They say age is just a number, right?
From the beginning of my application process to PA school, my age always seemed to come up. While interviewing, other candidates would enthusiastically ask me when I had graduated college...only to give me a skeptical stare when I informed them I had yet to receive my degree (I was graduating in December of last year, a semester early). One candidate even shot back sarcastically "well aren't you little miss ambitious". Instead of feeling proud of what I had accomplished at my young age, I suddenly felt self-conscious that I was much too young to take on something as rigorous as physician assistant school.
Fast-forward to the first day of PA school.
I was so excited to embark on my new academic journey! Yet, the biggest concern I had starting school was that I wasn't going to be able to handle the rigors thrown at me due to my age. On the first day of school, one of the icebreakers consisted of sharing information about our "past lives". I was equally intimidated and awestruck by my fellow classmates who spoke of their former careers as physical therapists, radiology techs, phlebotomists, cardiology physiologists, respiratory therapists, nurses, and surgical techs. Many of them had worked for multiple years in their careers and were quite experienced with patient care.
For me, the closest thing I had come to "real" medicine was a full-time summer job as a CNA at my local nursing home and a dead cat in my undergrad's anatomy lab. Needless to say, my anxiety about not being prepared or mature enough to take on PA school persisted.
I silently hid my intimidation and self-consciousness from my classmates and put on my "most mature" attitude as to not embarrass myself in front of my distinguished classmates. Somewhere between day 1 and now...everything changed. Looking back on it now, I know the intimidation slid away for one reason alone: my classmates. Ironically, the one thing that intimidated me the most ended up being one of the biggest reasons I have succeeded in school so far.
One factor that I did not account for was how incredible my distinguished, talented, and genuine classmates would be. Yes, these classmates of mine are gifted beyond measures, but more importantly, they are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my entire life. Not even for one second did my classmates question the validity of me being in the program. My classmates saw me as an equal, and their former careers that I was intimidated by ended up being a huge advantage to myself. They were so open and willing to share their wealth of knowledge and experiences with me without making me feel inexperienced or less than them. In fact, some days they even ask me for help with certain topics! My classmates have been one of the biggest blessings in my life, and their support and compassion has only built up my confidence in myself. These wonderful people are not just my classmates, but my best friends too.
"Not even for one second did my classmates question the validity of me being in the program."
One thing is for certain, my classmates have taught me an important lesson that I will carry with me throughout my entire career: grow from each new person you encounter. Every preceptor, doctor, nurse, CNA...really anyone on the medical team has something important and worthwhile to offer and learn from. Yes, I will most likely never be the most "experienced" person in the room, but that is only an opportunity to grow as a clinician through their advice and knowledge.
When I embarked on this journey to becoming a PA, I was indeed a child. If I had chosen to let my fears and anxiety of not measuring up to my peers consume me, would have truly hindered my experience and closed myself off to growing as not only a future clinician, but as a person as well.
As I continue this journey, I realize that age truly doesn't matter. What does matter is an eagerness to embrace each new experience with an open mind and heart. These lessons and the people that have taught them to me make me confident that I will not begin my career as a child, but as clinician I am proud of.
About the author:
Jourdyn Mootz is a current PA student born and raised in Wisconsin. She love dogs, exercising, desserts, and traveling. In her free time, Jourdyn enjoys sharing her successes and struggles of PA school through her blog, The PA Life.