As a healthcare professional, you know how essential physician assistants (PAs) are in American healthcare. Since first emerging in the 1960s, physician assistants have continued to fill a need, addressing doctor shortages.
In practices where shortages aren’t an issue, physician assistants help reduce the load so doctors can see more patients — and demand for PAs will only increase. Employment is projected to grow 28 percent from 2021 to 2031. This growth rate is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Whether you are a recent PA grad with in-field experience or are transitioning to a new city, the interview process is what stands between you and your ideal position. Here are five common physician assistant interview questions to help you better prepare.
5 Physician Assistant Interview Questions to Consider
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all interview process, you can prepare for likely questions to get into the right mindset. In many cases, interviewers are looking for professionals who are also colleagues — so expect a conversational experience. The questions they ask and the questions you ask will contribute to the conversation.
Be prepared for a wide range of questions, and keep these common physician assistant interview questions in mind during the preparation process.
1. Why are you interested in this specialty?
Over the past six decades, the role of PAs has expanded. Working in everything from cardiology to pediatrics, PAs are often qualified to work in several areas of medicine.
Why did you choose the specialty you did, and what specialties have you worked in already? Was it a personal experience that influenced your decision, and how have your past experiences shaped you into the PA you are today?
Tip: Be open, honest, and personable. Are you interested in the specialty you’re interviewing for because of the impact you can have on patients’ lives? Did you have a family member affected by a condition covered within the specialty?
2. What are your strengths?
For some, it’s tough to talk about the things they’re good at. You don’t want to come on too strong in an interview, but you also want to show that you’re confident in your abilities.
Touch on both professional and personal strengths. For example, you’re likely knowledgeable, decisive, and observant professionally. However, personal strengths, such as solid communication skills and deep empathy, are crucial for optimal patient care.
Tip: Always connect your top strengths to your role as a PA. For example, are you highly observant during chaotic times? Are you able to notice details that ensure quality care, including the needs of others? Share a short story of how your most significant strengths have helped patients or your team in the past.
3. What about your weaknesses?
To answer this question effectively, you need to showcase a high degree of self-awareness. The idea is to discuss a weakness that you’re actively improving upon. How is it that you’re turning that weakness into a strength? What have you learned, and how are you taking action to improve? Show the interviewer that you’re aware of your greatest weakness but that you’re also adaptable and prioritizing growth.
Tip: Choose a weakness that can be improved without placing your team or patients at risk. For example, you may be a people-pleaser, and to help others, you often take on more than you can handle. However, as you have progressed in your career, you have realized that you need to stay within your limitations to provide the best care. Wearing yourself thin doesn’t help anyone.
Explain that you now know there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries, especially if it helps prevent burnout and ensure the highest quality care. Other examples may include becoming emotionally attached to patients’ medical outcomes or the need to increase your software proficiency. These aren’t deal-breakers. It’s all about how you handle them and plan to grow.
4. How do you handle conflict? Can you provide an example?
Conflict in the workplace is a fact of life for some, and although you may be involved, you may not have instigated issues. Whether you experienced conflict with a previous patient or team member, it’s important to show that you can take accountability while remaining professional. Discuss an example, focusing on how you actively improved the situation.
For example, were you willing to sit down with the individual to find the point of disagreement and work toward a solution? Are you someone who can look at conflict based on the event, rather than the feelings involved?
Tip: Depending on your example, approach this question in a mature, professional manner. Do you see conflict as a symptom of poor communication? Can you calmly get to the root cause of an issue to help remedy the situation and then move on? The last thing you want to do is start venting or passing 100% of the blame.
5. What is a current issue that you’d like to see change within the healthcare system?
This question is a great conversation starter and an opportunity to showcase your awareness, both in terms of your professional environment and personal insight. You want to show the interviewer that you can handle this challenge in your typical workday and have ideas about how things could improve. Show that you take your job seriously. Although you do your best with the tools, resources, and equipment you receive, you consider variables that influence the quality of care provided.
Tip: Although it’s vital to express issues based on your experience, you should also know your audience. For example, your pre-interview research revealed that the interviewer is passionate about something specific, such as nutrition. In this case, draw on troubling issues you have witnessed in the past or encountered in your research. One example could be the quality of food offered to those in comas or patients on feeding tubes. Discuss why this is worrisome and how you would go about changing the particular issue you’ve chosen.
Looking for Physicians Hiring PAs?
At PACT, we enable PAs to take a patient-centered, innovative approach to healthcare. Several specialty options are available, including Geriatrics, Internal Medicine, Nephrology, Surgery, and Gastroenterology.
Search available jobs today!