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Physician Assistant Interview Questions Preparation

physician assistant interview questions

As a physician assistant, you know how essential your role is in the world of healthcare. Physician assistants play a critical role in addressing doctor shortages and are more in demand now than ever before. 

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. In fact, employment is projected to grow 31 percent from 2020 to 2030. 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. 

6 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 medical 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 excel at. Of course, you don’t want to come off 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. 

Another positive strength to consider is your desire to work in a team environment. As a physician assistant, it is critical to be a team player and show your willingness to work as a single unit.

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 patient 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.

 6. Why do you want to work at this specific hospital/health organization?

This is a common question among hiring managers and recruiters as it serves as a good indicator of how interested you are in a position because it requires a bit of homework to answer.

Answering this question efficiently will require some research. Dig into the healthcare organization you are applying for; did they recently win any notable awards or recognitions? Have they expanded their line of services? Do you have a personal experience that you can share regarding a time you needed treatment? Have they made recent medical contributions that are worth noting?

Tip: This is an opportune time to share praise for this organization and show excitement about why you may want the job. In addition to researching the organization’s website, check out any local or industry news to highlight your depth of knowledge.

Typically, at the end of the interview, the hiring manager or recruiter will reserve time for you to ask questions regarding the job. Here are a few questions to come prepared with:

  •   What is the company culture like?
  •   What are a few of the goals that I will be expected to achieve in the first year?
  •   What are common challenges with this position?
  •   What is the management style like?
  •   Who will I be working with? What is the size of the team?
  •   How do you envision my role evolving while I work here?

PACT, a Partner of Hartford HealthCare, is Seeking Talented Physician Assistants

At PACT, we enable physician assistants to take a patient-centered, innovative approach to healthcare. Several specialty options are available, including Geriatrics, Internal Medicine, Nephrology, Surgery, and Gastroenterology.

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