What’s in my backpack PA-C edition

When answering some new grad PA frequently asked questions, what often came up was how to feel prepared on your first day. The short answer: it’s impossible to feel 100% prepared. But there are some things I make sure to have with me every day to put my best foot forward.

    • Snacks: My favorite favorite, FAVORITE snack that I have in my backpack literally at all times (and in my car and in many cabinets throughout my apartment) is ZENB Veggie Bites. I love them not only for their ingredients, but how easy they are to eat. Perfectly quick and poppable to prevent having to touch my face often while eating. I can just remove my mask for a moment, eat them quickly, and get right back to work. They’re also small enough to fit in any backpack pocket, and the sticks fit right in my scrubs. Particularly loving how right now you can personalize your own sample pack right now to try exactly the flavors you want. The sweet potato, mango and cinnamon bites and the red bell pepper / carrot sticks are my personal faves right now! The Veggie Sticks are a vegetable-based snack that utilizes whole vegetables including the cob of corn, peel of beet, and seeds/stems of the bell pepper. ZENB is on a mission to use foods that embrace the goodness of nature and they are a good source of fiber. Win, win, win.
    • Ample pen supply: I swear the second you turn your head, suddenly your pen has abandoned you forever. Hence you need TONS of pens for back-up. I typically just go with BIC but sometimes if I’m feeling fancy I’ll go with the Mejuri gel ink. The ink doesn’t dry out and goes on so smooth. Ah yes, how exciting it is to be in your late 20s and be excited about pen brands. Not sure how we got here but alas here we are.
    • A good back pack. Life truly is all about lumbar support. My backpack is from the brand Caraa. It is LUXURY. I have the sage color. LOVE IT. Basically anything with enough pockets with adjustable straps so you can pull it WAY up to prevent lower back strain.
    • A clip board with paper. Especially in my first few weeks, I wrote pretty much EVERYTHING down. Names, bathroom codes, where to find extra materials, resources to pin to have on hand when I need them. It felt really nerdy but was so incredibly helpful.
    • My Littman stethoscope. I got this when in PA school off of EBAY and it’s been so tried and true. It’s one of the most popular brands and I can definitely see why. Highly recommend.
    • Written pocket resources:
      • Maxwell Quick Medical Reference: I used this throughout PA school and it’s a really quick and easy reference for things like ACLS algorithms, history and physical exam, normal lab values, mental status exams and so much more!
      • Bates Pocket Guide to Physical Exam and History Taking: this is just a mini version of bates physical exam. I use it if I need to do special testing for a joint or want to brush up on my neuro exam quickly before seeing a patient.
      • Pocket Primary Care (A Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook): This is a very thorough reference to just about everything in primary care. And pretty small / succinct so not overly overwhelming.
    • Phone apps:
      • USPSTF Prevention Task Force: evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services
      • ASCCP: risk-based management consensus guidelines
      • MDCalc: point-of-care clinical decision-support tools, including medical calculators, scoring systems, and algorithms
      • DxSaurus: lists different differential diagnoses for common concerns
      • Micromedex: helps with drug dosing
      • Monash University FODMAP Diet: helpful for patients with IBS to start a low-FODMAP diet
    • Online resources:
      • UpToDate: the MECCA of the most – you guessed it – up to date evidence based medical care. This is far and away my most used resource. Fun fact, you get 0.5CME every time you make a new search!
      • DynaMed: sometimes if I just need a little snippet of info (not as dense as UpToDate, I’ll use this resource instead).
      • Bedsider.org: a great resource for patients if they’re considering birth control and need a resource to navigate all of the different forms
      • Reproductive Health Access Project: a great resource for patient and provider education to make reproductive health resources more available
    • And last but not least, a positive attitude! Seems so cheesy but it really is the thing that makes the most profound impact on my day. One way to do this is through stable blood sugar throughout the day by eating meals that are nutrient dense, and rich in fiber / healthy fats like ZENB snack sticks and bites. Starting any new position can be overwhelming, but coming prepared with healthful snacks and meals everyday makes a huge difference!

Thank you ZENB for sponsoring this post. Your bites and snack sticks truly do help get me through my day!

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