Preparing Your Support System for PA School

PA school is not a one woman (or man) journey. A support system is crucial, especially when raising a family. Before moving forward, it’s important to bring your loved ones on board with your career/education goals. Although they are not on campus with you, they feel the stress of the program just the same. While you’re studying for hours in solitude and silence, guess who is taking care of the kids, balancing checkbooks, cleaning, cooking, working overtime … basically creating an environment that allows you to focus on school. That would be your support system. Those people who listen to you rant about long days at school, the professor you don’t like, classroom drama, the exam that you studied so hard for but failed… The ones who support you through your emotional breakdowns and encourage you to keep going when you feel like quitting. Those who are your surrogate patients when practicing physical exams, helping you memorize scripts, and listen to you go on and on about some random disease. If they are going to struggle with you for the next 2+ years of the PA program, it’s only right that you prepare them for the ride. Here are a few key points to cover:

  1. What is the end goal? – Share the vision with them. What is it that you plan to accomplish? This is going to require a great deal of time, commitment and money so let them know where these plans will lead you and the family?
  2. Tell them what you need and want – Explain what you will require from them. Be clear about the type of support you are expecting from each member and don’t beat around the bush. If it’s financial, child care, emotional, help around the house, transportation, or advice; then say so. Be straightforward about what it is that you need to make your vision come to life.
  3. Tell them why – Why do you want this so bad? You shared the vision, told them what you need and want, now explain why you need them on this journey with you? Most importantly, Why now?
  4. What changes can they expect – What sort of changes are going to happen as a result of you going back to school? You need to be transparent and realistic here. Will your partner/spouse need to work overtime, will you need a nanny, what’s going to happen to your relationships? How will this affect the children and family dynamic? Understand that every aspect of your life will be affected, and you need to prepare for the worse case scenarios. Don’t assume that everything will fall apart, but it’s nice to have a plan in place in case it does.
  5. Show your appreciation – Take the time to show them how much you appreciate all the sacrifices and extra tasks they take on to help get you through PA School.

Always be honest, clear and direct during these conversations. Stress the importance and let them see your passion. No one will want this is bad as you do, so be aware that they may not understand it initially. But that’s okay. What’s important is that they support you and be your cheerleaders anyway. One day they will understand.

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