My name is Sarah Gochnauer. I’m from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but currently live in Wyncote, which is about a 10-minute drive from campus. I am a second-year Physician Assistant (PA) Studies student, so I am currently in my first clinical rotation, which is surgery! I travel to Capital Health Medical Center in Pennington, New Jersey, which is about a 40-minute drive one way Monday through Friday. We have 10 total rotations, five weeks each and I am scheduled to graduate in October 2022!
I went to Penn State for my undergrad and got a Bachelor of Science in science with a focus in biological sciences and health professions and a minor in Spanish. My major was super flexible, and I got to take courses like EKG interpretation, advanced human physiology, a cadaver anatomy course, and work in the Center for Fitness and Wellness where I could get healthcare hours by doing fitness assessments, blood glucose and lipid testing, as well as wellness counseling! As for my minor, I had taken Spanish every year since fifth grade so I wanted to continue practicing so I can better communicate and relate to my Spanish-speaking patients in the future. This really came in handy during the medical mission trip to Guatemala that my program organized in August of this year. I was able to see hundreds of patients and communicate pretty fluently with them!
Salus was by far the warmest and most welcoming interview I had. This was the only program that encouraged us to bring a family member or someone close to us to the interview, which was such a nice touch. Of course, the program statistics were great but beyond that the faculty are so friendly and made the interview very comfortable and low pressure. I could tell that they genuinely cared about each student personally and would support me through my education - which they definitely have! Things like not sending us further than a 65-mile radius for rotations without providing housing and preclinicals second and third semester make such a difference in your experience. I overall just felt like Salus far exceeded any other program I interviewed at in every category!
I initially applied to Salus because it is a Philly school, and I knew I wanted to study in the area because of the large population, diversity and multitude of medical centers. I love my classmates and have found such an incredible group of friends; I feel like Salus really does have such a family feel, which is important to me.
I have been so impressed with how Salus has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel they have taken every measure to keep us safe while also maintaining the quality of my education. I was fortunate enough to participate in the Hearts in Motion trip to Guatemala in August of this year. Our group consisted of two of my professors, seven PA students, one OT student and three other members. We saw 550 patients in five days and it was such an incredible, eye-opening experience. Of course, it was good clinical experience, but more importantly it gave invaluable perspective into the reality of healthcare in other parts of the world and with that, a deeper appreciation for what we have here in the U.S. It felt great when we could help people there, but there were plenty of frustrating situations when there was not much we could do and I think that was a really important aspect of the trip as well. Not every patient is curable, and you cannot fix every situation no matter how much you want to.
The PA profession is exciting because there are just so many possibilities and opportunities. You can work in most any specialty and switch between them as you like throughout your career. More broadly, in medicine you're a lifelong student and constantly learning which, to me, is one of the best parts!
Each week I am with a different surgical service: general surgery, vascular, surgical oncology and surgical ICU. The daily routine is the same, but I get a great variety of patients and surgeries with this setup!
Like I said, I am currently in my surgical rotation, so here is typical day for me!
3:45 a.m.: Wake up, get ready, coffee and breakfast.
5 a.m.: Arrive at the hospital, change into scrubs, and check overnight vitals, labs and other diagnostics for my patients.
5:30 a.m.: Pre-round on my patients - see how they did overnight so I can report back to my team at sign out.
6-7 a.m.: Sign out from the night PA with my preceptor.
7 a.m.: The rest of the day varies, but I am either rounding on the floor and managing post-op patients with my preceptor and attending or scrubbing into OR cases. We also will see any consults in the ER and manage them if they require surgical intervention and then I follow that patient into the OR where I assist in surgery.
3 p.m.: I am usually wrapping up by now. I finish logging my patients for the day, change out of my scrubs and head home.
4-8 p.m.: The rest of my evening consists of eating dinner, working out and studying for my end-of-rotation exam. I'll usually try to read up on procedures that I know are scheduled in the OR the next day and read to clarify anything from my day that I didn't understand or need more context.
8 p.m.: Early bedtime so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow!