Today, physician assistants have not only career prospects but also a high credit of trust.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for Physician Assistants (PAs) will increase by 31% by 2028.
A survey by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), in turn, revealed that 93% of US citizens trust these specialists, and 91% believe in their significant contribution to the quality of healthcare.
Given these statistics, it is no surprise that every new representative in the profession must meet high standards to justify patient expectations.
An interview is your first chance to prove yourself as the right person for the position. To seize this opportunity, check the common physician assistant interview questions and prepare winning and comprehensive answers using our tips.
4 Tips for Answering Physician Assistant Interview Questions
Given the high competition and increased responsibility for your role, the interviewer will study your candidacy from every side and collect all the necessary information to make the right decision.
Therefore, be prepared for typical job interview questions — questions about your strengths and weaknesses; and more specific questions to check your knowledge of the profession, understanding of responsibilities, and to identify your behavioural patterns.
In any case, stick to the following rules.
1. Your answers should be informational and to the point — For this purpose, listen to the interviewer carefully and do not rush to answer right after the question. Think about the facts that can prove and strengthen your words. Remember that a short but reasoned answer is better than an unfounded word salad.
2. Be honest, and don’t embellish the facts — It is easy to check all your successes in academic programs and your achievements in medicine. Therefore, do not create an embarrassing situation. The employer is more likely to turn a blind eye to knowledge gaps or lack of practice than to accept a lie.
3. Do not try to guess the correct answers for behavioural questions — An interview is not a school test with only one right option. The recruiter wants to understand the personality of the candidate, their tactics, and their plan of action in certain situations. Therefore, rely on your own experience and principles instead of guessing what they want to hear from you.
4. Be sure of your benefits — If you do not know why you are a worthy candidate, then the potential employer definitely will have no idea. Create an elevator pitch or a cover letter that proves your professional aptitude and motivation. If you have not dealt with a cover letter for a physician assistant, this link with samples and tips will come in handy.
6 Physician Assistant Interview Questions and Answers
We have selected the most popular items of different types that recruiters tend to ask during interviews. Each of them has either the correct answer or a winning response strategy. Arm yourself with the following hints and outlines, but feel free to improve each answer using personal experience, knowledge, facts, and beliefs.
1. What Is the Difference Between Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner? Why Did You Choose the PA Role?
Your understanding of the difference between healthcare roles proves your explicit professional self-identification, including the area of expertise and scope of practice.
Therefore, keep in mind these main distinctions:
- A patient-centred model and disease prevention guide NPs. Meanwhile, PAs are focusing on a disease-centred model with an emphasis on biology and pathology.
- Most PAs are generalists initially. Later they can choose a specific area of specialization if desired. NPs, in turn, must determine their speciality in the early stages of training.
- NPs can have independent practice, while PAs work only under the supervision of a physician or hospitalist.
The study of widespread pathologies can be an appropriate reason for your choice. It allows you to diagnose diseases in the early stages, thus preventing their progress and simplifying the treatment process for more patients.
2. What Is the Difference Between a Physician Assistant (Pa) and a Medical Assistant (MA)? Why Did You Still Prefer PA?
The similar names of the professions should not mislead you.
To show your awareness when answering this question, remember the following:
- MAs perform clinical and administrative duties at a healthcare organization, including documentation, laboratory services, and recordkeeping. PAs are healthcare providers who are responsible for diagnosing and treating patients.
- PAs have irregular working hours. They can work in the early morning, late at night, and on the weekend. MAs have set hours without emergency calls.
Arguing your choice, make it clear that you value direct interaction with the patients and the chance to help each of them. Your mission is to provide high-quality healthcare services. To achieve it, you are ready to sacrifice a comfortable schedule and a stable working environment.
3. What Are the Main Difficulties in the Work of the Physician Assistant?
This is a good question that shows your readiness for the position and awareness of the pitfalls and challenges that you will have to face. Your answer, in this case, should prove that your choice is conscious. If you mention a problem you have already dealt with, add a few words about how you overcame it.
Here are some examples:
- I know firsthand about the large flow of patients, which leads to a rapidly changing and stressful environment. However, such an experience taught me to prioritize and manage my time correctly.
- I understand that many patients are confused by the “assistant” annexe to my post. Sometimes, it makes them doubt my competence. Therefore, I intend not only to refer to the physician’s decisions but to argue the expediency of my actions to earn a credit of trust.
4. What if the Patient Refuses to Follow Your Order and Take Care of Their Health?
This question tests your willingness to solve problems. The physician will not be with you regularly, so the success of your work depends on your ability to take the upper hand in individual cases.
Check the following answer examples.
- I will remind the patient what happens in their body every time they break a prescription. I will describe in detail all the negative consequences of such neglect. This tactic may seem too straightforward, but the real picture is sometimes more sobering than pleas and instructions.
- I will describe the path that the patient has gone from the first visit to this moment and emphasize all the health gains they achieved during treatment. It will help evaluate progress and prove that the patient has something to lose.
5. Are You Ready to Be a Dependent Practitioner? How Will You Build a Connection With the Physician?
The employer must be sure that you, as a specialist, feel comfortable without autonomous practice. Your goal is to prove that the need for ongoing reporting to the physician will not affect your productivity and motivation.
- I appreciate the opportunity to adopt the best practices of the doctor and improve my skills under their guidance. I plan to report on the patients’ health condition and the selected treatment methods daily through the mail and make the necessary adjustments right after feedback. I believe that my responsible approach will help build trust.
- I am ready to work under the doctor’s leadership because I put the benefit and health of the patient above my ambitions. Besides, I believe my fast learning ability and attentiveness to all recommendations and observations will help me expand my freedoms over time and achieve productive collaboration.
6. What Do You Value Most in the Physician Assistant Position?
One of the main goals of physician assistant job interview questions is to understand your motives and intentions.
To succeed in your answer, focus on the following points:
- This position enables you to practice in various industries, including dermatology, pathology, family medicine, and so on. Therefore, you can become a versatile specialist and help more patients.
- Unlike a physician, you can spend more time with patients. It allows you to keep abreast of any changes and support them during hard times, which contributes to a favourable outcome.
The physician assistant job does not imply autonomous activity. But this fact does not detract from its importance and value to patients. Therefore, you should not expect low role requirements.
Instead, prepare yourself for this highly competitive role with a winning self-presentation. Prove that the healthcare hierarchy does not affect your performance and motivation. Clarify that you are ready to provide services on equal footing with doctors.
Rest assured, your commitment and qualifications will be your ticket to the position. And preliminary answer preparation will just add to your confidence.