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Attending PA School During a Pandemic

By Sam Kelly (

Since the moment I decided to apply to PA school I had imagined what it would be like to go to PA school. I pictured myself walking around my future campus with friends, sitting in lectures with my classmates, and attending many different clinical sites in multiple specialties. The way I originally imagined PA school to be is unfortunately not how I am currently experiencing it…

Because of the spread of COVID-19 many schools have transitioned to fully online PA School, something that has only been done by one PA program before. Luckily by the time I started PA school in the Fall of 2020, my program was allowing us to attend PA school via a “hybrid method”. All my lectures were to be online, from home, while my Cadaver Lab and Physical Diagnosis Lab were going to be in person (thank goodness so I can wear my Urbane Scrubs). Though I imagined PA school to be 100% in person before all this, I was grateful that the hands-on parts of PA school were still going to be on campus. I know it hasn’t been that way for everyone.

I am one of the many PA students who are experiencing this “new norm” of PA School. It has been exciting, difficult, scary, and rewarding all in one. Pros and Cons come with every new experience and I know that if you’re starting PA school now or in the near future this may be your reality too! I put together a few tips & tricks if you are also Attending PA School During a Pandemic:

  1. Online classes are not as bad as I thought they were going to be! I am not going to lie; I was dreading the idea of online classes. I would not describe myself as self-motivating so the idea of having to wake up and motivate myself to do a lecture was terrifying. Luckily with PA school as my only responsibility these days it was easy to want to start the lectures… The hard part is staying on top of them and time management, but I am getting better with those skills as the semester goes on! Surprisingly, there are some real positives to online lectures: you can wear your PJs and you can pause, rewind, and take breaks as you need! It has been a game-changer to be able to customize my days around my needs.

  2. I still am getting to be social with my cohort. This was a big concern of mine. People always told me they found some of their best friends in PA school, so I was excited to be friends with others that were going through the same thing as me. Knowing that we were going to be partially online I think my cohort made the extra effort to plan social gatherings (safely!), talk via group message and form study groups. As long as the effort is there, you all can be as social as you want. Maybe you can even plan a gathering for your cohort to give them that push.;)

  3. Having a study space at home is so important! Not just a desk, but an area you can go to watch lectures, study & get into that “school mode”. I was never the type of person that studied at home in undergrad. I associated the library with studying & home with sleep, lol. Obviously, that had to change. I set up a cute and comfy home desk where I complete all things school-related. Make this a space you want to sit at by customizing it to your needs.

Here are some of the school essentials I think every online PA Student needs:

  • Extra monitor/screen – I didn’t think this would be a necessity at first, but it is seriously a game-changer. Sometimes I have up my notes, the lecture, the online textbook and the PowerPoints all at the same time. This leads to a very crammed screen & too many tabs open. You can catch me using my laptop on a stand, the monitor & my iPad screen all at the same time!

  • Coffee mug warmer – Okay, here me out. I get my cup of coffee, then I start a lecture, after about 10 min of being studious I reach for my coffee and… IT’S COLD! I am not even kidding, I was getting up every 10 minutes to reheat my coffee cup which was causing very frequent distractions.

  • Plant – Mine is a fake one, but I heard somewhere that plants on the desk are a must because the green gives you a sense of tranquility within the midst of a busy day of studying. I mean this could all be a lie, but it definitely adds a nice touch!

  • Comfy/Soundproof Headphones – This is a MUST, I promise. Some days I have to listen to my professors for 8 hours and after a while, headphones can start to hurt my ears. Also, if you live with others, soundproof headphones are a necessity to drown out the sounds of TV & talking.

  • Desk Chair with Lumbar Support – I started off with a cute accent chair & quickly switched to a desk chair with lumbar support. Save your back now people because once you’re a practicing PA you’ll be kicking yourself in the booty when you’re running around with back pain that could’ve been prevented!

  • Blue Light Glasses – Let me start off by saying… THEY WORK! My first couple of weeks of school my eyes felt strained and tired and I would have to take breaks even though my mind was still ready to go! Then I got a cheap pair off Amazon, just to see if they worked & they 100% do. I can stare at a screen for hours now and thank goodness because that is a daily thing in PA school!

I hope my tips and tricks help ease your mind about starting PA school in a pandemic & ease your transition into this new, fun and exciting time in your life! Of course, there are some things I wish I could change, but I have to say that the pandemic has not hindered my PA school experience as much as I thought it would! PA school is what you make of it regardless if it is online or in-person.

PA school has been a lifestyle change & has been hard, but I created a community on Instagram and YouTube where I am able to share my experience with other likeminded individuals. I like to show you all what it is really like to be in PA school so I show the good days and the bad & try and give a safe place where other students can relate to each other through our mutual experiences like this blog post! If this is something you’re interested in you can join my journey on Instagram at or YouTube by searching “My Path to PA”.

-Sam Kelly

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