Since my PA program is only 24 months (this is on the shorter end of the spectrum) and our rotations are 6 weeks long, we get only one elective during Clinical Year. We have seven “core” rotations in Primary Care, Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Behavioral Medicine, and Inpatient Medicine — these correlate with the End of Rotation exams put out by the PAEA. Picking an elective rotation can be challenging, and a lot of my classmates felt overwhelmed with only having 1 rotation slot but being interesting in so many different subspecialties. So how did I come to the decision of making a rotation in dermatology my elective?
I’ve always been interested in dermatology, ever since I started going to one as a patient. As a fair skinned individual, I’ve been going religiously for years to get skin checks. And some of the encounters that I had as a patient really gave me the dermatology bug. So when I entered PA school, one of the clinical medicine units I was really looking forward to was derm. Unfortunately, this is our last major unit and I was so disappointed thinking that I would have to wait all year to be able to start learning about skin conditions.
Boy was I wrong. With every unit we went through, there were so many systemic illnesses that had dermatological presentations. Whether it was our infectious disease unit and learning about Lyme disease or Epstein-Barr Virus (mononucleosis) and the rash that can happen when someone takes amoxicillin, or our hematology unit and learning about hair loss that can happen when someone has anemia and an iron deficiency, I saw so many derm conditions.
So when it came time to chose our elective rotation, dermatology was already at the top of a short list for me. Then I got presented with the opportunity to do my elective during my first rotation. This is nice for a couple of reason, including that my school does not give us an EOR exam for electives – so I would be starting out the semester with an A – and that by volunteering to do my elective first, there would be less competition and I would have a better chance of getting my first choice. One of the contingency of doing your elective first is that you choose something “primary care” based, and I figured what was more general and primary care related than dermatology? The skin is the largest organ of the body, and like I said, it’s involved in SO many systemic conditions. I figured it would help me in every one of my rotations, and actually, if you look at the EOR blueprints, dermatology is tested in 4/7. For me, it worked out that something I was interested in doing is also something that going to be helpful for me in the long run as I finish clinical year.
Did I love my experience in dermatology? Absolutely. Seeing the other side of the patient/provider relationship was very educational and I enjoyed integrating my experiences as a patient into the ways that I myself treated patients. I loved seeing acne patients, because it was simple enough to treat and seeing the improvement of clear skin and the effects that has on someone’s life was amazing. Being able to do procedures and suturing broke up the repetitiveness of the day, and gave me a rush of excitement. Having a rash that wasn’t responding to medications challenged me and made me rethink my diagnosis.
Even with this great experience, am I 100% set on trying to find a job in derm when I graduate? Not at all!
A huge thing about Clinical year is making the most out of every rotation and keeping an open mind. I still have 7 more rotations to go and I could get all the way to the end of the year and find out I LOVE Emergency Medicine or Surgery! Clinical year is a completely unique opportunity — never again am I going to have the ability to encounter and practice in so many different specialties. I’m sure there will be things that I hate as much as I loved derm, but even in those scenarios, the most important thing for me to do is make the most out of my rotation. Each of them is only 6 weeks long, and realistically, you can do anything for 6 weeks. Going in with an open mind and positive attitude is going to allow me to get the most learning and hands on experience out of each one. So even though I loved my dermatology rotation, I’m not counting anything out this year.
I would love to hear your thoughts on electives that you’re interested in! Comment below what you would want to get involved in or what rotation you’re looking forward to the most during clinical year. As always, you can subscribe to the blog to get updates on new post in your email. Or you can follow me on social media!