and headed back to Raleigh.  My aftercare ends at 6:00 pm so I must leave the Creek by 5:10 at the latest to make it there on time. I use this time to decompress with my favorite tunes or podcast and catch up with friends.  My brain needs a break after a full day of classes.

6:00 -8:00 pm: Pick-up and Home.  It is a busy two hours, but it is one of my favorite parts of my day.  After a quick dinner, it’s all about playtime, bath, reading books, and our bedtime routine. I used to do laundry on the weekends, but now I spread it out every day which helps keep it from piling up. Every night we share what we did during the day, what we are doing tomorrow, what we are grateful for and one interesting thing that happened during the day.  This is something we began well before PA school, but it is one way to truly stay connected with my family.

8:00 – 11:30 pm: Time to hit the books again.  Studying after being in class all day is tough, but necessary in order to keep up with the material being presented. Two nights during the school week, I work out with the Freeletics App which combines HIIT and strength training into 30-minute workouts.  I usually arrange these days around my lecture schedule and comfortability with the material. Along with reviewing the material I am a bit shaky on from the day, I also download my materials for the next day and try to preview them in order to be better prepared.

11:30 pm: Bedtime. I used to stay up later attempting to study, however, I quickly realized I couldn’t retain anything, and I wasn’t productive. Number 1 lesson learned in Block 1…SLEEP is vital to your success!

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…. Rinse, Repeat, and do it all over again.

Weekends…. One thing I quickly learned is that weekends are your best source of block studying.  I will go to the library or a coffee shop with noise cancelling headphones and study for 5-7 hours at a time. This is ten times more productive than being at home…if you are home, you will want to hang out with your family and not study…you will be distracted by laundry, clutter, and all the things you “should be doing”. I also schedule at least one 60-minute workout for myself at the Y and go grocery shopping on study breaks.  Every few weeks, usually after an exam, we have a Family Day or Date Night so that we have special moments to look forward to.  This is crucial as everyone, even you, will get tired of hearing, “I need to study”.

Truth…. your house will be a lot messier than it was before school started.  Your food prep and meals will become more streamlined and simpler and the Crockpot or Instapot will become a saving grace in order to not feed your family a steady diet of frozen meals and takeout.  You will require help from your spouse, partner, family, friends to navigate the birthday party circuit and sports commitments, because well face it, you will be studying.  Please remember to take time for yourself…. self-care is vital!  Combine chores or even studying as quality time with your little ones…Practicing Skills is a great way to have your little one be a “patient” and they love the attention.  Also, teach them your material…. I’d advise skipping the Infectious Disease material but explaining the digestive system or how the heart works is something they might find really cool.

Bottom line, you will be exhausted and overwhelmed, you will have moments when you feel you are failing as a student, friend, spouse, parent, daughter or son, but hang in there…. you’ve got this!  Ask for help, take a moment for yourself, sleep, stay active, establish family routines and as they say, take a deep breath, trust the process, and enjoy the journey!

 

– Jaime L. Bull, PA-S1