My PA Journey – Tangie the PA

Tangie the PA

Tell me a little bit about yourself

My name is Tangie, I’m a 28 year old single mother to a 6-month-old baby girl and second year PA student at Bethel University in Tennessee. I also author a blog – Journey from PA-S to PA-C – where I document my journey through PA school as the only African American (AA) in my class, becoming pregnant and now raising my daughter as a single mom.

I’m originally from Atlanta, GA where I was mostly raised by my grandparents – my parents had me young. (Mom was pregnant in HS and had just completed school when I was born—literary graduated and had a baby same month. Dad was away in the military). I later attended Georgia State University (GSU) with aspirations to become a pediatrician. The way I saw it, if I was going to be a pediatrician, then I needed experience working with kids. So, I began volunteering for AmeriCorps as a S.T.E.M teacher. During winter breaks, I would participate in GSU’s Panther Breakaway, where I aided in organizing community service trips – usually to Florida to attend “Give Kids the World Village.”

Once I completed my undergrad, I began scribing at Emory University Hospital before becoming a travel scribe. During this time that I would be introduced to the PA field. Fast forward a few years to my fall semester of PA school – While enrolled in 10 classes and taking 4-9 exams per week, I found out that I was pregnant. If that wasn’t stressful enough, my boyfriend at the time left. Finding out I was pregnant caused mixed emotions of fear and excitement at the same time. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom, but the circumstances weren’t ideal and being abandoned was a shock. I thought – “Alright God, what is happening and why now during the toughest time of my life?”

Thankfully my pregnancy was a breeze and keeping it on a need-to-know-basis also helped in keeping stress levels down. I only told faculty members since I would be missing class to make doctor’s appointments. Naturally the faculty members were concerned and suggested that I take year off. But I refused to be another statistic of a single black mom who gave up her dreams to raise her child. More than 40 weeks later, I became a first-time mommy – It’s been challenging and still is but were making it happen.

What made you choose PA?

While working as a scribe, I had a quarter life crisisthat’s when you turn 25 and your kind of an adult but not really.

I completed my undergrad but had no career, no real job experience and I had taken the MCAT 3 times. I felt like I was wasting time. Been out of undergrad for a minute and everyone is looking at me like “what are you going to do with your life?”

Initially, I was not interested in becoming a PA because of previous experiences. I saw PA-Cs go in to get a history and then present the case to the doctor they were working with, who would then take over the case. I thought, why go to school just to become a career medical resident? My perception changed while scribing at an ER in Wyoming. I met a family med PA who occasionally worked in the ER for the thrill. She was well respected, very knowledgeable, had full autonomy and great at her job. Nothing like what I had seen before.

I scribed for a year before meeting her and being properly introduced to the PA field. This was back in 2013. I later relocated to San Francisco, California scribing at Alta Bates in Berkley. There I met a young lady studying for PA school and began to ask questions. In 2015, I went the PA route – it seemed like a better fit for my life, especially since I was messing around with the MCAT.

How has your experience been as a PA-S mom?

Very stressful!

I knew parenting was hard, but as a student on clinical rotations, it’s super hard. Especially as a first-time mom. Between breast-feeding, not getting a full maternity leave, the mom guilt of leaving my baby for the first time, and taking several breaks throughout the day to pump – You’re constantly wondering if you are doing it right. The rotations with longer hours, tend to be the most difficult.

For example, during my general surgery rotation my daughter was 3m old. I worked 10-15hr shifts plus a 1 hour commute – that’s one-way without traffic. Of course, I wasn’t getting much sleep at night – but still had to get to the hospital early, pump, scrub in, scrub out, pump then scrub back in. When I got home, I was still a student with papers to write and studying for end of rotation (EOR) exams.

I had to find a balance between being a good student and mom in order to survive it all.

What are the challenges you faced as a prePA? As a PA-S?

Confidence for both. As a prePA I felt like my chemistry grades were low. I had a professor pull me aside and tell me to consider another field. As a PA student confidence is still something I struggle with. I second guess myself a lot. Even when I know the right answer, I go over everything again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I end up overthinking things and choosing the wrong answer.

How did you overcome them?

I try not to second guess myself and just spit out my answers – if it’s wrong then let it be wrong. I explain the thought process behind my answer to see where I went wrong. I also stopped triple checking my work to avoid changing the right answers to the wrong answers.

Tell me the importance of a support system for you?

Thankfully I was able to have all of my rotations be in Atlanta, GA. So I’m near all of my family and friends as well as my daughters father’s family who help out with the baby form time to time. (they live in FL) I drive back to TN every 5 weeks for end of rotation activities. A family member will usually accompany me to help with my daughter. My support system is everything. They remind me not to stress myself and just do what I can. Having family around keeps me motivated and focused.

So how do you manage being a mom, PA-S and blogger?

I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. I have so many article drafts and haven’t posted in a while. But some readers still reach out so it’s nice to know that my work is still reaching people. My ultimate goal is to help others. I do what I can and that’s enough. I’m not stressing myself trying to achieve perfection anymore.

As far as parenting, I’m surviving. I try to get as much work done while at my rotation site so that when I get home, all of my time is devoted to my daughter.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I started blogging as a personal diary to express what I was going through as a student. I didn’t think that being the only AA in my class would have an effect, but it has. A college advisor told me that I may experience culture shock – I’m from a metropolitan city and attended predominately black Christian schools most of my life. Going to PA school in a small country town with a predominately Caucasian cohort was definitely an adjustment. I didn’t have a lot in common with my classmates nor did we have the same interests. There was some jealousy towards me and rumors about me going around that often caused feelings of exclusion.

There were also a lot of awkward moments in class whenever covering a disease that predominately affected people of color. A few students would stare or ask, “is that true?” It’s frustrating to know that my race is plagued by so many conditions.

It is also about representation. I want other little black kids to know that they too can wear a white coat. I can’t speak for everyone, but the mindset for myself as an African American going to see my provider is “you don’t know my life” and “don’t believe what they have to say.” If patients can relate to the provider, then they might be more willing to receive the information we provide. Coming into the room and saying “You have diabetes, this is what you’re eating now and what you need to cut back on,” won’t get you far. You need to understand my culture, how I cook and eat.

What is a Typical Day like for you?

A Day in The Life – Tangie the PA

What do you wish you knew before starting PA School?

I expected PA school to be hard. I don’t mind the hard work since I know that it is temporary. I just wish I had known about the PA profession sooner. That way I would not have wasted so much time in classes I did not need during undergrad

FAQ

Cumulative GPA: 3.12 , Science GPA: 3.0

GRE: 300

PCE & HCE: 10,000+

Shadowing: 50hrs

Volunteering: 3000+

Undergrad: Georgia State University – B.S Biology, minor Chemistry

CASPA submissions: One

What would you say to the mom out there who is hesitating?

It’s hard…. Very hard. But you can do it! No matter how you feel, you can do it. There’s something about becoming a mom that gives you this unexplainable will power. You MAKE SURE that things get done! Babies test you all the time, so If you can handle that, then you can get through pa school. Being pregnant doesn’t stop you in school but having the baby will demand some time away.

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