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PA School Interview

21 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown

Question 1 of 21

What are your hobbies and interests?

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PA School Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    What are your hobbies and interests?

      Biographical questions are necessary for the interviewer to get a feel for who you are outside of your application. Be careful not to have too long of a response, you only need 2-3 items. Make sure you pick things that help you stand out!

      Ryan's Answer

      "I have run a virtual Dungeons and Dragons group for over three years with various friends and acquaintances. It is a great time to get creative and strategize with other people in a team environment. I have created games about Harry Potter, Star Wars, and even the Big Bang Theory to name a few."

  2. 2.

    What is your favorite movie and why?

      They are not trying to judge your movie taste. The question is allowing you to express a side that they do not usually see. Your favorite movie is your favorite for a reason and they want to understand you better by knowing why.

      Ryan's Answer

      "My favorite movie is ‘A League of Their Own’. While I am not a big baseball fan, I love how the movie centered so many diverse female perspectives during a period before women had as much agency in society as they do today. Plus, I love how the movie shows the ways they develop into a team and support each other. I think that is a very important aspect of your relationships with the people you work and interact with."

  3. 3.

    A patient is sent home at the end of a long day, but you gave him a medication he is allergic to. Your supervising physician says not to worry and that he’ll be fine. What do you do?

      This question is evaluated if you can perceive and anticipate many different consequences that can occur from your decisions. PAs are not independent practitioners and practice under an MD who has final responsibility for patient care. While you may practice under an MD you still have your independent responsibility to provide the best care you can and to do no harm.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I would talk to the supervising physician again and emphasize my concerns about the case and the need to contact the patient. Although the patient is discharged and not under my or the supervising physician’s direct care, or I may have repercussions from my mistakes, I as a medical professional, am still responsible for what happens to the patient after they leave my care. If I fail to persuade the supervising physician to take action, I would take action myself and contact the patient."

  4. 4.

    How have you prepared yourself for the PA profession? How are you a competitive applicant?

      This is a time to talk about schooling and prerequisites, but don’t leave out soft skills too. Being a good PA student and working as a PA requires many other factors besides grades. Address actions that you have taken to be a good provider or really excel in both the hard and soft skills.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Once I decided on becoming a PA, I knew that my journey would require multiple parts for me to be a success. I enrolled in classes and developed study habits that would push me so that I could be better prepared for the course load. I volunteered at low-income clinics so I could have a better understanding of life experiences outside of my own. I also worked in a cancer research lab so that I could be prepared for academic research in my career."

  5. 5.

    What is the biggest adversity that you have overcome?

      Going to PA school is stressful, being a PA is stressful, the interviewer wants to know if you can recognize a challenge, and if you can handle the stress that comes with the PA profession. Acknowledge the adversity you faced but be sure to emphasize the lesson you learned and how you have applied the experience to later challenges.

      Ryan's Answer

      "One of the biggest struggles that I have overcome is finishing my bachelor’s degree after being required to withdraw after a period of academic probation. I went through a very hard time early in my college experience and it took a lot for me to get back on track. However, after that experience, I am confident that I can overcome any struggle by remembering that any obstacle is only a temporary roadblock to my goals."

  6. 6.

    What is your greatest strength?

      Compared to asking about your weaknesses, talking about your biggest strength is a great opportunity to sell yourself during the interview. Pick something that you are proud of and tie to PA school or how it will help you working in healthcare.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am very proud of the time management skills that I have developed. I have worked full-time and attended school full-time from freshman year undergrad until now. As a result, I have been able to maintain a very important balance between my academics, social life, and work responsibilities that has allowed me to get to this stage, and will definitely help me succeed in PA school."

  7. 7.

    What is your greatest weakness?

      The person asking this question wants to know if you can critically evaluate yourself. It is important to recognize your weaknesses so that you are aware of how they can affect you as a PA student and as a working PA. Be genuine in your response and show them how you are trying to grow despite your weakness.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I would say my introverted nature is my biggest weakness. I grew up pretty shy but as I have worked with populations that are unable to advocate for themselves and realized that as a PA, it would be my job to make my patients feel comfortable and confident in the care I provide. I always try to acknowledge the introverted habits that do not serve me and push myself to be more extraverted, by doing things like asking questions when I am uncomfortable and taking on more public speaking roles."

  8. 8.

    If you were trapped on a desert island with food and water, what three things would you bring?

      The question covertly asks about your personality. Besides the need for food and water, what other things define your interests in life. Don’t rush this question, provide thoughtful answers that give a good insight into your personality. Plus, it is another opportunity to leave a memorable impact on the interviewer's mind.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I love music and I could not imagine being stuck on an island without it. Yet, I know that I would get tired if I only brought a few CDs. Instead, I would bring a guitar, drum, and piano so that I could make my music to enjoy with all of my free time."

  9. 9.

    If you could be any flower, what flower would you be?

      Hypothetical questions are a great chance to show your creative side. There are lots of flowers, what about you allows you to relate to a particular plant. The answer is not as important as a thoughtful explanation as to why you choose that plant.

      Ryan's Answer

      "The flower that I would be is a water lily. Besides being a very beautiful flower, I love how water lilies are an important part of the ecosystem. They help provide shelter for frogs and other amphibians and provide food for fish."

  10. 10.

    Which Hogwarts house do you think you would be sorted into if you were in Harry Potter?

      Questions like these are asked because you cannot prepare for them. Many PA school applicants are very logical and diligently prepare for their interviews. It is important to not worry so much about the 'right answer'. Just focus on expressing yourself authentically.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I identify with Ravenclaw of all the Hogwarts houses. I have always loved how the house celebrates knowledge and reason. As a book worm and perpetual studier I always felt like I would fit right in with them."

  11. 11.

    What would you do if your patient is diagnosed with an STI, but doesn’t want to tell his wife?

      This ethical question is looking at how serious you take protecting a patient’s PHI (personal health information). In this answer, it is important to use empathy with the situation, especially since there is often a stigma around STI, but stand firm in your ethical and legal obligation.

      Ryan's Answer

      "This is a difficult question because you have an obligation to respect the patient's decision regarding their health diagnosis but you also want to limit the harm that may affect his wife because of the diagnosis. Still, legally, I cannot share personal health information without the consent of the patient or by the courts. Instead, I would invest in communicating with the patient as best as I could on the importance of notifying the wife for the sake of her health."

  12. 12.

    What would you do if you noticed one of your medical colleagues showed up to work under the influence of alcohol?

      The focus of this question is not what you would do in a provider-client relationship but how you would respond in a situation that involves your colleagues. Questions like these test your ethical code against the pressures of personal connections that you may have with your co-workers and the potential ramifications of addressing the situation. Be sure to address all sides of the problem in providing your response.

      Ryan's Answer

      "It would be very unpleasant, but it would be necessary to report this co-worker before they were allowed to continue practicing medicine that day. While I will want to support a colleague through any struggles they may have that could lead to them showing up to work under the influence of alcohol, that is secondary to ensuring the safety of that provider's patients who trust us to care for them."

  13. 13.

    Do you think everyone should have access to healthcare, regardless if they can pay?

      Working as a PA you will encounter many different ethical problems that will require leaning into your logic, value system, and the facts of the matter to determine what action should be taken. There may not be a right or wrong answer.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Although healthcare has many costs, it is still an essential service. Wealth should not be a determining factor of the level of care you can access if you need medical attention. The ability to pay should not determine the worth of a person who needs treatment, and it is my responsibility to provide the best care possible I can for my patients regardless of their socio-economic status."

  14. 14.

    Why do you want to attend this program?

      Do your research before your interview to find out that specific program. One great way to do that is by reading the school’s mission statement to get ideas of what to focus on that relates well to your interests and goals. It is also important to reach out to current students to understand how the program operates.

      Ryan's Answer

      "The school’s mission statement value of serving the underserved speaks out to my personal values. I wanted a program with a smaller instructor to student ratio that was not in a major city. The program’s volunteer opportunities in rural clinics were also an important factor in my decision to apply here, especially after speaking to current students in those programs."

  15. 15.

    What is a PA?

      Physician Assistants (PA) often face a lot of confusion about their role from people outside of the medical field. This question is asked to see if you can clearly educate others about what you and if you have a firm understanding of the profession. Be sure to hit the main points but do not be afraid to spice it up with your own observations from shadowing other PAs.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Physician Assistants are advanced care providers that work as a member of a care team to diagnose illnesses, manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications. PAs do see patients independently and can practice in every state. From my experience shadowing PAs, I see PAs as a very important part of care communication and team integration. They communicate directly with the patient and other providers in a way that makes sure all the parts are working together to provide the best care for the patient."

  16. 16.

    What will you do if you do not get into PA school this cycle?

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  17. 17.

    Who is a person that you look up to?

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  18. 18.

    What is evidence-based healthcare?

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  19. 19.

    What do you think is the biggest problem facing PAs?

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  20. 20.

    Why do you want to be a PA?

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  21. 21.

    What is the difference between a PA and MD?

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