Navigate Your Psychiatry Rotation with Confidence

Physician Assistant with a patient

75% of students have a positive experience with their final psychiatry rotation. This fulfilling rotation allows you to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge acquired during your didactic year and the practical skills needed in real-world psychiatric care.

Learn the skills, topics tested, and preparation tips to transform your clinical experience. Below are some strategies and insights written by one of our Physician Assistant students that will help you step into a rewarding behavioral rotation!

What Do I Need to Know for Psychiatry Rotation?

You'll master the fundamentals of mental health pharmacology during a behavioral medicine rotation, focusing on managing psychiatric disorders through medication. You'll discover how to oversee therapy, counsel patients, and evaluate treatment outcomes. Take a look at the essential topics you will learn.

Explore Key Behavioral Medicine Topics

Neurocognitive Disorders Bipolar and Related Disorders Impulse-Control/Conduct Disorders Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders Addictive and Substance-Related Disorders
Abuse/Neglect Depressive Disorders Feeding/Eating Disorders Neurodevelopmental Disorders Sleep-Wake Disorders Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders
Anxiety Disorders Dissociative Disorders Human Sexuality Personality Disorders Somatic Symptom Disorders

Impactful Skills Acquired During A Psychiatry Rotation

  • Therapeutic Communication: Develop a good rapport with patients so they feel comfortable sharing information.
  • Diagnostic Skills: Monitor a patient's progress throughout their stay while working in an inpatient unit.
  • Ethical and Legal Considerations: Learn the ethical and legal aspects of psychiatric care, including confidentiality, consent, and the rights of patients with mental health conditions.
  • Patient Assessment: Provide mental status exams to assess a patient's behavior, speech, eye contact, mood, and affect. Then, I make the appropriate diagnoses based on the information collected.
  • Psychotherapy and Pharmacological Knowledge: Gain an understanding of psychotropic medications and basic therapeutic techniques.

How to Ace Your Psychiatry Clinical Rotation

  1. Know the different criteria and treatments for major psychiatric conditions such as bipolar one and two.
  2. Recognize both generic and brand names for common medications.
  3. Remember to approach this rotation with an open mind and not judge anyone based on their medical condition.
  4. Understand how to conduct a focused physical, including the patient's mental health and social history. Ask questions that are relevant to the visit.
  5. Look at the PAEA blueprint to familiarize yourself with the important EOR topics you'll be tested on.

Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Exam Topics Tested

Total Categorical Breakdown
  • History & Physical: 15%
  • Diagnostic Studies: 10%
  • Diagnosis: 25%
  • Health Maintenance: 10%
  • Clinical Intervention: 10%
  • Clinical Therapeutics: 20%
  • Scientific Concepts: 10%
EOR Exam Topics
  • Depressive Disorders; Bipolar and Related Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders, Trauma-and-stress-related Disorders
  • Substance-related Disorders
  • Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorders
  • Personality Disorders, Obsessive-compulsive Disorders
  • Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders
  • Feeding or Eating Disorders
  • Paraphilic Disorders; Sexual Dysfunctions

The nuances of working in a psychiatric field

Studying psychiatry presents unique challenges to most aspiring PAs. It requires a deep understanding of mental health disorders and strong empathetic skills to effectively connect with patients. This field demands a balance of rigorous academic study and practical, hands-on experience to grasp the nuances of mental health care.

Understanding the duration of a psych rotation

The length of a psychiatry rotation can vary depending on the medical school's curriculum and the program's specific requirements. Typically, psychiatry rotations last anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, offering a comprehensive overview of psychiatric care, from diagnosis to treatment planning.

Examine Essential Resources

Comprehensive Textbooks: Essential for in-depth understanding of psychiatric disorders, treatment modalities, and theoretical frameworks. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5): The authoritative guide for psychiatric diagnoses, vital for clinical rotations. Patient Interview Guides: Structured outlines that help you conduct thorough psychiatric interviews and mental status examinations.
Case Study Collections: Real-world psychiatric cases that offer insights into clinical decision-making and patient management. Peer Support Groups: Forums and discussion groups for PA students to share experiences, challenges, and advice related to psychiatric rotations. QBank: A comprehensive question bank with practice questions and explanations for EOR exam prep.

Psychiatry Rotation Tips to Elevate Your Experience

  • Go into the rotation open-minded and try to learn as much as possible! 
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Become proficient and comfortable in conducting a mental status exam. 
  • The psychiatry EOR exam heavily covers pharmacy concepts. Ensure you know the mechanism of action and side effects of each medication. 
  • Keep calm despite the chaos around you! Develop positive relationships with patients and monitor their progress throughout their stay.
  • You should always notify the staff if you feel unsafe. 
  • Request regular feedback on your performance. Use constructive criticism to improve your skills. 
  • Pay attention to the timing and chronicity required for an accurate psychiatric diagnosis. 
  • Start reviewing the EOR exam material ahead of time instead of cramming at the last minute.
  • Engage in self-care activities to maintain a healthy balance. Enjoy the rotation because it will be over before you know it!
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Author Bio

Starting a new psychiatric rotation can seem overwhelming. As a fellow PA student, I want to simplify this journey by providing actionable tips to enhance your clinical experience and help you get the most out of your rotation. Discover real-world skills that'll empower your PA career. Follow me at @pa2_be for more helpful tips and tricks to become outstanding PAs!

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