Amanda Lariscey is a mama to a beautiful girl, wife, and a second-year PA student at Nova Southeastern University – Jacksonville. Her PA journey began while she was working as an MRI/radiological technologist at an orthopedic hospital. During her time with their group, she began to hunger for interactions that lasted longer than the duration of the patient’s scan. As she began to consider the interactions she observed between the patients and their healthcare providers (both PAs and physicians), she realized that she desired that same level of involvement in patient care. She made the difficult decision to begin the journey on a new career path to become a PA.
Why did you decide to become a PA?
As a technologist, I was able to participate in arthrograms and other special procedures. Seeing the level of knowledge of the providers increased my desire to further my knowledge of medicine. I also loved interacting with my patients but wanted to have more continuity of care with them. After 11 years of doing MRIs, I had felt like things had become routine and that I had stopped growing professionally. I love to learn and wanted a job that would allow me to be a lifetime learner.
What obstacles did you face as a mom on the pre-PA journey? PA school?
When I enrolled in classes to complete the pre-requisite coursework, my daughter was 7 years old and I was still working full-time. First, I had to prove to myself that I could do this, but once I did I just kept moving forward until I was ready for CASPA. As opening day for CASPA approached, I struggled to find the time to complete everything while still working up to 45 hours a week. Once I began interviewing, I realized that I was a bit naive about the application process and what it took to get into PA school. During an interview, I was asked about how I would fit in with my younger classmates. It was then I realized how competitive the application process was. I was up against students in their early 20s, many with stronger stats than mine. I was rejected after my first interview leaving me devastated and unsure if I would get in. Thankfully, I was accepted my first CASPA cycle, but the application process was definitely a humbling experience.
Once I received my acceptances, things became real. My daughter and I would need to move from Georgia to Florida which meant I would have no family support during the rigors of PA school. I also needed to find a new school for my daughter, and trade for a more economical vehicle as we transitioned to a one-income family. The checklist was pretty long!
Since starting PA school, the toughest thing has been juggling everything. The first semester was the hardest because I had to figure out how to make everything work. It was an adjustment period for sure. I questioned if I was being fair to my daughter and often didn’t feel good enough as a mom or student. Once our second semester began in the fall, I found some balance. I figured out how to juggle being a mom along with the demands of school. We also started clinical medicine courses that semester so that was exciting and reminded me why I even started this journey!
How did you overcome these obstacles?
After getting my first two rejections, I changed my mindset and made a commitment. I told myself that I was going to apply again if needed and apply to schools farther away. I’m grateful I didn’t have to reapply, but I had to decide to not look back and do whatever was necessary.
The other thing I had to overcome was thinking I could do it alone. Before PA school, I was the person that said: “I’ll do it myself.” That definitely had to change. In the beginning, I tried to go it alone and was often late picking up my daughter. It really does take a village and I’ve had to learn to say, “I need help.” It’s been a humbling experience to realize I can no longer do it alone. Last summer pharmacology was a late class so I had to ask my dad to come one day a week from Georgia to help with my daughter until I got home. My daughter also goes back to Georgia for a week or two in the summer and stays with the family, which helps with the cost of childcare. My husband still lives in GA, works odd hours, and travels a lot for work, but he’s been very supportive. Initially, he was disappointed that I didn’t get into a school closer to home, but he’s adjusted. When he isn’t traveling, he’ll come on a Friday night to do the grocery shopping for me, help our daughter with homework, and spend time with us before he drives 4 hours back to Georgia to be at work at 4:30 AM. He’s been a huge help! In my clinical year, my schedules aren’t as predictable but a classmate’s mom started helping with my daughter. She can get my daughter from school at a moment’s notice, has prepared meals for us and even makes me coffee on early clinic days when she takes my daughter to school. I couldn’t have made it without her! I have learned to be more flexible and accept help in any form it comes. In PA school, you really have to learn to roll with it because things don’t always go according to schedule.
How do you manage PA school, marriage, and parenting?
Initially, I was not balancing very well because of the pressures I put on myself to get all A’s. I was sleeping very little and overloading on caffeine to get it all done. It is easy to become consumed with PA school alone and forget about everything else. Realizing that the letter grade wasn’t an indication of my knowledge or performance helped me to balance school, parenting, and marriage. My daughter was 8 years old when I started PA school and it was helpful that she is fairly self-sufficient. She sacrificed being able to participate in extra-curricular activities and having all her friends around. She has taken it in stride though. She knows it is temporary and I’m doing something that makes me happy. She sees how hard I’m working and is so proud of me, which has been both encouraging and rewarding. She is also really interested in medicine now! Even though my daughter gets less of my time, I make sure that she feels like she is a priority. I am purposeful about carving out time for her even if it means we only have an hour to do something she loves, like ice-skating, which is open year-round in Jacksonville. The same thing applies to my marriage. Sometimes my husband and I lose our own communication and get into patterns where our interactions seem more like business transactions. Since we’re both leading busy and full lives, it’s easy to get off track. I have to stop and come back to square one and sometimes put PA school on the back burner. PA school is not just a strain on me, it’s a strain on my husband too! It’s hard for him to feel like I’m making time for him when all he sees is me doing school work. I have to be deliberate about prioritizing my marriage and making sure my husband feels appreciated because he carries a lot of additional weight too even though it’s different from mine. Really, it’s all about balance and giving each aspect more time when needed.
How do you find the energy to study after a long day?
As a mom, I have all these other things to get done when I get home like dinner, bath, dog walking, and homework with my daughter before I can even sit down and do my own work. I joke that I’m in fourth grade and graduate school! I didn’t drink coffee prior to school, but now we’re great friends. Programs like Beachbody On Demand allow me to workout from home, which helps me decompress and gives me the stamina to push through to do my own work after a long day.
What does a “typical” day for you look like?
What do you do for me time?
Working out is a huge stress reliever for me so I typically squeeze in 5-6 30 minute sessions a week. I’ve also become a Netflix-aholic! Before PA school, I never understood how tv could help someone wind down but now I get it! We also attend church regularly because maintaining that relationship keeps me centered.
What do you wish you knew before starting PA School?
You don’t have to be perfect in PA school! Once you’re accepted, you’re in! I knew this but still didn’t apply it. When I first started PA school, I was trying to be perfect in all aspects of life. I was spending 8-10 hours a day in class, an hour at cross fit, studying all night, and trying to be the perfect mom and wife. That’s not possible, and for me, that’s totally ok. I also felt like I had to absorb every single thing while I was in that didactic year. I won’t know everything even when I graduate! I will continue to learn and grow even as a provider. It’s a competitive process to get into PA school, but once you’re in, the goal becomes making it to graduation!
If you were able to go back in time to the moment you decided to become a PA, what is the one thing you would tell yourself?
I would tell myself it is going to be so hard with plenty of times that you won’t be able to see your way out, but it is totally attainable and worth it! I graduate in 6 months and it really has gone by so quickly. It’s been an amazing opportunity!
I graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Radiological Sciences and a specialty in MRI. My cumulative GPA was 3.53. I had 11 years for PCE from my work with the orthopedic group. I believe I had a total GRE score of 304. I was concerned my GPA and GRE scores were too low to be considered competitive, but the schools liked that I had other life experiences. I received interviews from each school I applied and was accepted to half of them.
Any advice to the mom who is hesitating?
You can do it! Don’t hesitate. Learn to ask for help. Find your tribe/village, but definitely come up with a plan because you will need one.